February 22, 2023/Skin Care & Beauty

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

Healthcare provider holding bottle of prescription medication
April 12, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
These Common Triggers Likely Cause Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Stress, infections, skin injuries and environmental factors can trigger an onset of psoriasis symptoms

Person sitting in a yoga pose with calming vegetation behind them
April 8, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
10 Easy Steps To Prevent and Manage Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Stick to your treatment plan, but keep your provider updated on any new symptoms or triggers

Pregnant person sitting on exam table speaking with healthcare provider
Vaccinations During Pregnancy: What You Need and What To Avoid

Staying up-to-date on vaccines encourages a healthy pregnancy, but not all vaccines are recommended when you’re pregnant

Wet plastic loofah hanging on shower knob
April 2, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Is Your Loofah Full of Bacteria?

This puffy shower accessory can become lodged with skin cells (and other gross things), so make sure you dry it daily and clean it once a week

Pregnant woman, with different options to induce labor floating around her
Is There Any Guaranteed Way To Induce Labor?

Science says only one way actually works, but there are a few others that are still safe to try

Person touching aching ear, with home remedies floating around
March 28, 2024/Ear, Nose & Throat
Home Remedies for an Ear Infection: What To Try and What To Avoid

Not all ear infections need antibiotics — cold and warm compresses and changing up your sleep position can help

Happy pregnant woman with hands around her belly, with belly button pushing out
March 27, 2024/Pregnancy & Childbirth
Why Your Belly Button Changes When You’re Pregnant

When a growing fetus puts pressure on your abdomen, your belly button may pop out or even flatten

Jar of honey and fresh garlic on cutting board
Is Fermented Garlic Honey Good for Colds?

On their own, honey can help soothe a sore throat and garlic has immunity-boosting properties, but you don’t need to go the fermented route

Trending Topics

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

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey