A soothing DIY recipe for an all-natural belly balm to help you combat stretch marks and itching during pregnancy. Tallow, lard, and cocoa butter are all you need for this luxurious belly cream. The end-result smells like chocolate and supports optimal skin health during your pregnancy. Safe to use on your baby too after he or she comes!
There is nothing inherently wrong with stretch marks. Everyone gets them.
At first, they may be quite prominent and an angry-looking red, but eventually that will fade to a silvery-white that is barely noticeable. On people with darker skin tones that may not be the case, but again, stretch marks are normal and not something we have to feel badly about ourselves for.
There is nothing ugly or shameful about your stretch marks. It's also okay if you don't personally like them or want to minimize or get rid of them too.
I did not get any new stretch marks during my pregnancy, but my breasts and glutes have tell-tale thin white lines leftover from puberty. I do not even notice them anymore. And although I did use this cream, it would be really sketchy of me to boast that this DIY stretch cream recipe is the reason why.
Don't believe anyone promising you a miracle in a bottle or pill.
Stretch marks are very common in women during puberty and pregnancy and while we don't know exactly why some women get stretch marks and others don't, that doesn't mean we shouldn't nourish our skin, our largest organ, the best way we can.
My recipe for the cream I used during pregnancy consists of simple but powerful natural ingredients that rely on nourishing fats. This DIY cream may help prevent stretch marks or the severity of them and it will definitely help with the itching that comes with a growing belly.
The ingredients are completely non-toxic and safe to use throughout pregnancy too.
- Skincare Marketing is Often Hype & Nonsense
- What Causes Stretch Marks?
- How Do I Get Rid of Stretch Marks?
- Can Stretch Marks in Pregnancy Be Prevented?
- From The Inside Out: Foods That Help Prevent Stretch Marks
- Benefits of Tallow & Lard For Skin
- Benefits of Cocoa Butter For Skin
- Why I Don't Add Essential Oils To My Homemade Skincare Recipes
Skincare Marketing is Often Hype & Nonsense
With very little in the way of consistency or evidence-based science.
There are also a lot of toxic and cheap skincare ingredients out there masquerading as luxury with the absurd price point to match the false marketing. This seems to be especially true for any product aimed at women and pregnant women.
I'm not against (and use) commercial skincare products, but I have also found that the best and most powerful ingredients that have made a significant difference to my skin have often come from natural animal-derived products like tallow and lard.
This DIY recipe for a belly balm to help you combat stretch marks and itching during pregnancy combines tallow and lard with cocoa butter to make for a rich, chocolate-scented belly cream that helps to nourish and protect your skin. I normally use this during the winter as an all-over body butter, but for these summer months, I have relegated this rich lotion to my growing belly and breasts only.
If you find that it is too rich for daytime use, keep it to the evenings before bedtime. I use it morning and night when the weather is cooler outside and only in the evenings when it's too warm.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Despite what some might claim we do not know exactly why some women get stretch marks during pregnancy and others do not.
Genetics, lifestyle, and diet are likely all culpable but no one knows to what extent.
Most people get stretch marks at some point. And while women, pregnant women, the overweight and obese are affected by stretch marks more than others, most of us will still get some during the bodily changes of puberty.
What happens is that rapid stretching causes the "stretch" marks to appear on your skin.
Too much of the stress hormone cortisone can also cause stretch marks. As can using certain medications like corticosteroid creams, lotions, and pills for example as they decrease the skin's ability to stretch.
How Do I Get Rid of Stretch Marks?
Once you have stretch marks, there is often very little that can be done.
Newer stretch marks are reddish-purple tinged (striae rubra) and they are far easier to treat. The reddish-purple colour indicates blood vessels are present under the skin. The presence of these blood vessels allows red stretch marks to be far more responsive to treatment over the white stretch marks that appear later on.
White stretch marks (striae alba) are faded, older marks and they are unfortunately more difficult to treat or get rid of. The blood vessels have narrowed at this point, making it hard to stimulate natural collagen production.
Talk to a dermatologist for more invasive procedures involving lasers and microneedling. Those solutions exist but they are very expensive and have no guarantees.
One thing I have not done but might be tempted to try at home by myself is microneedling/derma rolling. Especially in combination with a fatty, nourishing cream like this and other skin treatments.
While I am very tempted by these cordless and electric Microneedling Pens, I do hesitate to microneedle my face on my own at home. However, I'm not as concerned about trying a procedure like this on my abdomen/torso where the skin is much thicker and more resilient.
You can buy highly recommended microneedling/derma rolling units online and try it out yourself. This purportedly helps with any loose/crepey or sagging skin in the belly area after childbirth too.
Microneedling/derma rolling will frequently be combined with powerful skincare treatments like this powerful Glycolic Acid or a combination of Glycolic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, and Vitamin C.
Again, I have no personal experience with this and this is not a recommendation, but it does seem promising and I would be lying if I said I wasn't curious. Just make sure you do your research, take things VERY slowly, and err on the side of caution.
And, if you do this, make sure you are buying a derma roller that is intended for your body as the head attachment will be larger, the needles longer, and the unit will be less tedious to use.
And if you have any personal experience with this, please share your story with me in the comments.
Can Stretch Marks in Pregnancy Be Prevented?
The science on this is unclear.
We can't say for certain exactly why some women get stretch marks and others do not.
The root cause may be genetic, dietary, happenstance etc. but no one can say 100% which leaves us guessing and experimenting on ourselves.
Will this cream (or any cream/lotion/oil at any price point) stop you from getting stretch marks? Unlikely. But it certainly can't hurt and might help, even if minimally. It definitely will help alleviate the itching that comes from stretch marks and a growing belly.
You don't want to scratch your itchy belly skin as that can make stretch marks worse on top of damaging your skin.
My approach to preventing stretch marks has been two-fold: this homemade lard, tallow, and cocoa butter lotion and a diet rich in collagen foods and other nutrient-dense ingredients.
From The Inside Out: Foods That Help Prevent Stretch Marks
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the skin, making up 75-80% of it. Collagen and elastin are responsible for warding off wrinkles and fine lines.
Over time, the environment and ageing reduce your body's ability to produce collagen.
There has been some incredible research conducted lately showing how collagen supplementation helps to reverse the deeper wrinkles that form with age. It is also likely that collagen will benefit your skin when it comes to preventing stretch marks.
I personally take 4 tablespoons of unflavoured, powdered collagen daily on top of eating a diet rich in this powerful ingredient.
The best and most cost-effective source of powdered collagen I have found is the 20lbs bags from Great Lakes Gelatin Co. You can buy directly from their website where they occasionally have sales and other promotions. Or just start with the smaller 16oz canisters.
Collagen is only found in animal foods like skin, bones, cartilage, and the tougher cuts of meat like necks, Osso Bucco, shank etc.
But you do not have to buy expensive powders either. The easiest and cheapest way to introduce more collagen into your diet is by making long-simmered bone broths and having some soup daily — our grandmothers were right.
Easy Collagen-Rich Recipes
Cod Liver Oil
Another powerful ingredient in skincare is cod liver oil.
This can be controversial for pregnancy (in the west anyways) but I take it daily.
I only recommend cod liver oil that has had no synthetic Vitamin A added as that can be an issue during pregnancy, and in general. Synthetic Vitamin A is nasty stuff.
This is the only brand of cod liver oil available on the market that I trust. And cod liver oil is not the same as fish oils which I never take and do not trust at all.
And if you are a pregnant or postpartum woman I cannot recommend this book more — The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.
Benefits of Tallow & Lard For Skin
Tallow and lard are rendered animal fats, primarily from pigs and cattle, but also sheep and wild game.
These traditional animal-sourced ingredients have been used since before written history in various skincare and healing concoctions.
Sadly they fell out of favour but in the last few years, many people have been rediscovering the power of natural animal fats like lard and tallow.
Grass-fed/pastured tallow and lard, in particular, are rich sources of vitamins and other skin beneficial ingredients.
Sourcing Grass-Fed & Pastured Tallow & Lard
It's now easier than ever to find grass-fed/pastured sources of healthy animal fats. Since I cook primarily with tallow and lard, I always have some on hand.
Talk to your butcher or local farmer first if you can.
Benefits of Cocoa Butter For Skin
Cocoa butter is high in fatty acids making it an amazing skin hydrator and nourisher which can improve elasticity. The fat in cocoa butter forms a protective barrier over skin to hold in moisture.
Cocoa butter is also rich in natural plant compounds called phytochemicals. These substances may improve blood flow to the skin and slow skin aging by protecting against damage from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Sourcing Cocoa Butter Ethically
Sourcing cocoa butter from an ethical source is not easy.
Your best bet is to avoid cocoa butter from any African country as chocolate production on that continent is a huge driver in modern slavery, including child slavery.
And while the Fair Trade logo and program is generally a good sign, it can fall apart in practice in Africa. This is according to the cocoa farmers themselves and I see no reason to think they are lying.
This is a vast and complicated issue. A heartbreaking one fraught with human suffering where none of the big chocolate companies are doing anything to make worthwhile changes.
As far as I've been able to ascertain sourcing cocoa butter from other parts of the world is your best bet.
Or leaving the cocoa butter out completely.
And If you want the finished cream to smell like chocolate, you need to buy unrefined cocoa butter.
Here are my top picks for ethically sourced cocoa butter:
Why I Don't Add Essential Oils To My Homemade Skincare Recipes
Essential oils are powerful but they are not always safe, necessary, or even beneficial.
The reality of essential oils is that they are often pro-ageing, can cause cellular death, do nothing for the efficacy of the finished product, and essential oils can be dangerous if not used properly.
For pregnancy especially, not all essential oils are deemed safe so I would rather err on the side of caution.
And if you plan on using this for your baby or on your breasts while nursing, please don't add any essential oils to the finished product as it can be very dangerous for your delicate newborn.
Essential oils mostly just smell nice when added to body lotions, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, natural products like unrefined cocoa butter also smell amazing while being completely safe for your skin during pregnancy.
I love essential oils in my soaps where they make up very little of the finished product, and some, of course, can be healing for certain conditions.Print
Natural Belly Balm For Pregnant Women | Tallow & Lard Stretch Mark Cream Recipe
A powerful DIY recipe for an all-natural belly balm to help you combat stretch marks and itching during pregnancy. Tallow, lard, and cocoa butter are all you need for this luxurious belly cream. The end-result smells like chocolate and supports optimal skin health during your pregnancy. Safe to use on your baby too after he or she comes!
- Cube the beef and pork fat into 1-inch chunks and place them into a stainless steel pan on the stovetop on the lowest heat setting.
- You can add a tiny amount of water if you wish to prevent accidental scorching. But only add enough water to just barely cover the bottom of the pan. I don't bother with this step.
- Allow the fat to slowly begin to render.
- Add the cocoa butter fat is halfway melted. Do not raise the heat.
- Allow everything to melt completely.
- Prepare a wire mesh colander by lining it with a cheesecloth or muslin.
- Pour the melted fats over the cheesecloth and allow it to strain completely into a medium-to-large glass bowl.
- Place the glass bowl into the freezer for about 20-30 minutes. (Optional)
- Remove from the freezer, there should be a solid layer on top. (Optional)
- With an electric hand mixer, whip the fat until it turns into a lovely viscous body butter. (Optional)
Store in glass containers. I use small mason jars and leave one jar out keeping the rest in the fridge for optimal freshness. You can store this lotion in the fridge during the summer for a refreshing effect on hot skin too.
Melt the lotion between your hands before applying.