If you’ve ever been pregnant, you may have heard horror stories about the impending doom of stretch marks. They are our battle wounds after giving birth. Some mothers wear them as a badge of honor, but most of us just wish they would disappear.
Stretch marks are actually tiny tears or scars on the skin caused by a breakdown in collagen, a protein that holds skin together. They can appear anywhere on the body where the skin is rapidly stretched, such as your growing baby bump.
According to Kim Walls, an internationally recognized skin care expert, about 90 percent of women will develop stretch marks during pregnancy or immediately postpartum. Unfortunately, there’s no way to fully prevent them. Stretch marks are genetic, but there are other factors such as hormones, stress and improper skin care that can worsen their appearance.
“It is possible to minimize them and potentially not have them at all,” says Walls. “The majority of stretch marks will go away six to twelve months after pregnancy.”
If your stretch marks are a bit more stubborn, here are three daily steps to help minimize them.
Massage your stretch marks for at least a few minutes every day. Medical professionals often recommend massage after surgery or for anyone who wants to get rid of a scar. Massage increases blood circulation, which helps your skin to receive nutrients faster and accelerates the healing process.
Hydrate Your Skin
When you’re dehydrated, your body can’t work properly. So drink lots of water. Use lotions and moisturizers with high water content, such as aloe vera, to hydrate the skin. Choose organic products whenever possible, and avoid products with additional fragrances and dyes.
Insulate Your Skin
After you hydrate your skin, insulate it using natural oils, which are excellent emollients that keep the skin moist and flexible. Apply heavier oils within three minutes of taking a bath to lock in moisture. Avoid petroleum products that create the illusion of hydrated skin, but actually suffocate your pores by keeping out air and moisture.
Stretch marks can appear overnight, but they can often disappear quickly. With a little extra care, deep, purple stretch marks can fade to white within months.
“There’s no special magic bullet,” says Walls. “We have a thriving ecosystem on the skin. Keeping that environment flourishing is one of the most viable and important things you can do for your skin, especially after pregnancy.”
Sunny Gault is a San Diego mom of four and founder of The New Mommy Media Network, where you’ll find free podcasts for new and expecting parents.
Published: March 2015