Search IconSearch

Cocoa Butter Won’t Help Stretch Marks, but These Options Can

Skip the butters, creams and oils and instead try tretinoin — or just let time work its magic

Person showing stretch marks on hip.

It turns out that the tips and tricks you might’ve heard about how to treat stretch marks are … well, a bit of a stretch.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Stretch marks, or striae, are actually a form of scarring. They happen when your skin shrinks or stretches quickly, which causes the elastin and collagen in your skin to break. And although beauty buffs have long claimed that cocoa butter in particular can help lessen and even prevent stretch marks, dermatologist John Anthony, MD, says the evidence just isn’t there.

Here’s why cocoa butter isn’t the anti-stretch mark savior you’ve been told it is and what to try instead.

Can cocoa butter help with stretch marks?

“Despite popular belief, cocoa butter has not been shown to prevent stretch marks or even reduce their overall appearance,” Dr. Anthony says.

Also known as theobroma oil, cocoa butter is a yellowish fat that comes from roasted cacao beans (cocoa). It’s long been touted as a popular, natural option for lessening the appearance of stretch marks — but it doesn’t work. In studies, cocoa butter hasn’t been found to work any better (or worse) than placeboes.

Unless you’re allergic to it, cocoa butter is thought to be largely risk-free, which means that you can use it on your skin without worry. It’s high in fatty acids and can help keep your skin moisturized, along with just generally feeling a little luxurious. Just don’t count on it to conquer those stretch marks.

What about other butters, oils and creams?

In addition to cocoa butter, many people think other natural products can help with stretch marks, like coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, etc. Alas, none of them actually works on stretch marks (though shea butter has lots of other benefits for your skin and hair).

Almond oil was once thought to fight stretch marks during pregnancy, but later research showed that it may cause premature birth.

“Some of these products are not well studied for use during pregnancy,” states Dr. Anthony. “Be cautious about using botanical creams without talking to your doctor first.”

Other options for treating stretch marks

Only one topical product has been shown to truly help with stretch marks: tretinoin.

“A retinol like Retin-A® is typically the standard treatment for stretch marks, especially when they’re in the early stages,” Dr. Anthony says, “but they’re not safe for use while you’re pregnant.”

Other treatments may help lessen the appearance of stretch marks, too:

  1. Glycolic acid creams: Glycolic acid is an exfoliant, which means it helps your skin shed its outermost layer and renews its surface.
  2. Chemical peels: Glycolic acid peels and trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels are chemical peels that may help diminish the look of stretch marks, but not usually enough to make a real difference.
  3. Laser removal: Dermatologists can try treating stretch marks with different kinds of laser treatments, but they’re often expensive and not covered by insurance. And they may cause discoloration in people with darker skin tones.


What not to try for stretch marks

Here’s one thing you definitely shouldn’t do to try to get rid of your stretch marks: tanning.

Dr. Anthony says some people try to make their stretch marks less visible by getting a tan, which doctors don’t advise — in the case of stretch marks or ever, really. Sun exposure is harmful to your skin, and it can also negatively affect scars.

“With normal scars, you run the risk of pigmentary problems if they are exposed to sun,” he explains. “It’s not clear whether this can happen with stretch marks, but they do compromise the skin, so I always recommend sun protection.”

And importantly, scars don’t tan, so spending time in the sun could actually make your stretch more noticeable, not less. If you really want to cover them up, sunless self-tanner can provide temporary camouflage — and it’s much, much safer for your skin than a real tan.

Will stretch marks go away?

If stretch marks have left their mark on you, just know that it’s a normal bodily process. There’s not much you can do to prevent them, aside from keeping your skin well-moisturized (which is a good tip, period, regardless of whether you’re worried about stretch marks).

There’s also no real way to predict whether or not you’re prone to stretch marks. They’re most likely to appear during a rapid gain or loss of weight, like during pregnancy, a growth spurt or bodybuilding.

“We don’t really understand why some people get stretch marks during pregnancy and others don’t,” Dr. Anthony says, “but we know that younger people are more prone to get them, as well as those who have significant weight gain during pregnancy.”

But while you may not be able to prevent stretch marks, you won’t necessarily have to look at them forever.

“Stretch marks have a life of their own,” Dr. Anthony says. “I recommend the tincture of time. As time goes on, stretch marks become less prominent. They start out red or purple, but they fade on their own over time.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

A person's back, covered in moles and freckles, with their hand reaching over their shoulder
July 22, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
What To Expect During a Full-Body Skin Cancer Screening

During an annual exam, your provider will check for any moles or spots that have changed in size, color or shape

Person grimacing while scratching an itch on their arm
July 19, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Why Am I So Itchy? Common Causes and How To Know if It’s Something Serious

Dry air, harsh soaps and even some medications can bring on an itch, but in some cases, itchiness can be a sign of an underlying condition

Smiling person with white teeth applying toothpaste to toothbrush
July 11, 2024/Oral Health
Brighten Your Smile: How To Get Whiter Teeth

A variety of products can be effective at removing stains on teeth

Person in towel in front of bathtub, with shelves of lotions, holding jar of moisturizer, applying to face
June 17, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
14 Natural and Home Remedies for Psoriasis

Moisturize often, take oatmeal baths, use Epsom salts and follow a healthy diet to help reduce your symptoms

Smiling pregnant person speaking with healthcare provider in medical office
June 14, 2024/Heart Health
Why Your Heart Needs Special Attention When You’re Pregnant

Obesity, age and preexisting heart conditions can all raise your risk of cardiovascular disease during pregnancy

Person in towel standing in bathroom, with milk pticher on edge of bathtub
June 13, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Take the Plunge: 4 Reasons To Try a Milk Bath

Adding a little milk to your bath can leave your skin smooth, silky and refreshed

Pregnant person talking with caregiver in medical office
Will Perineal Massage Keep You From Tearing During Childbirth?

Science is mixed, but if you want to try stretching your perineum, here’s how to do it safely

Blister on bottom of big toe
June 11, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
5 Ways To Avoid Blisters (and the Best Way To Treat Them)

Wear properly fitted shoes, break them in ahead of time and wear moisture-wicking socks

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims