To start, I feel like I should be honest: I like my stretch marks. My skin has always been prone to them; I started getting stretch marks on my legs when I went through my middle-school growth spurt, and I’ve had them on various spots on my body off and on ever since. I think they’re beautiful. They remind me of a fish’s belly, the way they’re shiny and soft. They also remind me of how cool it is that our bodies are made to grow and change and adapt to new situations. They’re human tree rings.
I also completely respect and understand that a lot of people don’t like their stretch marks. You get to keep you body positive feminist card, even if you don’t love everything about yourself all the time. I ended up with a lot less stretch marks than I thought I would during my pregnancy, and they didn’t really appear until I was in my third trimester. Still, I’ve got some fairly significant ones, especially in the wonderfully named “love handle” area. As anyone with a Pinterest account can tell you, DIY culture is on the rise, and stretch mark remedies are no exception. Women are searching for at-home stretch mark cures, and there are no shortage of listicles on the subject. But how do you know what remedies are worth the time and effort? Is it realistic to expect any of these remedies to work?
I’m pretty dubious that any of these home remedies will work. I’m usually doubtful about “natural” remedies for anything, but they’ve ended up working out great for me in the past, so why not try them on my stretch marks? I’d love to be able to make useful suggestions to my fellow moms who are looking for new options.
Everyone’s skin is different. My results won’t be universal, but hopefully I’ll be able to give some insight into what the process of using these home remedies is like.
Operation Rub Weird Stuff On My Body
I’m going to try out four different home remedies for stretch marks over the course of three weeks. To find the remedies I used, I just did what I figured anyone else would do: I Googled, and picked the result that caught my eye first. So that I don’t spend my entire life on this experiment, I’ll use a different remedy on each “quadrant” of my mid section.
Since we won’t be seeing any major changes week to week, I’m just going to give a breakdown of what each remedy was like to use, and whether or not I would encourage anyone else to try it. Here we go!
Remedy 1: Like Rubbing Pesto On Your Tummy
The first remedy that caught my eye was alfalfa. The article I read said that the amino acids in alfalfa leaves contribute to healthy skin. Not sure how you go from being good for your skin to getting rid of stretch marks (the article wasn’t big on in-depth explanations), but it didn’t sound totally out of the realm of possibility. My mom is actually a certified herbalist/natural medicine expert, so I sent her a text (from the basement, because I’m that lazy) and asked her if she could think of any reason that alfalfa would work to get rid of stretch marks.
She said, “Not really.”
But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Now, I realize that not everyone lives in their herbalist mom’s basement. You probably don’t just happen to have a jar of dried alfalfa leaves on a shelf in your cellar like I did. But there are plenty of places where you can buy bulk herbs online if you want to try this remedy for yourself.
The article said to mix powdered leaves with chamomile oil. I didn’t have any chamomile oil, so I used jojoba instead. Any oil that you know your skin won’t react negatively to should be fine; even olive oil would do the trick.
Applying this mossy slurry to my body wasn’t nearly as gross as I thought it’d be. I was originally thinking that I’d need to lie down to keep it from running all over the place, but it stayed put quite nicely, and smelled exactly like basil pesto.
The article instructed me to apply this paste “thrice daily,” which I definitely didn’t do. In the parlance of our times, ain’t nobody got time for that. I applied it once in the morning and once at night, gently rubbing it in for a couple minutes. The article seems to imply that you can just leave it on your skin after, but that definitely wasn’t the case for me, as I didn’t want to get gunk all over my clothes. I rubbed whatever was left (usually some dried up bits of alfalfa fiber) off with a tissue.
So, yeah, no miraculous change there (and yes, as my photos indicate, I do wear sweatpants almost all the time).
Final Grade: Although this method obviously didn’t do anything for my stretch marks, it did feel nice and moisturizing. It probably wouldn’t be a bad face, or even hair, mask to use every once in awhile.
Remedy Two: Potato Humiliation
The second remedy I tried was potato juice. This one interested me because when I had a bad bout of mastitis a couple weeks after giving birth, my mom made me a boob poultice out of raw potato. Which sounds utterly ridiculous and bizarre, but it works! I figured that if potato could take down fever and swelling from a blocked milk duct, then maybe it had other magical healing properties to offer.
The ease of this one also appealed to me. All I had to do was take a slice of potato and rub it onto my stretch marks, then hop in the shower and rinse off. According to the article, the vitamins and minerals in the potato would encourage my skin cells to regenerate. Potatoes truly are magnificent, aren’t they?
The first time I tried this, I was just standing in my kitchen. It makes sense, right? That’s where the potatoes and the knives are. So cut myself a nice, starchy slice, lifted up my shirt, and got to rubbing right there in front of the kitchen window. I was pretty focused on what I was doing, and I didn’t notice that my neighbor’s friend, who’s been helping my neighbor with a construction project, was staring at me from the front stoop next door. I also went to high school with him. He was in a band with my ex-boyfriend. Anyway, when I looked up and saw him watching me rub a raw potato slice on my stomach, I froze for a second and then dropped to the floor under the window and prayed for death.
Despite my shame and humiliation, I continued to rub tuber on my stomach twice daily for three weeks. Just not in front of the window.
Surprise! It looks exactly the same.
Final Grade: I mean, rubbing potatoes on your skin probably isn’t bad for you. Personally, I’ll save mine for mashing at Thanksgiving.
Remedy Three: Sludge Scrub
This one sounded like something I would have made at a sleepover in middle school. The article told me that sugar is a “natural exfoliant” and “one of the best home remedies to get rid of stretch marks.” If you say so!
I didn’t do any exact measurements; just a squeeze of lemon and a squirt of jojoba oil (again, jojoba is just what I happened to have; any oil will do) into a bowl, then add enough sugar to form sludge.
Now, this remedy was not quick and easy. I had to take this bowl of extra thick and greasy lemonade into the shower with me every day, and rub it into my skin for eight to 10 WHOLE MINUTES. To get through it, I’d remind myself of the uncountable number of minutes of my life I’ve wasted scrolling mindlessly through Tumblr. It didn’t help, but it did start me wondering how long it will be before humans can just have our phones implanted into our brains to enable shower time blogging. Ten minutes is a long time.
Final Grade: This may have actually worked, kind of? Some of the redness of the larger stretch marks seemed to diminish slightly, and I suppose that makes sense if you consider all the dead skin I was getting rid of by exfoliating for eight to 10 minutes per day, which is still something I can’t believe I even did.
If anything, this remedy reminded me of the benefits of exfoliating. It’s not something I include in my normal beauty regime, but I think it’s worth it to make the time to do it once a week, especially in the winter months when my skin is extra dry. I’m not sure, but my guess is that if you have fresh stretch marks, this remedy (or just exfoliating in general) would probably help get rid of the initial redness a bit faster.
Remedy Four: What Even Is Glycerin?
First of all, can we take a moment to chuckle at the use of quotation marks here? “100% PURE.” Wink, wink. Vegetable glycerin is another one of those things that lurks in cupboards around my house. I knew my mom used it to make herbal remedies, but it occurred to me that I wasn’t actually sure what it was. Turns out, it’s a liquid produced from plant oils. It tastes sweet, and it’s found in a lot of household and cosmetic products. The article I read said to add a couple drops of glycerin to some lemon juice and rub it into the skin, because not only would glycerin reduce stretch marks, but also help to “keep your skin moisturized.” Cool.
The first time I tried to make this, I accidentally added way too much glycerin, and I ended up with glycerin soup.
I realized it was easier to just rub the lemon directly onto my skin, then rub the glycerin on top. So I did this twice daily for three weeks. I have to say, this one felt like the biggest waste of time. There was just nothing to it for my brain to latch onto and say, “Hey, this feels like we’re doing something worthwhile!” There was no grit or color at all. Just the smell of lemon, which was beginning to smell distinctly of failure to me.
Final Grade: Yeah, this didn’t do anything. Again, my skin does get very dry and itchy in the winter months, so the added moisture I was feeding my skin felt great. But it’s a lot easier to slap on some Aveeno than it is to rub a lemon wedge on your lower back twice a day. I also learned that when you’re using all your lemons for stretch mark experiments, you run out, which equals a very sad gin and tonic.
Did I Lose My Stripes?
When I started this experiment, I was pretty secure in the fact that I was proud of my stretch marks, and that I was happy to have them on my body. But there were a couple times where I caught myself thinking, “Hey, what if this actually works? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have nice, smooth skin again?” I knew that none of these home remedies were likely to work, but a part of me was hoping they would, and that’s OK. It’s normal to long for the body you had before you had a baby. Adjusting to your new body is part of the postpartum experience.
One thing is for sure: I spent more time actively caring for my body during the course of this experiment than I usually do, by a very wide margin. Like many moms, after I had my child, self-care was no longer a priority. Between baby and work, sometimes I barely have time to brush my teeth, let alone pamper myself.
So even though these home remedies, for the most part, didn’t get rid of my stretch marks, I appreciated the reminder that if I try, I can make time for self care, even if it’s just a few minutes before I jump in the shower. Those few minutes of taking care of myself went a long way towards renewing my energy to be the best mom that I can be.