PUBLISHED: 08/06/2018 | LAST UPDATED: 01/17/2020
The topic of getting rid of stretch marks is a heavily debated one. While some experts swear that you can get rid of stretch marks with simple home remedies, others are convinced that there is absolutely no way to prevent, fade, or remove stretch marks (and any attempt to is simply a “waste of time and money”). So, what’s true? Can you get rid of stretch marks or are all efforts to eliminate them simply futile?
As with most contentious topics, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Those who say that you can’t get rid of stretch marks have a point: outside of prescription retinoids, powerful laser treatments, and medical-grade chemical peels, there are no other known treatments that are scientifically proven to completely eliminate stretch marks.
However, those who champion home remedies for stretch mark removal also have a point: with consistent use of the right topical ingredients, a healthy collagen-boosting diet, and consistent effort, it is possible to lessen the appearance of stretch marks over time. The problem with most natural stretch mark remedies is that they can take quite some time to work—and there is no single oil, cream, or food that will do the job on its own. Getting rid of stretch marks naturally requires consistency, time, and a variety of natural remedies from skin care to diet. Don’t be surprised if it takes six months to a year in order to notice a visible change in the appearance your stretch marks.
Also, there are just some stretch mark remedies that do not work. Collagen creams, for example, are the snake oils of stretch mark removal. Why? Because collagen molecules are far too large to penetrate the skin deeply enough; thus, they cannot increase the amount of collagen that exists at the deepest layers of the skin where stretch marks occur. Additionally, simply moisturizing your skin won’t reduce stretch marks either. While maintaining hydrated skin is beneficial for overall repair, moisture alone won’t visibly change the look of your stretch marks.
So, what natural remedies do work? That’s the question that this guide was designed to answer. While you may not be able to remove your stretch marks entirely, you can treat pigmentation and stimulate collagen production in order to make your skin appear more normal. Collagen is the key to making stretch marks less visible over time. After all, it’s damaged collagen that is ultimately responsible for your stretch marks.
In this guide, we’ll share the best skin care and nutrition tactics to boost your skin’s collagen production. The healthier your collagen supply, the better equipped your body will be to repair the damage caused by stretch marks. We’ll also share some of the best natural remedies for moisturizing, softening, and reducing pigmentation of the skin externally.
First, let’s examine what stretch marks are so that you have a better understanding of why certain remedies work better than others…
What Are Stretch Marks?
Our skin is made up of three layers called the epidermis (top), dermis (middle), and the subcutaneous layers (lower). When you get a cut or scar your skin, typically it’s the epidermis that is damaged. Many topical treatments are great at healing normal epidermis damage because they are able to easily penetrate the top layer of skin and aid our bodies natural skin cell repair process.
What makes stretch marks so frustratingly difficult to treat is the fact that the damage takes place underneath the epidermis — in the dermis or middle-layer of the skin. The dermis contains bundles of collagen fibers which are the proteins responsible for the structure and elasticity of your skin. Think of these bundles as an internal bridge that keeps our skin firm. When the skin is stretched rapidly, these collagen bundles are weakened and eventually break under the stress. Once that happens, the top layer of our skin appears stretched and wrinkled because there is no longer a strong support system of collagen underneath. Additionally, the skin’s ability to repair these bundles is impaired as well. Thus, once these fibers are broken, it is very challenging to heal them.
Some stretch marks appear red while others are white. When the dermis is stretched, the blood vessels underneath the layer become more visible from the outside—causing a reddish hue. White stretch marks result when the fat beneath the skin is made more visible due to stretching. Typically, red stretch marks will become white once the blood vessels have receded.
Any major stretching of the skin can cause stretch marks. The most common causes of stretch marks are pregnancy, puberty, and rapid weight changes. It is thought that during these bodily changes certain hormones, called glucocorticoids, are produced which can weaken collagen and elastin fibers and make them more susceptible to tearing.
Natural Remedies for Getting Rid of Stretch Marks
How to Boost Your Collagen Production & Stimulate Healing
Based on what you’ve just learned about stretch marks, you can see why collagen and elastin production is crucial to preventing and repairing stretch mark damage. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. Starting in your early 20’s your collagen production begins to diminish. By the time you reach your 70’s-80’s your body will produce 4x less collagen than it did in your youth! This is one of the main reasons why our skin sags and wrinkles with age.
The good news is that you can take steps to stimulate new collagen production and protect your existing collagen from damage. The bad news is that repairing and boosting your collagen supply cannot be done by simply eating collagen or slathering on collagen creams directly. When it comes to natural remedies for stretch marks, there are no shortcuts. Increasing your skin’s collagen supply is a long-term game that requires commitment. You won’t be able to try just one tactic and see a measurable difference. In order to effectively boost your collagen and repair your stretch marks over time, you’ll have to combine several recommendations and use them consistently until you get the results that you want.
Here are three ways to improve your collagen production naturally. When combined, these home remedies offer you the best chance of reducing the appearance of your stretch marks:
Remember, collagen creams and collagen supplements aren’t effective at boosting your collagen supply. The collagen molecules in creams are too big to penetrate the skin and most supplements use forms of collagen that aren’t bioavailable. Instead, to effectively increase your collagen, you’ll have to increase your body’s supply of the building blocks of collagen. The main compounds which help to promote collagen production and protect existing collagen are zinc and vitamins A, C, and E. Thus, many of the diet and skin care recommendations you’ll see below will revolve around increasing these three compounds. Here’s a quick summary of why each of these compounds is so important:
Step 1: Collagen Boosting Skin Care
How to Use Serums & Essential Oils to Repair Stretch Marks
Most topical creams and oils simply do not work to repair stretch marks.
While these creams may do a great job of moisturizing your skin, stretch marks are not caused by a lack of moisture. The root cause of stretch marks is damaged collagen; thus, the only topical treatments that stand a chance of improving your stretch marks are those that repair old or stimulate new collagen production. Here are a few serums and oils that can do just that:
(Remember, there is no one cream or oil that will reduce stretch marks all on its own. To be effective, you’ll should combine a few of the treatments listed below. Check out our DIY Stretch Mark Recipes below for some tips on how to make your own stretch mark serums & creams.)
Vitamin C Serums
Topical vitamin C serums have been proven to increase your skin’s production of collagen. The problem with pure ascorbic-acid vitamin C is that it is highly unstable and can quickly degrade. As a result, many skin care manufacturers have turned to synthetic forms of Vitamin C. Synthetic Vitamin C types are more stable than ascorbic acid, can be absorbed by the skin. Common types of synthetic Vitamin C include L-ascorbic acid (the best synthetic form), magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, Vitamin C esters, sodium ascorbyl palmitate, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. Look for a vitamin C serum that contains synergistic healing ingredients like ferulic acid, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid.
Vitamin E Oil
Vitamin E works synergistically with vitamin C to build, repair, and protect collagen. Without vitamin E, vitamin C is less effective at stimulating collagen production. Specifically, vitamin E plays a role in collagen formation and the successful arrangement of the collagen fibers.
Rosehip Seed Oil
Rosehip seed oil is packed with natural vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin E, and omega fatty acids—which makes it a great stretch mark treatment because all of these compounds play a vital role in collagen development. These compounds are also great at reducing pigmentation and redness. Rosehip seed oil is a fragile oil with a short shelf life of roughly 3-6 months. Choose a rosehip seed oil packaged in a dark glass container and store it in a cool, dry location (or keep refrigerated) to prevent rancidity. Rosehip seed oil can be combined with other carrier and essential oils to create a stretch mark serum.
Tamanu oil comes from the dried nuts of the Ati Tree in the South Pacific and has been used for centuries as a powerful skin healing treatment. The oil has a unique makeup of fatty acids, coumarins, and xanthones which expedite the healing process and promote the formation of new skin. BioScience Laboratories conducted a study of tamanu oil’s ability to reduce stretch marks and their findings were published at the Australian Society of Cosmetic Chemists in 2003. The study subjects used tamanu oil on their stretch marks twice daily for nine weeks and were able to reduce the size of their stretch mark scars by .12 centimeters.
The most powerful feature of argan oil is its ability to repair skin damage like acne scarring, stretch marks, and dry skin. The Vitamin E in argan oil penetrates deep into the skin to improve elasticity while triterpenoids work to heal tissue scarring. According to a 2016 study, argan oil was found to increase skin elasticity. They noted that argan oil may be helpful in both preventing and treating stretch marks.
Coconut oil has a long history of improving skin elasticity and skin cell regeneration. This is due to the oil’s fatty acid composition. Coconut oil isn’t strong enough to be used as a standalone stretch mark treatment, but it can help to improve the overall appearance of your skin. Thus, it is best to combine coconut oil with a more potent stretch mark treatment like rosehip seed oil or a vitamin C serum.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense oil has been used for centuries for its ability to repair damaged skin and soothe irritated skin. Although there aren’t any definitive studies showing the effect of frankincense oil on stretch marks, there is a considerable amount of anecdotal evidence. Because of this, we wouldn’t rely solely on frankincense oil to treat stretch marks but we would include this oil in any DIY stretch mark remedy.
Step 2: Collagen Boosting Diet
How to Eat The Right Foods to Boost Your Collagen Production
Even the best topical serums and oils can’t do much to overcome poor health and diet. If your body is deficient in the building blocks of collagen, then you will have a hard time adequately repairing the damage caused by stretch marks. As always, there is no magical food that can erase your stretch marks overnight. You’ll need to remain consistent and maintain a long-term diet rich in collagen-promoting vitamins and nutrients in order to make a difference. Here are a few foods and vitamins that are known to play a role in collagen production:
Bone Broth & Gelatin Powders
Bone broth is a wonder food for collagen production. Bone broth contains a bioavailable form of collagen which your body can synthesize and use immediately. Bone broth is made from the bones, joints, and cartilage of animals. These parts are rich in a form of gelatin which at least two studies have shown actually increases our bodies collagen supply (source & source). Beef bone broth is richest in type I collagen, which makes it the best choice for skin health and stretch marks.
Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in your connective tissues and works to bind collagen with elastin to create supple, stretchy, healthy skin. Hyaluronic acid allows your body to properly use collagen effectively. A lack of hyaluronic acids will lead to sagging, wrinkled skin that can’t hold up when stretched. The best ways to increase our hyaluronic acid supply are diet or supplements. Unfortunately, topical hyaluronic acid cannot penetrate deep enough to have an impact on your collagen health. Bone broth is a great source of hyaluronic acid. You can also find vegetarian hyaluronic acid supplements made from bacterial fermentation.
A diet rich in vitamin C will both boost your collagen production and protect your existing collagen from future damage. The best sources of vitamin C are fruits and dark leafy greens. Acerola cherries have a ton of vitamin C (just ½ cup provides 913% of your daily value of vitamin C) and can be purchased in powdered form and added to smoothies or water. Other foods that are high in vitamin C include mangos, kale, red peppers, kiwis, citrus fruits, and papayas (just to name a few). You can also try taking a whole food vitamin C supplement daily.
While there is no evidence that topical aloe vera gels can improve stretch marks, there is some evidence that dietary aloe vera can actually significantly boost your collagen production. A 2015 study showed that eating aloe vera powder increased the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid by 1.5x. That’s a really meaningful boost. Be sure to eat only 100% pure aloe vera juice or a totally pure aloe powder supplement daily for the best results.
Zinc plays an important factor in activating the building blocks of collagen. Approximately, 8-11mg of zinc is recommended daily; however, it can be quite difficult to get this amount of zinc through diet alone. Thus, you may want to consider adding a zinc supplement to your daily routine. Some dietary sources of zinc include chicken, beans, oysters, and nuts.
Vitamin A is made up of a group of active compounds known as retinal, retinol, retinoic acid, and pro-vitamin A carotenoids. These compounds work together to fight free radicals and protect your skin against UV damage, stimulate new cell production and tissue growth, and smooth wrinkles. Since some controversy exists around potential health issues from topical vitamin A, we’re going to recommend that you get your vitamin A from natural food sources. Vitamin A is easy to obtain from both plant and animals sources.
Collagen Building Amino Acids & Vitamin E
The amino acids that are important for the production of collagen are L-glutamine, L-proline, cystine and glutamic acid. Additionally, vitamin E works synergistically with vitamin C to improve collagen production and function. Luckily, vitamin E is pretty abundant in many food sources, so it’s unlikely that you have a vitamin E deficiency. However, if your diet primarily consists of processed foods, then you may want to increase your intake of natural sources of vitamin E.
Step 3: Massage & Exfoliation for Stretch Marks
How to Increase Circulation to Stimulate Healing
Certain massage and exfoliation techniques can be effective at increasing blood flow and circulation to areas of the body. The idea is that this increased circulation helps to jump start the skin’s natural healing abilities. Here are a few massage and exfoliation techniques that may be effective at stimulating skin cell regeneration to repair your stretch marks:
Derma rollers work by using tiny needles to break up damaged skin cells by creating tiny micro-injuries on the surface of the skin. The theory is that these tiny injuries stimulate collagen & elastin production as the skin attempts to heal itself. The process doesn’t hurt, though it may cause temporary skin irritation. There are tons of anecdotal stories about the wonders of derma rolling, so it’s definitely worth trying. However, don’t expect to see results overnight. It may take 6 months to 1 year of consistent derma rolling to see dramatic changes in the look and feel of your stretch marks.
Please note: you may come across articles online recommending that you use a 1.5MM derma roller for stretch marks. DO NOT use a 1.5MM derma roller for home use. This can cause severe bleeding, pain, and irritation and should never be attempted without a numbing cream or professional guidance. For home use, stick with a derma roller between .25MM and .5MM –especially if you’ve never used a derma roller before. These are gentler and far less irritating on the skin.
If derma rollers aren’t your style, then you can try routine chemical peels to get rid of your stretch marks. Chemical peels work by using acids of various strengths to slough off the top layers of skin. This process stimulates skin cell regeneration and can be effective at helping to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Stronger acids remove more layers of skin than weaker acids. For home treatment of stretch marks, it is recommended that you use weaker acids, such as alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids, to avoid causing serious damage to your skin.
Body scrubs work by stimulating blood flow and improving circulation. This process can help to jump start the skin’s natural healing process. While you can buy pre-made body scrubs, you can also easily make your own scrub at home. Simply keep a jar of the scrub in the bathroom and use it whenever you take a shower. Check out our DIY Stretch Mark Body Scrub recipes below for some great stretch mark removal concoctions.
DIY Natural Stretch Mark Removal Creams & Scrub Recipes
For the purposes of healing your stretch marks at home, there is really no need to go out and buy expensive pre-made stretch mark creams. Because collagen molecules are too large to penetrate deeply beneath the skin, collagen-based creams won’t be effective at healing stretch marks. Thus, you’re better off making your own serums & creams at home using natural ingredients that have some evidence of promoting collagen production. Additionally, homemade stretch mark remedies are much more affordable as you can make several batches from just a few ingredients.
Here are a few DIY stretch mark recipes for easy homemade serums, creams, and body scrubs:
Rosehip Seed Oil Stretch Mark Serum
Combine all of the ingredients above into a dark-colored jar or pump bottle (like this one) and shake well. Pump bottles are preferable over jars or droppers because they protect the oils from exposure to air which may decrease their shelf life. Rosehip seed oil is a very delicate oil with a short shelf life (3-6 months), so using a airtight, dark-colored, pump bottle and keeping your serum in a cool, dry location will help to keep your serum fresh for longer.
Apply this serum to your stretch marks at least twice daily for several months.
Shea Butter Stretch Mark Cream
Add the shea butter, coconut oil, argan oil, and vitamin E oil into a small sauce pan. Turn heat to low and simmer the ingredients until melted. Once the mixture is fully melted, mix or whip gently and remove from heat. Stir in your frankincense oil and rosehip seed oil. Store the mixture in a small glass container.
Apply this cream to your stretch marks at least twice daily for several months.
Coffee & Coconut Oil Stretch Mark Body Scrub
Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Adjust the amount of coconut oil to reach your desired consistency if necessary. Pour mixture into a glass jar.
Gently massage the mixture onto your stretch marks a few times per week in the shower. Reduce usage if you skin becomes sensitive or irritated due to over scrubbing.
Brown Sugar & Coconut Stretch Mark Body Scrub