One of the things you hear about constantly on pregnancy-related websites and forums is how to prevent stretch marks. Now, from what I’ve read, developing stretch marks is largely genetic and just has to do with the structure of your skin. But, the pressure and damage to your skin that stretching causes can also make your skin feel very, very uncomfortable, so it can help if you keep your skin well-moisturized during pregnancy, if for not other reason than it’s more comfortable that way. Also, rubbing things on your belly feels like a nice way to connect with your baby, especially in that limbo period when you haven’t really started feeling movement regularly.
I started out my pregnancy with the best of intentions. I did a lot of research and looked up what ingredients are the best for possibly preventing stretch marks and skin damage. And I came up with a great three-step belly skincare routine that I did religiously every night… for about a week, until my nausea started kicking in. Since my nausea was worse at night than in the morning, and I was super fatigued most of the time, I found that I barely had it in me to wash my face every night, let alone apply a three-step routine of hydrators, oils, and creams to my mid-section. So I generally opted for a quick slather of my go-to body lotion (Eucerin Skin Calming Cream, if you’re interested). But, as I emerged from my first-trimester fog, I found myself with more time to devote to my body skin care.
I also noticed that my body skin in general was just starting to get really, really dry, and since I hate apply lotion right after getting out of the shower, I limit myself to a quick slather on my arms and legs before grabbing a robe in the morning, and then I devote time in the evening to more thoroughly moisturizing and treating my body skin in the evening. Because centella asiatica extract and hyaluronic acid are supposedly really good at keeping skin supple, and therefore more able to stretch without damage, I start my belly skin care routine with a liberal spritzing of COSRX Alcohol-Free Centella Toner. This is a facial toner, but it comes in a pretty generous bottle for about $16 and is basically just water, centella, and hyaluronic acid. Plus, it’s in a spray bottle, so I can just spray myself down. It’s actually kind of refreshing in the summer heat. Then, I originally applied a layer of sesame oil, before following with a layer of my Eucerin cream to seal every thing in.
But as time went on, I decided I wanted something a little heavier to really treat my dry skin, so I started experimenting with some DIY body butters. I especially like these DIY recipes because they combine nourishing oils with a butter and a wax to really seal in all the hydration and emollience of previous steps. I like my semi-solid jarred body butter for every-day (or every-night) use, but I also made a solid version to take with me on vacation to get around TSA’s liquids restrictions. The solid bar is based on this recipe from Humblebee and Me (my favorite DIY blog), after a bit of experimentation. I actually made a first batch that I didn’t like quite as well, but I shared it with a coworker whose sister is also pregnant, and she reported back that it was well-loved. The solid bar served me well on my two weeks of travel.
The semi-solid, jarred body butter is my preference, however, and I’ve tweaked my recipe to really make it lovely for nourishing stretching skin. I actually just winged it a bit on this one, starting from a mental assumption that I wanted something that was roughly 50% solid butters/wax and 50% liquid oil. I use a combination of mango and cocoa butter because I like the rich smoothness that cocoa butter gives to it, but the softness of mango butter makes it a bit softer of a balm. I add a little beeswax to make a proper balm of it, as butter-only balms can be tricky and unstable. And then, for the liquid portion, I used rice bran oil and hemp seed oil, both of which are highly recommended to both prevent and heal stretch marks. I finish it off with a healthy dose of vitamin E, to both help prevent rancidity, but also to boost the skin-healing properties.
The whole effect has a beautiful olive green color from the hemp seed oil, and an earthy warm scent from the smells of the natural oils. It has a buttery-smooth texture, and melts in my hands so I can smooth it on with very little tugging. It is all oils and butters, so it does feel a bit greasy on initial application, but I apply it before bed and wake up with soft, nourished skin. When I feel my skin stretching more than usual, I’ll also do the three-step routine of centella toner, body lotion, and then a layer of body butter, to keep everything nice and soft.
NB: I do weigh all my ingredients, and I can’t convert my recipe into volume measurements. If you’re interested, I use this digital scale. Also, I like to get most of my butters, oils, and waxes from the Wild Herb Soap Co. on Etsy because they strike a good balance between convenience and price for the home formulator who doesn’t need bulk quantities.
Homemade Belly Butter:
20g cocoa butter
20g mango butter
25g hempseed oil
20g rice bran oil
5g vitamin E oil
- Melt the first three ingredients by placing them into a heatproof bowl or cup (I use a Pyrex measuring cup) and placing that over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until completely melted. To avoid graininess from the cocoa butter, leave the bowl over the hot water for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add in the liquid oils, stirring to incorporate. If the mixture looks cloudy or like it has started to congeal, return it to the heat, briefly, just to melt it down until it is clear. Stir well.
- Pour into a 4-oz. clean, dry, sanitized jar, cap, and put in the fridge to harden for at least an hour.
Solid Belly Butter Bar:
14g cocoa butter
9g mango butter
15g sesame oil
2g vitamin E oil
- Melt the first three ingredients in a cup/bowl over simmering water, leaving over the heat for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and pour into a mold (I found that a single standard muffin cup worked perfectly).
- Allow to harden for at least an hour, and then remove from mold, wrap in parchment paper, and store in a small tin.