Stretch marks are a very common type of skin problem — in fact, they affect an estimated 80% of Americans. This type of scarring can begin as a reddish-purple lesion that appears in areas of the body where large amounts of fat are stored.
Stretch marks can appear in places like:
- Upper arms
- Back hips
Stretch marks can come from a number of causes — including pregnancy, weight fluctuation, and hormonal changes, to name a few.
One way to reduce the look of stretch marks is by applying topical therapies. These include synthetic solutions like lotions, serums, laser treatments, dermabrasion, and natural formulas.
(There are even a few common household items that can help — and you may have them in your pantry right now!)
Here are 8 simple ways to reduce the look of stretch marks right at home:
1. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a compound that’s naturally produced in the body and is found in the highest concentrations in the skin (about 50% of total body HA). Applying this solution to your stretch marks may help to fade their appearance, as HA plays a vital role in skin health.
Used commonly as an anti-aging serum for its ability to hydrate skin, hyaluronic acid may also help to reduce the appearance of stretch mark scar tissue.
Numerous studies have shown that elevated levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin for prolonged periods of time are associated with scar-free skin tissue repair.1
In fact, one study found that applying hyaluronic acid significantly reduced keloid deposits (growths that harden, raise, and worsen existing scars) in scar tissue.2
2. Essential Oils
During the early stages of formation, stretch marks can appear red and prominent. This is a great time to apply the power of highly-concentrated plant compounds known as essential oils.
Great essential oils for stretch marks include helichrysum, sage, rosehip, lavender, neroli, patchouli, frankincense, tea tree, and onion oil.
In one clinical trial, participants reported significant improvements in the overall appearance of their scars when the onion extract solution was applied topically to stretch marks. They also reported a reduction in redness, hardness, and improvements in the smoothness of their skin at the scar site. These improvements were recorded in the majority of participants after just 2-4 weeks of application.3
For this reason, you may choose to apply onion essential oil, or another type of onion extract, directly to the skin at the site of stretch marks. However, be advised that essential oils are highly potent substances and they should always be diluted before application.
Add 10-15 drops of the essential oil of your choice to ¼ cup of a carrier oil — like olive oil or jojoba seed oil — and then rub the mixture onto the stretch mark.
3. Shea Butter
This cream-colored moisturizer has been used for centuries for its ability to deeply hydrate skin. Apply a small amount of raw shea butter to your stretch marks 2-3 times a day to help prevent the scar from looking worse. Not only that, but studies show that it may help inhibit the formation of fibrous growths inside the scar.4
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
This sweet and tangy liquid is great for cleaning up around the house, but it’s also great for encouraging healthy-looking skin.
Unlike other types of vinegar, apple cider vinegar contains a substance known as the “mother of vinegar” (the milky substance at the bottom of the bottle). It’s called acetic acid, and it’s known for its natural exfoliant abilities.
When applied to the skin, this naturally-occurring hydroxy acid may help to encourage new skin cells, reducing the appearance of stretch marks.5
5. Emu Oil
Taken from the fat of the Australian emu (a large bird related to the ostrich) this exotic oil contains a range of essential fatty acids. These include the omega-3, omega-6, and even omega-9 healthy fats known to rejuvenate and restore damaged, dry skin.
In clinical studies, this oil has been shown to reduce redness, lessen the appearance of scar tissue, and ultimately support the natural healing process of damaged skin.6 For this reason, applying a small amount of emu oil to your skin may help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
6. Aloe Vera
Known as the lily of the desert, aloe vera is a popular remedy for all types of skin issues. Not only does it cool, soothe, and condition skin, but it also works to encourage new skin cell regeneration for fewer visible stretch marks.
Offering a good source of nutrients like Vitamins A and C, studies suggest the application of aloe vera mucilage (meat) may help support wound healing and new skin growth.7
NOTE: Aloe vera plants are the best source of active mucilage and gel offered by this wonderful plant. However, if you do purchase the gel at a pharmacy, be advised that green-colored varieties often contain artificial dyes that may irritate sensitive skin. So be sure to purchase a live aloe vera plant, or use a clear gel to avoid these irritating substances.
7. Pressure Garments
These include sleeves, socks, and stockings that are set with a medically-approved compression gradient. When this force is applied to scar tissue, the gentle elasticity is said to reduce predominant scarring.
In one 2010 study published in the Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, participants reported that this type of pressure therapy was able to slow scaring rates in 60%-85% of participants.8
8. Silicone Gel Sheeting
Silicone gel sheeting has been shown in clinical studies as a potential option for people with stubborn scar tissue. Used widely as a clinical practice in the early 1980s, silicone gel sheeting can be used at home with the application of topical silicone gel solutions. Researchers note that it is an “easy to apply and cosmetically acceptable” way to reduce scar visibility.9
The only concern for people who want to use silicone gel solutions at home is that this type of therapy requires multiple applications throughout the day, and for this reason is not always a practical option.10
The End of Stretch Marks
If your skin does not respond to these at-home therapies, you may want to talk to your doctor about other options. With so many ways to minimize the appearance of stretch marks, there’s got to be something that works well for you!
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1. Eleni Papakonstantinou, Michael Roth. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging . Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 253–258. 2. Andrea Hoffmann, PhD, Jessica Lynn Hoing, MD. Role of Hyaluronic Acid Treatment in the Prevention of Keloid Scarring. J Am Coll Clin Wound Spec. 2012 Jun; 4(2): 23–31.
3. Zoe D. Draelos, MD, Leslie Baumann, MD. A New Proprietary Onion Extract Gel Improves the Appearance of New Scars
A Randomized, Controlled, Blinded-Investigator Study. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012 Jun; 5(6): 18–24.
4. Peter B. Olaitan, MB, BS, FWACS, I-Ping Chen, DDS, PhD. Inhibitory Activities of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Traditional African Remedies on Keloid Fibroblasts. Wounds. 2011 Apr; 23(4): 97–106.
5. Andrija Kornhauser, Sergio G Coelho. Applications of hydroxy acids: classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2010; 3: 135–142.
6. Politis MJ, Dmytrowich A. Promotion of second intention wound healing by emu oil lotion: comparative results with furasin, polysporin, and cortisone. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1998 Dec;102(7):2404-7.
7. Seyyed Abbas Hashemi, Seyyed Abdollah Madani. The Review on Properties of Aloe Vera in Healing of Cutaneous Wounds. BioMed Research International. Volume 2015 (2015).
8. B.S. Atiyeh, A.M. El Khatib. Pressure garment therapy (PGT) of burn scars: evidence-based efficacy. Ann Burns Fire Disasters. 2013 Dec 31; 26(4): 205–212.
9. Neerja Puri, Ashutosh Talwar. The Efficacy of Silicone Gel for the Treatment of Hypertrophic Scars and Keloids.
J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2009 Jul-Dec; 2(2): 104–106.
10. Felipe Bettini RabelloI, Cleyton Dias SouzaII. Update on hypertrophic scar treatment. Clinics vol.69 no.8 São Paulo Aug. 2014.