February 22, 2023

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

“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.”

Advertisement

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.”

Related Articles

Applying aloe vera to irritated skin
February 27, 2024
Do Home Remedies for Ringworm Actually Work?

Some natural home remedies may offer relief, but they lack scientific evidence and won’t typically cure the condition

Person messaging thigh muscle on exercise mat
February 26, 2024
Loosen Up Those Muscle Knots: Here’s How To Get Rid of Them

Stretching, heating pads and massage guns can provide quick relief

fire cider in a mason jar
February 7, 2024
Fire Cider: What Is It? And Can It Prevent Illness?

This spicy concoction can do more harm than good, upsetting your stomach and causing painful acid reflux

Female hanging out car window wearing sunglasses
February 6, 2024
Shady Debate: Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized lenses have an added benefit of a special coating that reduces glare on reflective surfaces like water and snow

Male with eyes closed sitting hunched over, pinching area between their eyes
January 29, 2024
Headache and Fatigue: 11 Possible Causes That Can Trigger Both

Many factors, like dehydration, a cold or even your medication, can result in these common symptoms

pregnant mother with father on couch with son
January 25, 2024
Baby on the Way? Here’s How To Prepare Siblings for Their Arrival

Talk with them about their new sibling early and often

Pregnant patient lying in dentist chair during examination with dentist beside her
January 1, 2024
Is It Safe To Go to the Dentist While Pregnant?

Dental care is not only safe during pregnancy, but it’s also highly recommended

hands using mortal and pestle with cocoa powder, surrounded by soaps and bath salts
December 19, 2023
The Health Benefits of Cocoa Butter

Pure cocoa butter can help keep your skin supple, with a subtly delicious scent

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture

Ad