Stretch marks come from all kinds of life events: pregnancy, weight gain and growth spurts, to name a few. They’re completely normal, and many of us end up with them at some time in our lives. However, despite the fact that they’re natural and happen to most people, many of us still don’t want to deal with them. A lot of people don’t like how they look and want to make sure that they either don’t develop them at all or are able to minimize their appearance. Luckily, for both of these concerns, there’s an answer. But first, why do stretch marks occur in the first place?

The answer to this lies in the skin’s ability, or inability, to stretch at the rate that the body expands. This is most obvious in teenage or preteen children who hit a growth spurt, women who become pregnant and those who experience weight gain. All of these instances are normal life events, but in instances where stretch marks develop, the skin didn’t possess the elasticity necessary to stretch and/or bounce back without experiencing any damage. And that’s what the stretch marks are. So, in order to help your skin better stretch and come back, you need to build and protect your skin’s very structure.

One of the ways you can do this is by using healing plant oils like raw shea butter to keep the skin supple and lubricated. The essential fatty acids found in rich and moisturizing plant oils help to keep the outer membranes of your skin cells supple instead of shriveled. This in turn makes it so that your skin has an easier time stretching because the very texture and integrity of the cells that make it up is flexible and plump instead of brittle. You can choose to use plain shea butter, or mix it up and use other oils like coconut and even olive oil to give your skin its daily dose of cellular loving magic.

Another way to help prevent the development of stretch marks is to use skincare that has ingredients in it that encourage the formation of collagen and elastin. Both collagen and elastin are important proteins within the body that are imperative to the overall structure of your skin and connective tissues. Elastin especially, is important for your skin’s ability to be elastic. Ingredients to look for include things like MSM, which is so important and effective that it already occurs naturally in your tissues, plant stem cells and amino acid complexes that help rebuild damaged tissues.