Stretch marks are common, resulting from everything from growth spurts and weight changes to pregnancy. They may appear on your abdomen, buttocks, thighs, and breasts. They range in color from red and pink to purple and blue.
Stretch marks usually fade on their own over time. Although there isn’t a treatment that will get rid of stretch marks completely, there are things you can do help reduce their appearance and texture.
Keep reading to learn how to use essential oils to make a serum to help relieve stretch marks.
Oils that definitely work
Some essential oils have shown a definite effect on stretch marks. More studies with larger study size are needed, but this is what the research has shown so far:
1. Argan oil
Argan oil is made from argan tree kernels. It’s one of the newer skin care oils on the block.
According to a small , argan oil helps increase skin’s elasticity. Researchers believe it may help prevent or reduce stretch marks. A found both consuming argan oil and applying it topically made skin more elastic in postmenopausal women.
2. Gotu kola
Gotu kola is used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda to treat a wide range of skin concerns. According to , compounds in gotu kola help increase collagen production and improve skin’s tensile strength.
In an from 1991 on 100 women who were pregnant, 50 women were given a topical cream containing gotu kola while the other 50 women were given a placebo cream. Of the 80 women who completed the study, just 14 women of the gotu kola group developed stretch marks compared to the 22 women in the placebo group.
3. Rosehip oil
Rosehip oil is made from the fruit or “seeds” of roses. According to a , a moisturizer containing rosehip oil helped prevent the severity of stretch marks in pregnant women with previous stretch marks. It was also significantly more effective than the placebo in preventing new stretch marks.
4. Bitter almond oil
Bitter almond oil comes from a different type of almond tree than the sweet almonds we eat. Bitter almonds contain toxic compounds that can mimic cyanide poisoning when ingested. It’s unclear how much bitter almond oil may be absorbed by your skin.
For a on the effects of bitter almond oil on stretch marks, women who were pregnant applied bitter almond oil alone, got a 15-minute massage using bitter almond oil, or were in the control group.
Only of women in the massage group developed stretch marks. Stretch marks developed in of women using bitter almond oil alone, and in of women in the control group. More studies are needed to determine exactly how bitter almond oil and massage works and if it’s safe.
5. Pomegranate oil and dragon’s blood extract
Pomegranate oil is made from pomegranate seeds. Dragon’s blood extract comes from the resin of dracaena trees, also known as Madagascar dragon trees. Both ingredients are thought to be antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
According to a on 10 women with stretch marks and 10 women without them, a cream made of pomegranate oil and dragon’s blood extract increased skin’s thickness, elasticity, and hydration in all volunteers. Researchers suggest the cream may help prevent or improve the appearance of stretch marks.
Oils that might work
Research on some essential oils have had mixed results. More research is needed, but these oils may be worth a try.
Neroli, a member of the Rutaceae family, is made from bitter orange tree blossoms. It’s used as a folk remedy to lighten skin and improve the appearance of scars and stretch marks.
According to , neroli oil has powerful antioxidant abilities which may help skin cell’s regenerate and improve skin’s appearance.
7. Shea butter
Shea butter is made from the nuts of the shea tree. It’s not an essential oil, but a carrier oil. It may be used alone or to dilute essential oils. Shea butter is often used to hydrate the skin. Many women claim it helps prevent stretch marks, but most research is anecdotal.
Shea butter contains vitamin A. It’s said to help improve blood circulation to the skin and promote wound healing. Even so, more research is needed to prove it helps stretch marks.
8. Olive oil
Olive oil is another carrier oil used to dilute essential oils. It may also be used on its own. Olive oil gets skin care kudos because of its antioxidant and hydration abilities. But according to a on women in their second trimester of pregnancy, applying olive oil to the abdomen twice daily doesn’t prevent stretch marks.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant known for its anti-aging and skin regenerating benefits. It’s often used to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars. Combining vitamin E with these essential oils that have other skin-rejuvenating benefits may give your stretch mark treatment regimen a boost.
9. Lavender to help strengthen the skin
Lavender oil comes from lavender flowers. It’s known for its wound healing abilities. According to , lavender oil can increase collagen production, help shrink wounds, and help form granulation tissue that promotes wound healing.
10. Patchouli to help strengthen the skin
There’s little research on patchouli oil for stretch marks. However, it showed antioxidant abilities and promoted collagen synthesis in a . In theory, patchouli oil could help strengthen skin and minimize stretch marks.
11. Bitter orange to help strengthen the skin
Bitter orange oil is made from the peel of bitter oranges. According to , it may help tighten and tone the skin. Keep in mind, bitter orange may also irritate the skin due to its methanol content.
12. Rosehip to help stimulate keratinocyte production
In addition to moisturizing the skin, rosehip oil helped stimulate keratinocyte differentiation in a . Keratinocytes are tightly packed cells in your skin’s epidermis that produce keratin. Keratin helps strengthen the skin and stimulates collagen production.
Essential oils aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s hard to know what you’re buying.
You should only purchase oils from a manufacturer who:
- is willing to provide materials safety data sheets
- is well-known in the professional aromatherapy world
- varies the pricing of their oils according to oil type and rarity
- lists the country of origin and method of extraction at a minimum on the label
- doesn’t add synthetic ingredients to their oils
Essential oils are potent and can irritate your skin. They must be diluted with a carrier oil before using on the skin.
Some carrier oils are:
- sweet almond oil
- jojoba oil
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- grapeseed oil
- apricot kernel oil
- wheat germ oil
The recommends these essential oil dilutions for adults:
- 2.5 percent dilution, or 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
- 3 percent dilution, or 20 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
- 5 percent dilution, or 30 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
- 10 percent dilution, or 60 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
Start with the lowest dilution once or twice daily. If it doesn’t work — and irritation doesn’t occur — try the next highest dilution and so on.
It’s smart to do a patch test to check for allergic reactions before applying essential oils to your skin.
To do a patch test:
- Add one or two drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil.
- Apply the diluted oil to your inner wrist or elbow and leave it on for 24 hours.
- If irritation occurs, the essential oil isn’t safe to use.
It makes sense that if you’re trying to prevent stretch marks you’d use essential oils while pregnant. But there’s little research on the safety of topical essential oils during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It’s unclear how much essential oil is absorbed by the skin and how it may impact your baby.
Until more research is done, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use essential oils unless under the supervision of a doctor or qualified natural health practitioner.
Side effects and risks
The most common side effect of using topical essential oils is allergic reaction. Allergic reaction symptoms may include:
To reduce your risk of side effects, you should only use professional quality essential oils and you should always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil.
Lemon oil and other citrus oils may make you more sensitive to the sun and cause rash or sunburn. You should avoid direct sunlight for at least 24 hours after using citrus oils.
Not enough research has been done on the topical use of bitter almond oil to determine its safety, so talk to your doctor before use.
Don’t use essential oils with topical medications unless under the supervision of your doctor or a qualified natural health practitioner.
Although stretch marks can’t be removed completely, research has shown some essential oils may help reduce their appearance and keep the surrounding skin healthy.
The severity of stretch marks is mostly dependent on genetics, hormone levels, and the degree of stress to your skin. Your best course of prevention is to eat healthy and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight and help keep your hormone levels optimal. Then consider essential oils as a complementary therapy to your healthy lifestyle to nourish your skin.