Certain parts of India practice an interesting tradition for women following childbirth: For the first few months after delivery, the woman is given an oil bath during which coconut or castor oil is massaged over her entire body, including her scalp, followed by a hot bath. In addition to moisturizing the skin, these oils help to reduce stretch marks. To help your pregnant clients, you might want to adopt a modified version of this practice.

What causes stretch marks?

Striae gravidarum, the technical name for stretch marks, reportedly occur in up to three-quarters of women who become pregnant. Several factors influence the appearance of stretch marks, including

  • Genetics
  • Size of the fetus
  • Carrying multiple babies
  • Rapid weight gain
  • An excess of amniotic fluid

But a bit of oil massaged into the skin can help reduce the unattractive appearance and itch that come with stretch marks.

When should you begin massaging the belly with oil?

As soon as possible.

Even though the expectant mom’s stomach may not belie her condition, starting oil massage early in her pregnancy can help minimize the possibility and degree of unsightly stretch marks.

What type of oil is most effective?

These basic products can moisturize and soothe the itch of an expanding belly:

  • Olive oil
  • Castor oil
  • Coconut oil
  • A combination of olive and coconut oil

If you prefer to use essential oils, the following contain regenerative properties that improve elasticity, moisturize and help heal damaged skin cells:

  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
  • Mandarin
  • Rose
  • Geranium
  • Vetiver
  • Jasmine
  • Helichrysum

Here are a few other products to consider:

  • Arnica flower extract eases tightness and discomfort in the skin.
  • Sweet almond oil moisturizes and delivers essential fatty acids to the skin.
  • Wheat germ oil is known to strengthen the skin and keeps it supple due to a high concentration of Vitamin E.

How should the oil be applied?

When using essential oils, be sure to mix them with a carrier oil or lotion before applying to your client’s skin. Also, be sure to use essential oils that are certified pure and organic. Always test the product on a small area, such as the inner forearm, 48 hours before using for the first time to make sure your client does not have a sensitivity or allergic reaction.

Valerie Ann Worwood, author of The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy and The Fragrant Pharmacy offers a recipe for use on pregnant clients.

Mix two tablespoons of almond oil, one tablespoon of wheat germ oil, ten drops of borage seed oil and five drops of carrot oil together; add seven drops of rose essential oil, six drops of lavender essential oil and five drops of tangerine essential oil and mix thoroughly. Worwood recommends using this formula within two months since carrier oils mixed with essential oils have a short shelf life.

Rebecca Herranen from Beyond Essential: Natural Solutions to Health and Wellness is certified in AromaTouch Techniques and offers another formula to address stretch marks.

She suggests using a mixture of one cup of fractionated coconut oil, two to three drops each of helichrysum, lavender and frankincense essential oils along with some Vitamin A and Vitamin E from capsules.

These formulas, or your own special blend, can be massaged on the upper and lower abdomen, thighs, buttocks, hips and/or breasts, typical areas where stretch marks occur. And remember, once baby arrives, there’s no reason to discontinue the practice of using oils to massage away stretch marks.