Stretch marks are a common complaint, especially among pregnant women and adolescents. These long stripes or lines on the skin may be annoying, but they do not cause any medical problems.
Although most stretch marks will fade significantly with time, many people want to minimize their appearance quickly. Read on to discover the best essential oils to reduce stretch marks.
What are stretch marks?
During pregnancy, people may be susceptible to stretch marks.
Stretch marks are known medically as striae or striae gravidarum. They occur when the middle layer or dermis of the skin becomes overstretched to the point of tearing.
These tears cause scars that appear as stretch marks on the skin's surface.
This type of skin tearing often occurs:
- during pregnancy, affecting up to 90 percent of women
- during the growth spurts of adolescence
- after weight gain or weight loss
High levels of steroid hormones caused by medications or diseases, including Cushing's syndrome and Marfan syndrome, have also been linked to stretch marks.
Stretch marks appear as red or purple lines that are slightly raised initially. They turn white or silver and become flat and shiny, over time. Women are more prone to stretch marks than men, and they usually develop on the:
- upper arms
Eight best essential oils for stretch marks
Certain essential oils are more effective than others at reducing the visibility of stretch marks.
Essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil before applying. Essential oils should not be swallowed.
Some of the best choices for stretch marks include:
1. Argan oil
Argan essential oil is a popular natural product for skin and hair care. Argan tree kernels are used to make it.
Some research suggests that argan oil can improve the elasticity of the skin, which may reduce or prevent stretch marks. It can be applied topically or consumed to enhance skin elasticity, according to one study.
2. Bitter almond oil
A different type of almond to the one that is eaten is used to make bitter almond essential oil.
A 2012 study suggests that bitter almond oil may reduce the stretch marks caused by pregnancy. Researchers divided the 141 women into:
- a group that applied bitter almond oil with massage
- a group that used bitter almond oil without massage
- a control group
The scientists found that stretch marks developed in only 20 percent of women in the massage group, 38.8 percent in the oil-only group, and 41 percent in the control group.
More studies are needed before conclusions on the effectiveness of bitter almond oil can be drawn.
The oil also contains toxic compounds that may not be safe in certain amounts, especially when used during pregnancy.
3. Bitter orange oil
Bitter orange essential oil is extracted from the peel of the bitter orange fruit.
One study indicates that the oil may tone and condition the skin, as well as prevent skin fragility. These actions could potentially reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
People with sensitive skin may experience irritation when using bitter orange essential oil. It may also cause photosensitivity in people with light skin.
4. Lavender oil
Research suggests that lavender oil may encourage wound healing.
Lavender essential oil is best known for its calming properties. But the oil has several other benefits, including when it comes to the healing of wounds and marks.
This suggests lavender oil may help in the healing of stretch marks, but it should be noted that the study was carried out on rats.
More research on humans is needed.
5. Neroli oil
Neroli essential oil is made from the flowers of the Citrus aurantium tree, the same tree that is used to make bitter orange oil.
Most of the evidence for neroli oil helping stretch marks is anecdotal, and it has been traditionally used for lightening the skin and reducing imperfections.
6. Patchouli oil
People often use patchouli essential oil to boost their mood, but it is also known for healing wounds and fading scars.
Studies on animals suggest it has antioxidant properties and can promote the synthesis of collagen, which could reduce stretch marks.
7. Pomegranate oil
Pomegranate essential oil is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is made from the seeds of the pomegranate fruit
A 2017 study found that a cream comprising pomegranate oil and dragon's blood extract, which is made from dracaena tree resin, increased the elasticity and thickness of the skin.
These findings led researchers to suggest that a blend of pomegranate oil and dragon's blood extract could prevent or minimize the appearance of marks.
8. Frankincense essential oil
Frankincense oil has been used for centuries for its healing properties and treatment of skin conditions.
Frankincense enters into the skin easily, and ferulic acids and vitamins in the oil bring antioxidant benefits to the skin, which helps keep it soft and healthy.
How to use essential oils for stretch marks
Coconut oil is a popular carrier oil.
Essential oils should be diluted in carrier oils and then applied topically to stretch marks and massaged into the skin.
Essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil to prevent burning and irritation. This is especially important for people with sensitive skin.
Popular carrier oils include:
- coconut oil
- grapeseed oil
- jojoba oil
- olive oil
- sweet almond oil
- rosehip oil
Mix 15 to 30 drops of essential oil with 1 ounce of carrier oil. Start with fewer drops and work up, as skin tolerance allows.
A patch test should always be carried out before applying essential oils liberally to the skin. The essential oil should be safe to use if there is no reaction after 24 hours.
Distilled from the seeds of rose flowers, rosehip oil as a carrier oil may be effective by itself for the prevention of stretch marks.
When researchers asked pregnant women to apply a moisturizer, containing rosehip oil and vitamin E or a placebo, they found that the cream was more effective at preventing stretch marks than the placebo.
They suggest that this can reduce the severity of stretch marks during pregnancy, prevent new marks from forming, and stop the progression of existing marks.
Side effects and risks
People who try essential oils for stretch marks may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions, as these are the most common side effects. They should stop using the oil if it causes a rash, redness, or itching and see a doctor if symptoms persist.
People should be careful using citrus oils, as they can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight for 24 hours after use, which increases the risk of sunburn.
A person is advised to discuss the use of essential oils with a doctor before trying them, especially if they are taking other medications or using topical treatments.
Use during pregnancy
Stretch marks are extremely common in pregnancy, and many pregnant women would like to find natural ways to prevent or treat stretch marks.
It is unclear if topically applied essential oils are safe for use during pregnancy. People who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid the use of essential oils on the skin unless advised differently by their doctor.
Medical treatments for stretch marks
People with severe stretch marks or who are allergic to essential oils may wish to try other treatments, including:
- retinoid cream
- laser therapies
Stretch marks are not a serious medical condition, but some people wish to remove them for cosmetic reasons.
Most stretch marks will not completely go away, but using certain essential oils can help to minimize their appearance. If the oils do not work or cause skin irritation, other treatments are available from a doctor or dermatologist.
In many cases, stretch marks will fade with time even without any specific treatment.