I’ve always had a pretty good moisturizing routine, but have never really been loyal to one product over another. My mom taught me to always moisturize directly after you shower, because it will help retain the moisture and keep your skin hydrated better. (I don’t know if that’s true or not, it’s more mom-logic than scientifically researched!) I’ve followed this advice since I was a teenager and do not typically have problems with dry skin. I’ve even tried quick-fix magazine-tip solutions over the years, for when I’m short on time… like filling a spray bottle with Johnson’s Baby Oil and spraying myself down before I even towel off. (That works in a pinch, but can get tricky – and slippery – for everyday use.)
When I first became pregnant, it was natural for me to research new products to find the best “tummy cream” out there that might help fight the battle against stretch marks. [Now, to be clear, most of my research yielded one common element that I feel compelled to share: stretch marks are not easily preventable, and are generated mostly via genetics – it is unlikely that you can prevent them simply by using a magic cream. So unfortunately, if your mom or sister suffered from stretch marks during pregnancy, it is likely you will too.] You can, however, be proactive by working to keep your skin as hydrated as possible (by moisturizing, and also drinking plenty of water) in an effort to keep your skin’s elasticity at a high level. If your skin is dry, it is likely more susceptible to the marks left by your skin stretching over very short yet quick periods of growth. And so, my search for the best option continued.
First, I asked a few of my mama and pregnant friends if they had found anything earth shattering. The general verdict was to get something that was “very moisturizing” – which typically translated to being a thick “body butter” type cream, vs. thinner lotion. I also searched in pregnancy magazines, and received unsolicited suggestions too, like from the cashier at Thyme Maternity, who (naturally) recommended their store brand of stretch mark cream. (For the record, I did buy one of theirs – but it wasn’t thick enough for my liking. It smelled great, though!) I also found the popular brand Palmer’s to be quite useful, as many of their products are thick, and they have specific “tummy butter” and “stretch mark” creams for pregnancy. (I did use the tummy butter for a while – it is thick and very moisturizing, but near the end of the container the consistency gets strange and lumpy – which I didn’t like. The lumps wouldn’t rub in easily and often ended up on my floor!) My sister recommended Bio Oil, and then Coconut Oil for the most natural way to moisturize. She has had two babes and has very minimal stretch marks, so I trusted her suggestions! Not to mention that my mom had three pregnancies and gained a host of stretch marks from each one that she still worries about today – and did not use ANY type of cream to moisturize. Coincidence? I (hope) not! [Side Note: While the purpose of this post is on attempting to avoid stretch marks, I should mention that while I am trying to prevent them, I also recognize that they are proof of one of the most profound, incredible and beautiful processes our bodies can do, and so I encourage you to embrace yours if you have them, wear them with pride, remember what they represent, and never be ashamed to show them – as I will with any of mine!]
I played with the coconut oil idea, and decided I would try to make my own, all-natural version of “tummy butter”. Without further ado, here is a fairly simple recipe you can use if you’d like to try something very moisturizing, with a great consistency and smell, utilizing only natural products.
COCONUT LAVENDER PEPPERMINT “TUMMY BUTTER”
*Makes approximately 2 8oz “pots” – similar in size to The Body Shop’s “Body Butter” containers.
-1 1/2 c Virgin Coconut Oil
-1/2 c Virgin Shea Butter
-1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 Tablespoon Castor Oil
-1 Tablespoon Sweet Almond Oil
-Lavender Essential Oil* (amount is your preference)
-Peppermint Essential Oil* (amount is your preference, I tend to use more lavender and less peppermint)
*You can also substitute any essential oil that you enjoy for the smell!
Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a saucepan; as it is melting, begin to add Shea butter. Stir slowly as the two ingredients melt together. Add olive oil, castor oil and almond oil to the mixture. When all ingredients are combined, add lavender and peppermint essential oils; stir. Once all ingredients are combined, turn off heat and prepare emptied pots. Pour the mixture slowly into the empty pots, and then put containers into the freezer. I usually leave mine overnight, and then transfer them to the fridge for another day. Then, they can be left at room temperature while you start using them. The amounts of ingredients in this recipe can be approximate – but the most important part is that you have MOSTLY coconut oil, and then the next highest content should be Shea butter. This is because both of these products will melt easily, but will become solid at room temperature. If you use too little coconut/Shea butter, and too much olive/castor/almond oil, the melted liquid will not harden properly and will end up staying in an oily consistency at room temperature. I like this recipe because I can eyeball the ingredients and it almost always turns out to be the same.
The main benefit to this recipe is of course using all-natural ingredients, and the fact that using oil on your skin is incredibly moisturizing. There are amazing vitamins and minerals contained in each of the ingredients, and the end result is a smooth consistency, with a soothing and mild smell. I use this every night before bed, and supplement during the day with Palmer’s “Cocoa Butter” lotion – which is a little less thick for use during the day.
So far, I have zero stretch marks to declare… and I am 36 weeks (9 months) into my pregnancy. I realize that a lot of growth can and will happen in the next 4 weeks, so I’ll keep you posted on how I do after my pregnancy has progressed full-term. Give this recipe a try and let me know if you like it – or, if you have a different product (natural or store-bought!) that you’ve used and prefer over anything else!