Stretch marks are a frustrating skin condition that can affect people from all walks of life. They are most commonly associated with pregnancy, but people who have never been pregnant can develop them as well. The most common reasons for non-pregnancy related stretch marks are rapid weight gain or growth during puberty.
Causes for Stretch Marks
Stretch marks occur when the skin is stretched by rapid growth or weight gain. The skin contains collagen, which is a form of connective tissue that is quite elastic. When the skin is stretched too quickly, collagen is damaged and cannot repair itself quickly enough. This causes the scars that people refer to as stretch marks.1
Stretch marks are a lot like any other scar, and sometimes they will fade over time. This is not guaranteed, however. Usually, stretch marks don’t appear one at a time. There will be a band of them in the area where the skin was stretched. When stretch marks first appear, they can be reddish or purple and are often indented, which makes them more noticeable. They will usually turn lighter and fade to be slightly silver-looking over time.2
Reducing the Appearance of Stretch Marks
Many treatments for stretch marks involve simply covering them up. Self-tanning products, for example, can be helpful for this. Tanning in a sunbed or by sunbathing will not mask stretch marks, however, and may actually make them far more noticeable because they do not tan.3
There are also some creams and lotions that promise to heal stretch marks by promoting the growth of collagen or repairing the skin. Vitamin E and aloe vera are popular products for healing stretch marks. Look for products that contain hyaluronic acid or tretinoin if you are planning on remedying stretch marks with commercial products.
Other treatments include chemical peels, laser therapy, and microdermabrasion. The idea here is that they will break down the damaged skin and allow it to be repaired. Studies have not found conclusive evidence that these treatments completely eradicate stretch marks, however.4
Using Essential Oils for Stretch Marks
If you do not want to pay for expensive therapies that may not be effective, then there is another option. Essential oils have been found to be helpful for reducing the appearance of stretch marks. They work by moisturizing the skin and supplying it with the essential nutrients required for skin repair. Some of the top essential oils for this purpose are highlighted below.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender oil is a popular and versatile oil that is used to treat a lot of different skin conditions. It has been found to be effective in treating rashes and skin issues. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of lavender are well-documented, although more research is needed to confirm the touted stretchmark-reducing benefits.5 It is certainly a useful oil to add to any massage treatments that you are considering making.
Neroli Oil Essential Oil
Neroli oil is known as a cicatrizant, which means that it is useful for helping prevent and treat scars. Researchers have investigated the use of essential oils to treat skin conditions, and neroli oil is one of the oils that has been found to have a lot of promise.6
Patchouli Essential Oil
This is another essential oil that has a long history. It was once used to ward off moths from expensive cashmere garments while they were being shipped over the sea to England. Today, patchouli is appreciated for its regenerative properties.7 It is those properties that make it so promising as a treatment for stretch marks and other scars.
Jasmine Essential Oil
Jasmine oil is a rich and exotic oil that is valued in Chinese and Indian cultures for its pleasing aroma and medicinal properties. It is often used to treat skin issues, being beneficial both for dry and oily skin, and anecdotally it can help heal scar tissue too. Most of the research that has been done on jasmine essential oil today focuses on its stimulating effects and on its ability to calm anxiety.8 More research into the use of jasmine as a stretch mark healing agent is needed.
Helichrysum Essential Oil
Helichrysum essential oil is a popular oil that has a lot of promising medicinal uses. It is known to be antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Studies show that it can be useful as a skin treatment, as well as to treat allergies, coughs, and colds.9 Again, research into stretch marks specifically is limited, but there are researchers who are advocating further investigation into the use of helichrysum essential oil for skincare.
Safety and Precautions
If you are going to try to use essential oils to treat stretch marks, then it is important that you are conservative in your treatment and also patient. It can take months to see results with a topical application because the oils are not making the stretch marks disappear. Rather, they are simply helping your body to heal the stretch marks on its own.
Note that the risk of allergic reactions to essential oils is important to be mindful of. Essential oils are highly concentrated, and some of them can cause skin irritation or photosensitivity.10 To avoid these issues, you should dilute essential oils with a carrier oil such as coconut oil.
Stretch marks can be frustrating and you may not like how they look, but it is possible for them to fade over time. Moisturizing and treating early-stage stretch marks can stop them from becoming too visible. Once you have them, it will take months of treatment to reduce their appearance. Try not to worry about them too much, though. They may be very noticeable to you, but it is unlikely that other people see them in the same way that you do.
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