So, as you may or may not know, at the time of writing this I am about eight and a half months pregnant. Which means I look as though I’ve swallowed a beach ball. I’m pretty much carrying this baby all in front, so you can see my belly rounding a corner a few seconds before you see the rest of me. My loving father and older brother repeatedly ask me if I’ve landed any jumbo jets recently, a joke that has carried over from when my mom was pregnant, as she apparently carried the same way.
To be honest, I don’t actually mind. My family jokes to show their love, and at the end of the day, I love my pregnant body. I love the new curves. I love that my “pear shape” has finally balanced out into more of an hourglass. I love how womanly I feel now. And if stretch marks were to appear on my ever-growing belly and breasts, then I would try to greet them with kindness, and the knowledge that they are signs of the incredible things a woman’s body can do.
HOWEVER…That does not mean that I want to invite them in. As in most everything regarding health, whether or not you will develop stretch marks breaks down into three factors: heredity, internal health, and external health. Also as in most everything regarding health, it is much easier to try and prevent stretch marks than it is to get rid of them.
If you or the women in your family have a history of stretch marks, particularly during pregnancy, there may be little you can do to avoid them completely, but it’s always worth a try, and healthy, nourished skin will always feel better than dry, itchy skin.
What you eat and drink can help to nourish your skin and help prevent stretch marks. Stretch marks are formed when the collagen, or elastic tissue of the skin is stretched too quickly, thus breaking. Preventing this from happening is therefore a matter of making sure the skin does not expand more quickly than the collagen can handle.
There are foods that can help with collagen production and healthy skin. Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E have all been shown to help improve skin’s elasticity (plus have many other health benefits for you and baby). Most foods that fit the bill are solely beneficial, but be sure to check with your OB, midwife, or other practitioner, to make sure that the benefits you receive from a food continue to outweigh any possible risks (especially regarding fish and shellfish), and that you continue to gain weight at a healthy rate.
This brings us to the original point of this post, and my personal favorite, helping to prevent stretch marks externally with a DIY body butter!
The same vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial for skin when eaten can also help when applied topically. I developed this body butter when I started to show at about 15 weeks, and have continued to make it and use it on my belly and breasts throughout the second and third trimesters. Honestly the first time I made this was in winter, and so my skin, especially on my belly, was very dry and SUPER itchy. I needed relief at that moment, so all I did was research the skin care ingredients that I already had, and made a butter with the ones that seemed to have the highest amounts of the above mentioned vitamins and nutrients. But I LOVE the way this feels, especially on tight, itchy skin, and so the only thing I changed when it ran out was the essential oil blend (to make the second batch more “spring-y”).
Here is a breakdown of the ingredients, and what makes them so nutritious for skin, according to my research:
- Raw Cocoa Butter – contains vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids. Also contains oleic acid which may have anti-inflammatory properties making it good for that itchy skin!
- Raw Shea Butter – contains vitamins A, C, and E.
- Unrefined Coconut Oil – contains trace amounts of vitamin E (but mainly included to help make the butter easily absorbed).
- Jojoba Oil – contains vitamins A and E, as well as zinc. Is often considered one of the oils that best mimics human skin’s natural oils.
- Skin-boosting Essential Oils
- Lavender – safe for all skin types, helps ease skin irritation.
- Geranium – balances oil production in skin.
- Lemon – antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial.
- Tangerine – may help cell regeneration and collagen production.
- Chamomile – soothing for cracked and sensitive skin.
- Frankincense and/or Neroli – both extremely good oils when it comes to helping skin’s elasticity. **NOTE: I have not actually used either of these as both tend to run expensive, and since all the carrier oils and butters are also targeting elasticity, it’s up to you if you want to make the investment.
Now, I’ve had to source most of these locally because of Sweden’s recent customs law that puts an extra tax on goods coming from outside the EU, so my source list probably won’t help you (unless there’s some readers from Sweden?). But when living in the States, I bought most of my natural care ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs. In addition, most of these ingredients are pretty common in DIY skin care, and could probably be bought at your local health store or even grocery store.
Again, it may be that the pregnancy gods have predestined you for stretch marks. But give the butter a go, and at the very least, you’ll have soft, supple skin – always a perk in my book!
Wandering Roots Mama Butter
A nourishing body butter designed with the growing belly in mind.
- 1 part cocoa butter
- 1/2 part shea butter
- 1/2 part coconut oil
- 1/2 part jojoba oil
- essential oil blend
- vitamin E oil (optional)
- Melt the cocoa butter, shea butter, and coconut oil in a double boiler over medium-low heat (For a DIY “double boiler” (like I use), check out this site).
- Remove from heat and add in jojoba oil. Stir to combine well.
- Add the essential oil blend of your choice. (A good rule of thumb is 20 drops for every 4 oz / 110 g of cocoa butter you used.) Stir to combine well. (see notes)
- Transfer to a glass jar and allow to cool in the refrigerator until solid. (see notes)
- Store at room temperature for several months (though if you live in a hot climate, may want to keep it in the fridge).
- The first time I made this, I used the EOs I had on hand, my go-to combination of peppermint and eucalyptus. This is stimulating yet comforting blend, especially in winter, but rather astringent. For the second go-around, I had researched more about skin-boosting EOs, and thus used a combination of lemon and lavender. Nourishing and great for spring/summer!
- If you want a “whipped” body butter, take out of the refrigerator when it has turned opaque, but is not yet solid. With an immersion blender or hand blender, blend on low until butter is a very light yellow, and peaks begin to form like whipped cream. Continue to solidify in fridge, then store as directed.