Stretch marks -- striae -- are a natural, superficial sign of pregnancy, rapid growth or weight gain. As your body changes quickly to accommodate a baby or expanding tissue, your skin may not be elastic enough to stretch over the area. Stretch marks can be red, purple or white and might be noticeable to the touch. While stretch marks may never disappear entirely, a shea butter massage can restore elasticity and make them less noticeable by softening and moisturizing the scarred skin.
1 Check the ingredients and label of your shea butter to determine that it is raw, unrefined and free of additional ingredients. Check for an expiration date as well --over time, shea butter will break down and become less effective at softening stretch marks.
2 Warm about half a teaspoon of shea butter in your hands. You can apply more shea butter if necessary. Creams apply more easily into the skin once they're warmed to body temperature.
3 Apply the shea butter generously to the area where your stretch marks are prominent. The butter will moisturize and improve skin quality, which will help the area look healthier overall. Blotches, marks and imperfections are more noticeable on dry skin.
4 Massage the butter into the skin with circular motions and firm, sweeping motions toward the heart. Massaging the skin helps drain fluid and improves circulation, both of which will improve the appearance of stretch marks. Make sure you use enough shea butter that your fingers glide without pulling at the skin.
5 Apply shea butter and massage at least 10 to 20 minutes daily for at least one month. Examine your skin for signs of change. Your skin should be softer and plumper, and your stretch marks will likely be less noticeable.
- Shea contains vitamins A and E, which improve skin quality.
- Shea is similar in consistency to sebum, the oil found in skin, allowing it to absorb more easily.
- Take a photo of your stretch marks before you begin using shea butter. After the month, take another photo and compare. Before and after photos will give you more objective view of your progress and the effectiveness of shea butter on your stretch marks.
- If you are expecting a "breakout" of stretch marks -- that is, if you're planning to get pregnant or gain weight -- begin massaging shea butter into your skin around your tummy, thighs, buttocks and breasts to soften skin, improve elasticity and prevent stretch marks from forming.
- Before you begin using shea butter, apply it to a small patch of skin and wait at least 24 hours. Just because raw, unrefined shea butter is natural does not mean that it can't cause an allergic reaction. Do not use if your skin becomes itchy, red or flaky. Consult a doctor if the reaction persists.
- If you are breastfeeding, you may want to consult a doctor before using anything that can be absorbed into the skin.
- Body Mechanics: School of Myotherapy and Massage: How to Massage the Back of the Leg
- Cleveland Clinic: Diseases & Conditions: Stretch Marks
- Shea Butter: The Nourishing Properties of Africa's Best-Kept Natural Beauty Secret; W.G. Goreja
- Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images