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8 Best Belly Butters, Oils and Stretch Mark Creams for Pregnancy

The best belly butters and body oils to prevent and minimize stretch marks.
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profile picture of Martina Garvey
Associate Editor
Published
May 2, 2022
Best stretch mark creams and belly butters 2022
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Pregnancy is a transformative process, both emotionally and physically. While you’re mentally preparing to become a parent, your body undergoes rapid growth to accommodate baby. Stretch marks—those red or purple lines that eventually fade to white or silver scars—are a common side effect of your skin being pulled tight as your bump expands. And let’s be clear: Stretch marks (aka mommy tiger stripes) are nothing to be ashamed of. These little love lines are viewed by many moms as a badge of honor, reminding them of their body’s resilience and strength. But if you’re hoping to reduce the appearance of existing scars—or want to try to prevent them in the first place—belly butters, oils and lotions may help.

Ready to get the lowdown on what causes stretch marks, browse types of topical treatments and learn which ingredients to look for (and avoid!)? Read on for all the important info, plus check out our list of the best stretch mark creams for pregnancy, as recommended by dermatologists.

Types of Stretch Mark Creams

While there are tons of options on the market, topical stretch mark treatments can be divided into three main categories: belly butters, body oils and lotions. According to Joyce Teng, MD, a dermatologist at Stanford Medical School and chief scientific officer for skincare brand Evereden, most stretch mark creams work by moisturizing the skin to enhance elasticity. While some options may be better than others, the formula you choose is really a matter of personal preference. They can even be used together and layered on the skin to lock in moisture. Learn more about the different types of stretch mark creams, below.

Belly lotions for pregnancy

Stretch mark lotions take the form of a liquid cream specifically designed to reduce the appearance of scars. “Lotions are usually water-based, meaning they’re effective for smoothing skin and relieving inflammation, especially for those with skin conditions like eczema,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.

Belly butter for pregnancy

Body butter—also known as belly butter—is a thick, deeply moisturizing cream. This type of stretch mark cream works well for dry or rough skin, as it’s intensely hydrating. It’s often made from a blend of naturally derived shea, cocoa or mango butters; these ingredients are rich in vitamins and fatty acids, which form a protective layer over the skin and ease the itchy, tight feeling some women experience during pregnancy. One possible downside? Natural butters can feel a little greasy on the skin.

Belly oil for pregnancy

Body oils, or belly oils, designed specifically for pregnancy are another good option. Oils regulate sebum production, and the liquid formula sinks into the skin, locking in moisture and improving the skin-cell barrier, says Engelman. An oil is also a lovely way to incorporate body massage into your daily routine, helping to boost circulation and collagen production. If you choose to layer stretch mark treatments, always apply body oils as the last step to seal in moisturizing creams.

Do Stretch Mark Creams Really Work?

The truth is that you can’t completely prevent stretch marks, as genetics play a big role in their development, says Jennifer MacGregor, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. However, moisturizing daily and massaging the skin can help to minimize the appearance of existing or emerging stretch marks. Moreover, the best stretch mark creams strengthen your body’s natural defenses by boosting circulation, building collagen and smoothing your skin.

Diet and lifestyle also plays a role in the development of stretch marks. “Staying hydrated is key,” explains Engelman, as drinking plenty of water enhances your skin’s natural elasticity.

While stretch mark creams are the best option for moms-to-be, post-pregnancy treatments like laser therapy and microdermabrasion can also help to minimize scarring, if needed. “Laser therapy helps stimulate collagen production to fill stretch marks with little downtime,” says Engelman. “Another option is microdermabrasion, a procedure that uses a tool with an abrasive surface to exfoliate the top layer of the skin.” If you’re unhappy with the stubborn appearance of stretch marks after baby, speak to your doctor or dermatologist about these more extensive options.

When to Start Using Stretch Mark Cream in Pregnancy

Want to try to stave off stretch marks? Your best bet is to start using a stretch mark cream in the first trimester. “Adding a moisturizer to your routine earlier in pregnancy can help soften skin as it stretches,” says Teng. Moist skin is better at absorbing emollients, so she also recommends applying lotions and oils after bathing. Massage products into your skin with gentle sweeping motions towards the heart to promote healthy circulation and blood flow.

What to Look for in a Pregnancy Stretch Mark Cream

Ready to pick the right products for your needs? There are a lot of lotions and potions out there that make big promises. Here’s what to look for when browsing the options:

  • Go for lightly scented or fragrance-free options. Products with strong fragrances can irritate sensitive skin during pregnancy, so try to opt for a stretch mark cream without perfumes or fragrances.

  • Read the list of ingredients. Check the ingredients list to see if it includes irritants or harmful chemicals—especially if you have sensitive skin. According to Teng, products containing nourishing ingredients and antioxidants, like shea butter or rosehip oil, are usually a safe bet.

  • Steer clear of retinoids during pregnancy. Retinoids are often found in skincare products. According to MacGregor, this active ingredient is scientifically proven to reduce the appearance of stretch marks by stimulating new collagen production, as well as thickening and smoothing the skin’s surface. However, retinoids aren’t safe for use by pregnant or breastfeeding moms.

  • Avoid products containing parabens and phthalates. Engelman warns against using products with parabens that contain preservatives, as these chemicals have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive health issues. Phthalates should also be avoided during pregnancy, as they may have an adverse effect on liver, kidney, lung and reproductive health.

  • Look for products that work well together. If you plan to layer different types of products, consider how each formula will work together. If you take this approach, Teng recommends using a light lotion followed by a belly oil to lock in moisture.

Best Stretch Mark Creams for Pregnancy

The best creams to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy are intensely hydrating and packed full of skin-nourishing ingredients. From tried-and-true favorites to targeted treatments, here are some of the best belly butters, body oils and lotions to choose from.

Image: Mama Mio

Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Butter

First up on our list of the best stretch mark creams is this nourishing belly butter by Mama Mio. Specifically designed for pregnancy, the creamy formula is infused with coconut oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter and vitamin E. Better yet, it’s clinically proven to boost skin elasticity and moisture. Happy customers report that this cream helps prevent stretch marks and soothe itchy, taut skin during pregnancy. It’s also vegan, dermatologically tested and free from silicone, parabens and artificial fragrances. Is it any wonder this pick won a Best of Pregnancy award in 2022?

What we love:

  • 98 percent of moms agree that their skin felt supple and more elastic after use
  • The cream absorbs quickly and isn’t sticky

What to consider:

  • Expensive per ounce
  • Some customers don’t like the natural scent

Buy it: $34, Dermstore.com

Image: Bio-Oil

Bio-Oil Skincare Oil

Bio-oil is a brand of choice for moms and dermatologists alike. “I applied BioOil to my entire body while pregnant, because it’s been proven to prevent as well as eliminate existing stretch marks,” says Engelman. A blend of vitamins, plant extracts and oils hydrates, strengthens and soothes the skin and reduces any itchiness caused by stretching. This product is also a firm favorite in The Bump office and a Best of Pregnancy award winner to boot.

What we love:

  • 92 percent of participants in a clinical trial saw an improvement in stretch marks
  • The non-comedogenic formula won’t clog pores
  • Only a few drops are needed per application

What to consider:

  • Some customers dislike the fragrance

Buy it: $30, UltaBeauty.com

Image: Everden

Evereden Mama Must-Have Duo

Teng’s top pick is Evereden’s Nourishing Stretch Mark Cream, which can be used in combination with the Golden Belly Serum. Enriched with mango butter for deep hydration and peptides to restore the feeling of skin elasticity, this lotion is super-luxurious. Massage the cream into your belly, bum and thighs to boost circulation, and then apply one drop of the body oil to seal in the skin-nourishing goodness. Buy each product separately or as a handy duo.

What we love:

  • The belly oil is clinically proven to reduce stretch marks by 62 percent in just eight weeks
  • Both products contain antioxidant-rich rosehip oil
  • Both products are dermatologist tested

Things to consider:

  • Expensive per ounce

Buy it: $76, Evereden.com

Image: Palmer's

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion For Stretch Marks

The best belly creams for pregnancy offer optimal hydration and good value for your buck. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter stretch mark lotion boasts both. Adored by A-listers and everyday folks alike, Palmer’s cocoa and shea butter formula softens, soothes and plumps the skin. Other awesome ingredients—like vitamin E, argan oil and almond oil—work together to form a protective moisture barrier for expanding bellies. The best part? The large 8 oz bottle is only $9. Bargain!

What we love:

  • At under $2 per ounce, it’s the most affordable stretch mark cream we’ve found
  • 98 percent of women saw improved skin elasticity, texture and tone
  • Long-lasting formula keeps skin moisturized for 48 hours

What to consider:

  • Strong scent
  • Some customers report that it leaves the skin feeling sticky

Buy it: $9, Target.com

Image: HATCH Collection

HATCH Collection Belly Oil

This belly oil intensely hydrates the skin, reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars. Created with moms in mind, the oil is free from parabens, phthalates, dyes and fragrances. The nourishing blend of calendula, sweet almond and grapefruit oil is packed full of antioxidants and skin-boosting goodness. Add a couple of drops to a warm bath or apply it directly to the bum, bust, belly or thighs to combat stretch marks.

What we love:

  • Quick-dry formula
  • Subtle scent
  • Dermatologist and allergy tested
  • Dropper allows for easy application

What to consider:

  • Expensive per ounce

Buy it: $58, HATCHCollection.com

Image: Burt's Bees Baby

Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter

No one said the best stretch mark creams for pregnancy have to be fancy. Case in point: Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter. Made from 99 percent natural ingredients—primarily shea, cocoa and jojoba butter—this no-frills cream offers superior hydration at an affordable price. Better yet, it’s free from harmful phthalates, parabens and petrolatum.

What we love:

  • 99 percent natural ingredients
  • Cruelty-free and carbon-neutral
  • Fragrance-free
  • Affordable price point

What to consider:

  • The buttery formula can take time to emulsify and rub in
  • Some customers dislike the natural scent

Buy it: $13, BurtsBeesBaby.com

Image: Earth Mama Organics

Earth Mama Organics Belly Butter for Itchy Pregnancy Stretch Marks

Earth Mama Organics is a go-to brand for pregnancy-safe skin care. The cruelty-free stretch mark cream contains organic herbs and oils traditionally used to help foster skin’s natural elasticity. Although it’s described as a belly butter, this lightweight lotion is thinner in consistency than traditional body butters.

What we love:

  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Free of petroleum, mineral oil, parabens and synthetic fragrances
  • Cruelty-free

What to consider:

  • Some customers found the citrus scent off-putting
  • Takes several pumps to get enough product

Buy it: $17, Walmart.com

Image: Glow Organics

Glow Organics Organic Belly Butter

Moms with sensitive skin will appreciate this organic belly butter. Made using the finest organic shea and cocoa butters, this delightfully smooth lotion is enriched with macadamia nut, grapeseed oil and sweet almond oil—which work to even skin tone and reduce scarring. It’s also vegan and free of harmful chemicals. One possible downside? The solid formula can be difficult to apply, but warming a small amount between your palms should do the trick.

What we love:

  • Made with 100 percent organic ingredients
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

What to consider:

  • Grainy formula can take time to emulsify and rub in
  • Some customers dislike the natural scent

Buy it: $25, Amazon.com

About the experts:

Dendy Engelman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the director of dermatologic surgery at the Metropolitan Hospital in New York City. She earned her medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina.

Jennifer MacGregor, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at UnionDerm in New York City. She also serves as an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center. She earned her medical degree from the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Joyce Teng, MD, is the director of pediatric dermatology at Stanford Medical School, and the chief scientific officer at Evereden. She earned her medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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