marks are the bane of many pregnant women’s existence. Some women put up a brave front, outwardly proclaiming that they are the “badges” of motherhood, but inwardly, wishing the scars would vanish. Ladies, don’t apologize for being vain – own it! The truth is there’s nothing wrong with trying to get rid of these marks, and now you can do more than wish them away. This guide will help some of you to prevent the marks you don’t have, while helping others to erase existing marks.

Stretch marks are a multi-million dollar industry. Creams, elixirs, gels and lotions all claim to magically get rid of these marks; unfortunately, many women buy into this fantasy. Statistically, stretch marks affect up to 90 percent of pregnant women, and of these women, very few of them see much improvement with these products. Although the exact cause of stretch marks is not completely known, there are several factors that contribute to this condition. If you are looking to train your skin to fight back, remember my skin fighting formula: B.F.H.S.

B is for broth

Broth is a healing, mineral-rich food. No, I’m not talking about store bought broth, but homemade bone broth. Locked in the bones of pastured animals are minerals, such as phosphorous, calcium, potassium and magnesium. These minerals help to keep your bones strong and healthy. The real gem for the skin is the collagen building strength of this traditional elixir.

Collagen makes up about 75 percent of healthy skin. It’s crucial to supple skin and plays a role in tissue, organ and bone health. The skin is meant to stretch. Under normal circumstances, collagen fibers are formed at the sight of stress or trauma, so the skin can rebuild itself. When collagen weakens and breaks down, stretch marks occur deep within the skin layers, as a result of the skin trying to rebuild itself.

Bone marrow contains collagen and this collagen is present in the broth. Unlike some collagen supplements currently on the market, collagen extracted from pastured animal bones is bio-available and easily digested and absorbed by the body.

For an added plus, bone broth is also effective in ridding your body of cellulite. Cellulite’s dimpled fat appearance occurs due to a lack of connective tissue. When making bone broth, be sure to add animal connective tissue, such as knuckle bones, animal joints and necks for added collagen, which will strengthen the skin. Already have stretch marks? Not to worry; collagen is one of the key nutrients for reducing and eliminating existing stretch marks.

Vitamin C also aids in collagen production, so in addition to drinking bone broth daily, be sure to consume plenty of Vitamin C rich, low sugar foods like citrus fruits (lemons and limes), papayas, berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.), peppers and plenty of green leafy vegetables. Eat fruits moderate to high in sugar, such as oranges, tangerines and kiwis in moderation

You can find delicious recipes for bone broths as well as other healing traditional foods in Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s book, Nourishing Traditions.

F is for fats

Fats are fabulous, even if the mainstream media tells you otherwise. As most of you are well aware, fats are a necessary part of good health; it turns out they are just as crucial to your skin health as well. Fat fights stretch marks in two ways: internally and externally.

Internally, fats help to keep your adrenals healthy. This is important because your adrenals secrete hormones called glucocorticoids. Your body produces more of these hormones during puberty, weightlifting and, you guessed it, pregnancy. It’s not coincidence that adolescents, weightlifters and pregnant women commonly develop stretch marks. Researchers have also started to make the connection between increased hormone production and stretch marks.

Oily fish and shellfish, as well as grass fed fats from meat, eggs and dairy, are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These fats reduce inflammation and stress to the adrenal cortex, where glucocorticoids are released.

Externally, fats are great for you because they keep moisture in and water out. Water is usually the first ingredient in many lotions and creams. Your skin may feel supple at first, but when the water in the lotion evaporates, your skin becomes dry again. Moisturizers rich in fats, such as organic virgin coconut oil and unrefined shea butter, don’t contain water, so they keep your skin smooth and supple for much longer. They are also antioxidant rich and help to protect skin from free radical damage. Raw shea butter can also help to soften and break up existing and older stretch marks.

Use a combination of the above ingredients to make a rich body butter, or purchase raw shea butter online.

H is for hydration

Water is essential for life. It makes up over 70 percent of our body mass; we would die without water in a matter of days. Water is responsible for hydrating us and transporting the nutrients that we eat to their proper places. Hydration is important for keeping the skin healthy and supple on the outside as well. The better hydrated the skin, the better it will hold up against rapid stretching during pregnancy. Hydrated skin also helps to “plump up” the appearance of skin around stretch marks, helping to camouflage the marks.

If drinking plain water is boring to you, add a little unrefined sea salt or lemon to the water to jazz it up. Both the vitamin C (lemon) and the minerals (sea salt) are also excellent for sustaining the adrenals. In addition to water, you can also drink bone broth, which is tasty and hydrating during the winter.

S is for skin brushing

Dry skin brushing is an ancient practice that has been used in Ayurveda. Most people forget that skin is the largest organ in the body; it absorbs everything. Toxins are also released through the skin. Skin brushing helps to tighten your skin, as well as removing layers of dead skin cells and toxins from the skin. Skin brushing also increases circulation and stimulates the lymphatic system. Increased blood flow to your skin and exfoliation of skin cells encourage healthy new skin cells, which firms the skin, giving it a healthy glow. Women with existing stretch marks can help to reduce their appearance by dry skin brushing every morning for five to ten minutes. When you brush dry skin, use an all-natural vegetable bristle brush; Yerba Prima is makes a great skin brush that I personally use. Please follow a thorough skin brushing guide to get the most benefits from this practice.

So, you’re probably wondering how easy is it to incorporate this skin regimen into your daily routine, right? Well it’s actually pretty simple, and it only requires a little effort on your part. The process is even easier if you make your bone broth and body butter ahead of time. Whether you are pregnant or not, you should start this preventative regimen as soon as you can, and you should continue the regimen indefinitely for healthy skin maintenance. Before you shower, start your day with a vigorous body brushing; after showering, use generous amounts of the body butter, paying special attention to stretch mark prone areas, such as the breasts, buttocks, hips and stomach. Be sure to eat healthy fat with every meal and throughout the day alternate sipping on bone broth and water for ample hydration. You should also use your bone broth as a base for soups, stews, gravies and sauces. Though I cannot promise that all women will prevent stretch marks using the above tips, at the very least you can expect healthy, firmer skin that glows from the inside out. The best part about this regimen is that all women can use this regimen regardless of whether or not you are pregnant.

Although the above guide is not a guarantee that you will remain stretch mark free during your pregnancy, it’s certainly a step in the right direction, and more importantly, it’s healthy for you. Here’s to glowing, blemish-free skin before, during and after pregnancy.

Article by Taheerah Barney