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Stretch marks (striae) are indented streaks that often appear on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks and thighs. They’re most common during pregnancy, but can also be caused by significant weight gain or loss, periods of rapid growth (like puberty or weight training), corticosteroids, breast enlargement surgery and certain genetic disordering, including Cushing’s and Marfan syndrome. The body’s levels of cortisone, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, can also increase the likelihood of stretch marks.
Generally, stretch marks look like slightly indented or sometimes raised streaks in the skin, especially around the belly, breasts, hips, and thighs; they may also appear as pink, purple or dark red lines. They’re not painful or dangerous, but they can interfere with how you feel about your appearance in a bikini.
Stretch marks are usually treated with retinoid creams, which help rebuild the skin’s collagen, and can be effective if used very soon—within a few months—after marks appear. Microdermabrasion can remove the top layer of skin and speed new skin growth, and laser therapy can encourage the production of collagen and elastin. But many of these are expensive, can irritate, and if pregnant, can impact baby.
If you’re looking for a more natural way to be bikini-ready, try these seven solutions to smooth stretch marks.
1. Stop them in their tracks.
The best way to treat stretch marks is to prevent them from happening; if you’re losing or gaining weight, slow it down if possible. If you’re pregnant, slather your growing belly, breasts, and thighs with oil. Coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, almond oil, and cocoa butter are among the best; they’re deeply emollient and rich in antioxidants to heal skin. Use them straight up, or look for stretch mark lotions and creams that contain those oils, as well as other smoothing agents like elastin, collagen, and soy.
2. Slather them with food.
Your kitchen has some of the best solutions. Lemon juice can lighten dark stretch marks; egg whites boost collagen; and potato juice contains a compound called catecholase that helps lighten skin. A number of studies also show onion gel can remove scar-like tissue and may diminish the appearance of stretch marks. If you’re not interested in smearing onions on your belly, look for scar creams that contain onion gel or extract. And the food you consume is equally important for encouraging skin elasticity. Soy protein, dark leafy greens, and red-orange vegetables promote supple skin. Make it easy: whip up a smoothie with carrot powder, beet juice powder, green foods powder, and soy protein.
3. Eat Gelatin.
Gelatin can combat stretch marks by increasing collagen formation and enhancing skin’s elasticity. Unless you love bone broth, the best way to increase your gelatin intake is with an unflavored gelatin powder; stir it into juices or smoothies, add to soups and sauces, or make natural, fruit-juice Jello. Look for gelatin from grass-fed cows, and if you have a sensitive digestive system, choose the collagen hydro-lysate form. Or take gelatin in capsule form for a fast, easy and transportable solution.
4. Take zinc.
Zinc promotes collagen production and is especially important during pregnancy, since an estimated 80 percent of pregnant women have suboptimal zinc levels. It can also be used topically in the form of zinc oxide; look for it in creams and lotions. Other supplements to prevent or treat stretch marks:
Vitamin C, to promote the synthesis of collagen and help reduce free radicals, which diminish collagen
Vitamin A, to encourage the formation of new skin cells
Omega 3, fatty acids to promote elasticity of skin
Lycopene, to inhibit the breakdown of collagen by blocking the collagenase enzyme
5. Choose the right cream.
Topical creams and moisturizers specially designed for stretch marks can help smooth away existing striations and prevent new ones from occurring. Look for natural creams that contain skin-smoothing oils like borage seed oil, sweet orange oil, geranium, chamomile, calendula extract, and lavender oil to improve elasticity and diminish the appearance of stretch marks. Green tea, vitamin A, and vitamin C, topically applied, boost skin’s elasticity. And look for creams and lotions that contain soluble collagen and hydrolyzed elastin for extra skin-smoothing abilities.
6. Scrub them away.
Regularly exfoliating skin removes dead skin cells and encourages the production of new cells, and can diminish the appearance of stretch marks; this works especially well for stretch marks that are slightly raised above the surface of the skin. Make a DIY scrub with sea salt or raw cane sugar mixed with a little olive oil. Or choose a purifying, premade body scrub; look for gentle scrubs made from sugar, salt, or jojoba beads. Sugar and honey also work as humectants, attracting water to the skin and keeping it supple. Healing ingredients like green tea, açai berry, seaweed and clay extracts smooth overall skin and make stretch marks less visible.
7. Lighten them up.
If your stretch marks are dark, this may be your best solution; if striations are lighter in color, they’ll fade into surrounding skin. Proven skin-lightening agents:
Konica acid, produced by different fungi as a by-product of some fermentation processes, used in many creams to lighten and brighten skin.
Dried mulberry extract has been shown in studies to visibly lighten skin.
Bearberry is rich in arbutin, a natural skin-lightening compound.
Aloe vera has been shown in studies to inhibit tyrosinase, a compound that increases skin pigmentation.
Lemon,lime, and other citrus fruits contain hesperidin, a bioflavonoid that lightens skin and also protects collagen.
Topical niacinamide improves skin tone and also decreases collagen oxidation and breakdown.
- Coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, almond oil, and cocoa butter are deeply emollient and rich in antioxidants to heal skin.
- Onion gel can remove scar-like tissue and may diminish the appearance of stretch marks.
- Exfoliate with a gentle scrub made from sugar, salt, or jojoba beads.