Stretch marks — those pesky lines on your belly, thighs and elsewhere — are most often caused by weight gain and pregnancy, which cause the skin fibers to stretch. An increase in the hormone cortisol, which causes the skin to lose elasticity, may also be to blame.
Although you might not have welcomed these "tiger stripes," stretch marks aren't harmful and even though they may start out purple or red, they usually fade to a lighter tone of your natural skin tone over time.
While there's no strong evidence to support the efficacy of any natural substance or home remedy to completely get rid of stretch mark, there are some things you can do to improve their appearance.
Use Vitamin E Oil
Whether you already have stretch marks or are anticipating their arrival (if you're in the early stages of pregnancy, say), vitamin E oil can help. Massage pure vitamin E oil (available on Amazon or at your local drugstore) into the stretched skin to keep it moisturized and supple. This naturally helps support new skin cell growth and boosts cell regeneration.
Exfoliate Your Skin
Exfoliation sloughs away dead skin cells from the outermost layer of your skin, keeping the skin soft and smooth and aiding in cellular renewal. It can also help even out your skin tone.
You can buy one like Body Boost, which is specifically designed for stretch mark-prone skin and also contains vitamin E (see above), coconut oil (to moisturize) and chamomile extract (to soothe).
Or you can make your own with pure cane sugar and honey, coconut oil or lemon juice to remove the dead skin cells in the area of your stretch marks. Just don't use salt, as that can be drying to your skin.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Keeping your skin hydrated from the outside in is important not only if you're looking to improve the appearance of stretch marks but for overall skin health.
Apply right after you bathe, as the steam from a shower or bath can be particularly drying but also open your pores and make them receptive to moisturizer. Try one like Mederma's Stretch Mark therapy.
Hydrate from the Inside Out
Be sure to drink plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated and plump to help avoid excess wrinkles that could make your stretch marks appear worse.
Read more: 12 Ways to Make Water Taste (Much) Better
Protect Your Skin From the Elements
You should also avoid exposure to the sun, which can dry the skin and make your stretch marks appear darker. Always apply sunscreen to your stretch marks when you cannot avoid the sun.
Jody Braverman is a health and fitness professional and writer in Seattle. She has been a personal trainer and yoga instructor for almost a decade and is passionate about movement and helping people lead active, healthy lives.