One of the unhappy realities of pregnancy is the stretch marks that often accompany it. In fact, any rapid weight gain can cause stretch marks, as can changes in body shape that occur during puberty, sudden accumulation of muscle mass, etc.
Stretch marks can occur just about anywhere on the body that skin-stretching takes place, but the stomach, thighs and belly are especially prone during pregnancy. Heredity has much to do with how prone you are to getting these annoying marks, but there are some things that can help prevent or lessen their appearance:
Your skin is affected by what you eat. Ideally, you would begin before pregnancy with a healthy diet; but if you are already pregnant it is not too late! Non-pregnant individuals who are concerned about stretch marks would also do well to heed this dietary advice. There are foods that promote skin elasticity and health, such as foods high in good-for-you fats: avocado, salmon, nuts, seeds, and olive and safflower oils.
Vitamin C is also an important component in a skin-healthy diet. Be sure to eat lots of foods rich in this vitamin, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, and cantaloupe.
Healthy proteins are essential – skin is composed partially of protein, and lean meats, fatty fish, and dishes made from a combination of whole grains and legumes provide healthy proteins to promote skin health.
Drink plenty of water in your diet, too – hydrated skin is more supple.
Rubbing natural oils into your skin is a soothing way to stop the itch of stretching skin and increase its softness. Some oils that are good to rub directly into the skin are:
- Sweet Almond oil
- Olive oil
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter (this smells very good – like a chocolate bar!)
- Hemp oil
- Grapeseed oil
The above oils can be blended or mixed with essential oils to enhance the healing properties of the “carrier oils.” Try adding a few drops of lavender essential oil per quarter cup of carrier oil.
Calendula is an herb that helps the skin form new cells. It is effective at healing cuts and scrapes for this reason, and is therefore helpful for stretch marks. You can buy calendula ointments and creams in health food stores.
You can also make your own calendula oil at home – gently heat about a cup of any of the above carrier oils, stir in half a cup of dried calendula flowers and plant parts, cover and “steep” overnight. Then strain out the plant parts and use the oil on any areas subject to stretching.
When you work these remedies into your belly skin, take a long time and massage the oil well into the skin. This improves circulation, which is beneficial to the skin.
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