Stretch marks are a perfectly usual and very common occurrence. The U.K. National Health Service estimates that 8 in 10 pregnant people develop stretch marks. A study from 2007 assessed 112 women immediately postpartum and found that 60% developed stretch marks.
Stretch marks are harmless to your health and often fade over time. Plus, plenty of over-the-counter creams and lotions made with skin-soothing ingredients can help ease the itchiness and dryness — and potentially even improve the appearance of stretch marks.
Below, we share our pick for the best stretch mark cream for pregnancy and a handful of noteworthy competitors worth considering.
The market is full of stretch mark creams that promise amazing results. While there’s no clinical evidence to suggest stretch marks are totally preventable, there’s also no harm in trying.
To select the products above, we searched through ingredient lists and product reviews to help you narrow your search. We chose the best stretch mark creams for pregnancy based on the following criteria:
Ingredients: We looked for stretch mark creams formulated with hydrating ingredients, like nut butters such as cocoa, shea, or jojoba, hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water, and peptides, which are amino acids that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Brand integrity: We sought trusted brands that are leaders in their industry. They all passed our vetting process, which ensures brands follow ethical business standards and don’t have any pending lawsuits, among other factors.
Price: There’s no need to break the bank for a stretch mark cream. We tried to feature stretch mark creams that fall in the price range of $8–$30 (but we did recommend one splurge option).
Reviews: To ensure that the stretch mark creams are effective and yield positive results, we combed through real customer reviews, only featuring the brands that were well liked, easy to use, and alleviated customers’ skin issues.
Experts: We reached out to board certified dermatologists to get their opinion on the best stretch mark creams that they recommend for their pregnant patients, as well as what to look for in every category.
Experience: We connected with real parents about the stretch mark creams they used during pregnancy, the qualities they liked, and how well the products worked to prevent and treat their stretch marks.
Let’s make one thing super clear: Stretch marks are extremely common and completely natural.
“Genetics play a part,” says Dr. DiAnne Davis, FAAD, a dermatologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. “Even people who aren’t pregnant, who have growth spurts or weight gain or loss, can develop stretch marks.”
In addition to the genetic component, she also mentions that stretch marks have a hormonal component: Females are more likely to get these marks than males.
Although stretch marks are natural, it’s also OK if you want to prevent them.
Decide whether you want a cream that is scented or fragrance-free. Scan the ingredients list for potential irritants, especially if you have allergies or sensitivities. And while pregnant and breastfeeding, avoid products that contain retinoids.
Choose a product (or investigate creating your own!) that contains ingredients such as:
“Certain ingredients that can sometimes be helpful are hyaluronic acid or peptides,” Davis says. “I usually will check active ingredients and recommend the patient check with their OB-GYN before using it.”
While there’s not a ton of research on the effectiveness of topical treatments, it’s still worth trying to prevent stretch marks if you want to, since it can be difficult to minimize them once they’re fully formed.
“From a dermatology perspective, there aren’t that many stretch mark creams that are effective,” Davis reiterates. “The theory behind them is helping to rebuild some of the collagen and elastin in our skin that is distorted as a result of the stretch marks developing.”
During pregnancy, stretch marks can develop on your breasts, belly, hips, butt, and thighs.
You can start to apply a stretch mark cream as a preventive measure. For best results, start as soon as you find out you’re pregnant and continue after you give birth.
Using a stretch mark cream may not prevent or eliminate stretch marks entirely, but it might help make them less pronounced and noticeable by improving skin elasticity and smoothing your skin.
Plus, using a stretch mark cream can be a fantastic way to get in touch with your body and give yourself some TLC throughout your pregnancy.
You can start using stretch mark creams early on in your pregnancy. You don’t have to wait until you start noticing marks. Many creams work as a preventive measure, so it can be helpful to use one as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
You can use the cream throughout each trimester and even after you give birth. Davis recommends using the cream every day after you take a bath or shower.
Postpartum, retinoids can help with treating stretch marks. “They help to restore the skin’s collagen,” says Davis. But it may be best to avoid retinoids while you’re pregnant.
They’re most likely safe while breastfeeding — with topical application only — but that research is limited. Oral use of retinoid-containing treatments aren’t recommended during lactation.
Stretch mark creams won’t make old stretch marks completely go away. However, depending on the cream you use, it may somewhat reduce the appearance of the marks.
What helps prevent stretch marks during pregnancy?
In addition to using a stretch mark cream, eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, drinking enough water, getting regular exercise, and gently massaging your belly every day may help prevent or reduce stretch marks during pregnancy.
You can talk with your midwife or doctor about gaining baby weight at a slow and steady pace, and making sure you’re not deficient in any vitamins.
Is coconut oil good for pregnancy stretch marks?
There’s not enough evidence to suggest that coconut oil can actually prevent or treat stretch marks. However, many skin experts are a fan of the ingredient.
Marisa Garshick, MD, a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York, notes that because coconut oil works to moisturize and may calm inflammation, it may help to improve the overall appearance of the skin.
There’s a lot going on in your body and mind right now. Go ahead and pamper yourself with one of these stretch mark creams. Best-case scenario, it prevents stretch marks. Worst-case scenario, you’re left with really soft and hydrated skin.
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