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10 Best Pregnancy Stretch Mark Creams and Oils, Tested by Moms-to-Be

These are the best lotions, belly butters and body oils to prevent and minimize stretch marks, according to pregnant moms who put them to the test.
ByDanielle Halibey |Updated December 12, 2023
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pregnant woman applying stretch mark cream onto belly
Image: Mariia Fadeeva | Shutterstock
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In a nutshell: Based on expert advice, product testing and survey feedback from over 300 members of The Bump community, we chose Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion as the overall best stretch mark cream for pregnancy, thanks to its easy-to-absorb texture and hydrating ingredients.

Pregnancy is a transformative process, both emotionally and physically. Your body undergoes rapid growth to accommodate baby, and stretch marks—those red or purple lines that eventually fade to white or silver scars—are a common side effect of skin being pulled tight as your bump expands. And with three pregnancies under my belt, I’ve seen my body go through some serious shape-shifting, stretching and ‘bounce back’ moments. For the record: Stretch marks (aka mommy tiger stripes) are nothing to be ashamed of. These little love lines are a badge of honor, and a reminder of our body’s resilience and strength. While embracing my tiger stripes as keepsakes from each gestational journey has been empowering, I’ve also tried tons of stretch mark creams, oils and solutions over the years. As a result, I know what works, what doesn’t, what smells good, what won’t have your skin feeling parched or excessively slippery and what definitely won’t leave stains on all your favorite clothes (trust me, this consideration is huge).

So what exactly are stretch marks and how should you treat them? “Stretch marks begin to appear when the body expands at a faster rate than the skin can grow,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “When someone sees a rapid weight gain, their body attempts to repair the deep layers of damaged skin. However, during that restoration period, the texture might come back as raised or indented, therefore emerging as a scar,” continues Engelman. According to Jennifer MacGregor, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, you can’t completely prevent stretch marks, as genetics play a big role in their development. But if you’re hoping to reduce the appearance of existing scars, pregnancy stretch mark creams, belly butters and oils may help. “Adding a moisturizer to your routine earlier in pregnancy can help soften skin as it stretches,” explains Joyce Teng, MD, a dermatologist and director of pediatric dermatology at Stanford Medical School. Curious to learn which ingredients to look for (and avoid)? Scroll to the end of this article for all the important info you need to make an informed choice. Plus, browse a selection of the best stretch mark creams for pregnancy that have been tried and tested by expectant moms, including this year’s Best of The Bump winner.

How We Tested the Stretch Mark Creams

The Bump editorial team isn’t just a collection of pregnancy and parenting experts; we’re also moms and dads ourselves. So we know how important it is to find products that really work. To that end we took the following steps to source the best stretch mark creams that are effective and, most importantly, pregnancy-safe:

  • We did extensive research to identify the best-selling, most innovative and all-around top-notch products out there, combing through user reviews, leveraging our familiarity with leading maternity skin care and clean beauty brands and relying on our own experiences as new and expectant parents.
  • We interviewed three board-certified dermatologists to get the lowdown on how stretch mark creams work—plus what to look for and avoid in topical treatments.
  • We surveyed 300 expectant parents and asked them to rate the stretch mark creams they used during pregnancy.
  • We enlisted pregnant parents-to-be to thoroughly test the leading options on the market. We matched products to testers in different stages of pregnancy and with a range of skin types, and based on their reviews of the creams’ effectiveness, feel, scent, ingredients, ease of use and value, as well as our own extensive research, we’ve rounded up the pregnancy stretch mark creams that are best suited to your particular needs.

Using this rigorous testing protocol, we bestowed the prestigious Best of The Bump award to the overall best stretch mark cream. And then we went one step further, using the testing results to identify other standout options that are particularly good for your specific needs, whether you’re struggling with scents, irritated by itchiness or trying to figure out which texture is least triggering to your hormonal or sensitive skin. All this, to ensure that you find a quality product that’ll prove a good fit for your pregnancy. Editorial integrity is at the heart of everything we publish. Read about how The Bump develops and reviews all articles, including product reviews.

Image: Erin, Caitlin, Rosdaly

Best Stretch Mark Creams for Pregnancy

Overall best stretch mark cream

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Affordable
  • Free of mineral oil, parabens and phthalates
  • Easy-to-use pump applicator
Things To Consider
  • The scent lingers
  • Long list of ingredients

Even if you’re not pregnant, you’ve probably heard of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula at some point or another. It’s a heritage brand synonymous with stretch mark support, and this flagship product doesn’t disappoint—even after decades on the market across various iterations. Nearly 30,000 five-star ratings on Amazon can give you a hint about just how well-loved this lotion really is. If that still hasn’t convinced you, thanks to its stellar performance in our product testing, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks was also named the best stretch mark cream for pregnancy in this year’s Best of the Bump Awards. (See all of this year’s Best of The Bump winners.)

Our product tester gave the iconic massage lotion a perfect 5 out of 5 rating across the board—in categories ranging from ease of use to effectiveness and value for money. Ease of use is especially important in a stretch mark cream, because as our experts explain, early adoption (beginning in the first trimester) and regular use throughout your pregnancy is the best way to set your skin up for success when it comes to stretch marks. Thankfully, because this lotion was “the perfect texture, not too thick but not too thin and oily,” our user had no issues working it into her routine, feeling refreshed every time she applied. “I hate super oily lotions, and this lotion felt great. It rubbed right in and didn’t feel sticky or gross after,” she says. “It definitely helps keep your skin moisturized!” The wider Bump community liked it too, in fact 19 percent of survey respondents were happy to recommend Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion.

At 8.5 fluid ounces, the bottle is super-sized compared to others on the market. And when it comes to whether or not this ultra-affordable pick actually does its job, the answer is unequivocally yes! Our tester had existing stretch marks from past pregnancies and says they got a ton of TLC when she was using this massage lotion, especially noting its moisturizing and hydrating effects. There’s no question of value here: An effective product that comes in a big bottle at an affordable price is a triple win in our book. As our tester says, “it comes with a lot and a little goes a long way!” And we’d expect nothing less from a Best of The Bump winner.

Stretch mark product type: Lotion | Size: 8.5 fl. oz.

Our product tester says:

“I love it. I already had stretch marks from previous pregnancies but this product definitely made a difference while I was using it. It keeps your skin moisturized and feeling great.”

Our community says:

“Easy to apply and feels good on my skin; no stretch marks since using.” - Sabrina, pregnant mom-to-be

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Best organic stretch mark cream

Motherlove Pregnant Belly Salve
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Non-greasy
  • Absorbs into skin quickly
  • Free from petroleum, parabens and phthalates
Things To Consider
  • Viscous texture
  • Essential oils can cause reactions on sensitive pregnant skin

First things first: If you’re wondering what a salve is versus a cream, a lotion, a butter or an oil, don’t worry—it’s confusing! Essentially, “salve” is just a fancy way of describing a skin ointment with healing properties. And when your belly begins growing and expanding at a rapid pace, you’ll probably welcome some healing help from the strain that growth puts on the biggest organ in your body: your skin. Enter: Motherlove Pregnant Belly Salve, a true skin savior in every sense of the word.

The jar is filled with a USDA-certified organic beeswax-based balm infused with clean ingredients like organic herbs, essential oils and floral extracts “and just the right amount of them,” our pregnant tester says. And with a petite pot that’s “small enough to go onto a shelf” in the bathroom, you’ll always remember to put it on—something our reviewer says was “easy to apply and rub in; very smooth and comforting.”

And while it’s known for its moisturizing benefits and stretch mark prevention prowess, the bigger feat of this healing emollient may be how well it eases itchiness (one of the most common annoyances during pregnancy). “My skin definitely felt smooth and I did notice that my belly was not as itchy, which was very nice,” she says, giving the product a 5 out of 5 for effectiveness. So if you’re looking for an organic stretch mark cream that delivers results, this may be the choice for you.

Stretch mark product type: Butter | Size: 4 fl. oz.

Our product tester says:

“I would recommend this product! I loved how smooth my stomach felt after, and the itching finally stopped.”

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Best budget-friendly stretch mark cream

What We Love
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Free of petroleum, mineral oil and parabens
  • Non-greasy, fast-absorbing
Things To Consider
  • Some people didn’t like the scent

Earth Mama’s take on a deeply hydrating, skin smoothing and softening emollient is just right in our book. The cruelty-free stretch mark “day-maker,” as the brand calls it (a very appropriate nickname for those who live for the simple wins when pregnancy pains just get to be too much), contains organic herbs and oils, like aloe leaf, shea butter, sweet orange peel oil, calendula extract and others, traditionally used to help foster skin’s natural elasticity.

The pump dispenser for this stretch mark belly butter makes it a fit for the bathroom, a desk in your office and/or wherever you usually land when you need some time off your feet and want to bond with baby—that’s right, rubbing this lotion all over your stomach helps prevent and improve the appearance of stretch marks and give your little belly dweller a massage of their own. And as for moisturization? Our product tester swears by it, saying, “It has great moisture and glides well on skin.”

At $2 per fluid ounce, you’re getting a real bang for your buck—and our product tester agrees, awarding this product a 5 out of 5 rating for value for money. And that’s fantastic, because whatever you have left over after you’ve given birth can be used as a luxe moisturizing lotion by the whole family. Talk about a gift to yourself that keeps on giving!

Stretch mark product type: Lotion | Size: 8 fl. oz.

Our product tester says:

“The lotion is soft and glides so well on the skin … I would recommend this to any mama that enjoys lotion belly support.”

Buy Now

Best belly oil for pregnancy

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Skin Therapy Oil
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Non-greasy, non-staining formula
  • Affordable
Things To Consider
  • It may need to be reapplied frequently
  • Works best as a preventative stretch mark measure

Body oils aren’t a fit for everyone, but if you’re in the “yes, please” camp, then Palmer's best-selling Cocoa Butter Skin Therapy Oil might be the perfect stretch mark solution for you. The lightweight, quick-drying formula is stacked with antioxidant-rich and deeply hydrating ingredients that all work in tandem to soften the skin, improve the appearance of stretch marks and scars and stimulate cell rejuvenation. For our product tester, who gave the oil 5 out of 5 for ingredients, the moisturizing and skin-smoothing perks were a fast favorite: “My skin felt good. It helped with the dry areas on my belly. It really keeps /[skin] smooth for a long period of time.”

According to the physicians and dermatology experts we spoke to, that’s what a really great stretch mark product is supposed to do—condition the skin and keep it resilient throughout all the stretching that comes from pregnancy via regular, daily use. And thanks to the amazing cocoa butter fragrance, which our tester says “doesn’t linger and is a very soothing, calm scent,” you can feel good about having it on your body every day. No wonder she scored the product 5 out of 5 on fragrance as well!

With hormones fluctuating throughout gestation, you’re bound to lose elasticity and moisture in your skin, so dryness is almost inevitable. That’s why we’re obsessed with this multipurpose oil, because even if stretch marks aren’t a major part of your pregnancy journey, the pump-style body oil is still a great way to give your frustratingly parched skin a refreshing boost of moisture.

Stretch mark product type: Oil | Size: 5.1 fl. oz.

Our product tester says:

“I would recommend this product just as it was recommended to me. My sister-in-law also used it all through her pregnancy and even after. It has helped her A LOT!”

Our community says:

"It is easy to use and economical because you need a lot of it when pregnant. There isn’t anything I don’t like about it." Crystyl - pregnant mom-to-be

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Best belly butter for pregnancy

What We Love
  • Contains hydrating cocoa, shea and jojoba butter
  • Free from phthalates, parabens, petrolatum or SLS
  • Inexpensive
Things To Consider
  • Lid is difficult to unscrew
  • Some ingredients aren’t easily identifiable
  • Can be used post-pregnancy, but should be wiped off before nursing

Queen bees and expectant mothers actually have a lot in common: You’re both incredibly important and take care of high-level matters for the hive. That’s why you deserve some honey at the end of the day—and Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter is sure to bring it. The shea butter and vitamin E-rich body butter is a great value at $13 for a 6.5-ounce jar, and according to our tester, skin “feels great after only a few uses.”

The secret behind this stretch mark product is the natural fat from the fruit of the karite tree, which bolsters the other moisturizers in the formula and helps to improve skin’s elasticity, protecting it against the physical tax of pregnancy. When skin is kept smooth and supple throughout pregnancy, it’s better able to anticipate and accommodate the stretching and itching. It certainly did for our pregnant mom-to-be, who says, “my skin is noticeably less itchy!” And well-maintained, smooth and comfortable skin can recover more easily after baby is born, which is encouraging after a long nine+ months of bodily changes.

Our reviewer was a big Burt’s Bees fan already, so she had high hopes for the belly butter based on brand trust alone—and it lived up to her faith: “I’ve used their lotions and makeup before and generally trust their ingredients, and this product is no different,” she says, giving the Mama Bee Belly Butter an impressive 5 out of 5 for effectiveness, ease of use and value for money.

Stretch mark product type: Butter | Size: 6.5 oz.

Our product tester says:

“I’d recommend this product as I found it actually did make my skin feel good and less itchy. I also trust the Burt’s Bees brand.”

Our community says:

"Simple and hydrating!" - Meghan, mom of one

Buy Now

Best stretch mark balm

Munchkin Milkmakers All Natural Belly Balm
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Portable twist-stick design
  • Natural ingredients
  • Cruelty-free, paraben and BPA-free
Things To Consider
  • Greasy formula

Milkmakers All Natural Belly Balm is an interesting entry in the world of stretch mark solutions. This innovative product works the same way as a lip balm or a deodorant: just twist up, swipe on and let the moisture sink in. “Twist /[the top] off and slide the jar across the area without any hassle. You don’t have to rub it in or put it on your hands at all,” rejoices our reviewer.

But what is a balm? Is it healing like a salve? Is it moisturizing like a butter? Does it go on silky-smooth like lotion? We’d say it’s a close cousin to a salve, in that it soothes and nourishes stretched and worn-out skin and helps lessen the itching that comes with pregnancy. But with coconut oil, rosehip oil and shea butter it’s also incredibly hydrating and softening—again, very important to condition the skin as it continues to stretch and lose estacity.

The results spoke for themselves for our product tester, who gave the All Natural Belly Balm 5 out of 5 for effectiveness. She says it “lubricated my belly and stretch mark areas,” with “all-natural and safe ingredients for Mom and baby.” All this wrapped up in an easy-to-apply package means stretch mark care is one thing you won’t have to worry about in pregnancy.

Stretch mark product type: Balm | Size: 2.6 oz.

Our product tester says:

“I’ve actually already told someone close to me about it. It’s a wonderful product—works well and can help moms.”

Buy Now

Best stretch mark product for itchy skin

What We Love
  • Non-comedogenic formula
  • Bio-oil has undergone clinical trials
  • Only a few drops are needed per application
Things To Consider
  • Some moms aren’t fans of the fragrance
  • Main ingredient is mineral oil

Bio-Oil is an enduring favorite among The Bump editors and even preferred by the dermatologist we consulted: “I applied Bio-Oil to my entire body while pregnant, because it’s been proven to prevent as well as eliminate existing stretch marks,” says Engelman. It was a popular choice among our survey respondents too, with 19 percent of participants recommending Bio-Oil. A blend of vitamins, plant extracts and oils hydrates, strengthens and soothes the skin and reduces any itchiness caused by stretching.

Our pregnant product tester reveled in the ritual of applying it before bed. “I applied this at night and noticed that my skin was noticeably smoother and softer in the morning,” she says. And while visible stretch marks weren’t a huge issue in her pregnancy, she did experience her fair share of itchiness. But “I noticed that /[the itchiness] was a lot less when I consistently used this product. I even tried using it as a spot treatment on itchy spots and it helped reduce itching in those areas immediately,” she says.

As for ease of use, unlike many other oils that spill, leak or end up making a greasy mess over the place, our mama-to-be was thrilled about how simple—yet controlled—the body oil was to pour out of the bottle, and how it didn’t interrupt her sleep with a lingering scent. “I can be very sensitive to scents, and often they can give me headaches if too floral or too strong. But this was very mild, didn't linger too long (or if it did linger, once it was on my belly it wasn't strong enough for me to smell it) and gave me no headaches whatsoever.” It’s no wonder she gave it a 5 out of 5 for fragrance, ease of use and effectiveness.

Stretch mark product type: Oil | Size: 2 fl. oz.

Our product tester says:

“It has helped to keep my belly nice and hydrated and helped a bunch with itchiness. Plus, it feels luxurious to apply. Smells nice, without being overpowering. I use this at night, and I wouldn't say it absorbs quickly, but by morning it’s fully absorbed, leaving behind soft and hydrated skin. I’ll enjoy using this for the rest of my pregnancy for sure, and will find other ways to use it once my pregnancy is over!”

Our community says:

“I started using it around 5-6 weeks pregnant, even before my body started changing. I'm currently 33 weeks along and use this on my bump/boobs and butt/thighs. I have no stretch marks and believe it's because of my early start and consistent use of the oil.” - Kristina, pregnant mom-to-be

Buy Now

Best stretch mark product for scent-sensitive moms

Tubby Todd Belly Oil
Image: Tubby Todd
Buying Options
Tubby Todd|$22
What We Love
  • Rubs in easily
  • Natural ingredients
  • Doesn’t have a strong smell
Things To Consider
  • High cost per application
  • Essential oils can cause reactions in sensitive skin

Scent is a huge deal for pregnant moms-to-be. Maybe running for the toilet after catching a whiff of your partner’s cologne was one of the first things that made you wonder if it might be time to take a pregnancy test. If you’ve struggled with strong (or even subtle) aromas activating morning sickness in a major way, then you might want to consider a stretch mark product that’s fragrance-free.

Not only does Tubby Todd Belly Oil come in a fun, apothecary-style bottle (wonderful for expectant moms who are big beauty lovers), it’s also plenty luxurious—and when you’ve got a baby on board, self-care that doesn’t require much effort is everything. Our pregnant tester gave the product a 5 out of 5 rating for ease of use, noting how “the oil was very easy to open and figure out and rub in. It was not excessively runny and smoothed to the skin easily.” Of course, the easiest application in the world won’t help if the smell will immediately induce gagging—but thankfully, Tubby Todd’s formula doesn’t have that problem. It can be massaged onto the belly, thighs and breasts, hydrating delicate and overstretched skin without overwhelming mom in the process. Our tester gave the fragrance 5 out of 5, telling us “It does not have a strong fragrance, which I’m a fan of! Especially in pregnancy I’m very sensitive to scents, and therefore /[using an] oil without a strong scent was great!” Chalk it up to natural ingredients like sweet almond oil, pomegranate extract, olive fruit extract and sunflower seed oil that will let you care for your skin without assaulting your nose.

Stretch mark product type: Oil | Size: 2 fl. oz.

Our product tester says:

“I would recommend this oil during pregnancy to help with stretch marks and dry skin! Pregnancy is tough enough, this product can help you take care of yourself!”

Buy Now

Best stretch mark product for all-over moisturization

Mama Mio Tummy Rub Butter
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Cream absorbs quickly and isn’t sticky
  • 100 percent natural fragrance
Things To Consider
  • High price point
  • Contains essential oils
  • Butter texture isn’t consistent in every jar

Specifically designed for pregnancy, the creamy Mama Mio Tummy Rub Butter 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.

But where the formula really shines is in hydration. Our tester couldn’t believe how many moisturizing oils and botanicals were rolled into this miracle product’s proprietary blend of moisturizing avocado oil, cell-rejuvenating inchi oil and skin barrier-saving argan oil. She was also very impressed with how easily the butter spread on her burgeoning belly (with a 5 out of 5 score for ease of use!) and how instantaneously the moisture just soaked right in. “It rubs in very evenly and doesn’t glop up! I feel like the butter definitely made my skin feel moisturized after applying … even the next day or two after using I could feel my skin was much softer.” Softer skin in 48 hours or less? We’ll take it!

Stretch mark product type: Butter | Size: 8.1 fluid ounces

Our product tester says:

“I definitely would recommend this product! It’s very moisturizing and rubs in well! I can't wait to keep using it and seeing how much it helps!”

Buy Now

Best stretch mark product for sensitive skin

Mustela Stretch Mark Cream
Image: Target
What We Love
  • Pleasant scent
  • Fast-absorbing and hydrating
  • Paraben- and phenoxyethanol-free
Things To Consider
  • High price point

Mustela is known for its keen attention to research and development, so you can bet that when moms-to-be are looking for safe and solution-oriented skincare during pregnancy, this European brand will step up to the plate. Nearly everything in this rich, velvety-smooth cream is naturally derived (97 percent of the ingredients, to be exact). And when it comes to improving your skin suppleness and elasticity—a top priority in the prevention of stretch marks—avocado, maracuja and hamamelis extract all come into play.

When it comes to application, things couldn’t be simpler. Our tester gave the product 5 out of 5 for ease of use, particularly praising the packaging design and the cream’s “nice texture.” Mustela’s Stretch Mark Cream is specifically formulated (under supervision of a dermatologist) for sensitive skin, and made to lessen the risk of allergic reactions. And when you’re using a skin product every day, from the beginning of your pregnancy and straight on through the end (and beyond!), even a slight reaction can add up. For those with sensitive skin, Mustela Stretch Mark Cream might be what keeps this daily pleasant indulgence from turning into a chore.

Stretch mark product type: Lotion | Size: 5 fl. oz.

Our product tester says:

“It may be a little high priced for the amount you get, but I’m a customer willing to pay more for a nicer product. I like when products don’t have a strong scent … [This is] great for sensitive pregnant moms!”

Our community says:

“It smells amazing.” - Lizbeth, mom of two

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Types of Pregnancy Stretch Mark Creams

While there are tons of options out there, topical stretch mark treatments can be divided into three main categories: belly butters, body oils and lotions. According to Teng, MD, a dermatologist at Stanford Medical School, 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 pregnancy stretch mark creams below:

  • Belly lotion 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 Engelman.

  • 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 that are designed specifically for pregnancy, sometimes known as belly oils, are another good option. Oils regulate the production of sebum (lipids that help moisturize your body), 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, on top of the cream.

Ingredients 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 ingredients to look for when browsing the options:

  • Centella. Teng mentioned that “products with centella asiatica work to brighten skin, which also helps improve the appearance of stretch marks.” The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) also points to research that says products containing this herb may help prevent stretch marks.

  • Hyaluronic acid. This water-loving molecule occurs naturally in the body and is considered safe for use during pregnancy. The AAD cites two large studies, which found that applying hyaluronic acid to early stretch marks made them less noticeable.

  • Rosehip oil. According to Teng, products containing nourishing natural ingredients are usually a safe bet. For example, “rosehip oil is rich in antioxidants that target oxidative damage.”

  • Vitamin C. According to MacGregor, “topical vitamin C can also be used as it is safe, but there are no good studies to prove if it has any beneficial effect on preventing stretch marks.”

Ingredients to Avoid in a Stretch Mark Cream for Pregnancy

Check the ingredients list to see if a stretch mark cream includes irritants or harmful chemicals—especially if you have sensitive skin. Aside from that, here are a few ingredients to steer clear of.

  • Retinoids. Although present in many skincare products, retinoids aren’t safe for pregnant or breastfeeding moms. Engleman says that it’s important to “avoid vitamin A derivatives like retinol while pregnant as they can harm the fetus.” The same goes for nursing moms, so you’ll want to seek out pregnancy-safe alternatives.

  • Parabens. Engelman warns against using products with parabens that contain preservatives, as these chemicals have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive health issues.

  • Phthalates. Phthalates should also be avoided during pregnancy, as they may have an adverse effect on liver, kidney, lung and reproductive health.

  • Artificial fragrance. Products with strong fragrances can irritate sensitive skin and also trigger nausea or vomiting in moms who experience scent aversions in pregnancy, so try to opt for a stretch mark cream without perfumes or artificial fragrances.

Do Pregnancy Stretch Mark Creams Really Work?

It’s a common question among pregnant moms looking to prevent or fade existing stretch marks. According to the AAD once they occur stretch marks are permanent, but a topical treatment may make them less noticeable and can also help alleviate the itch.

There are steps you can take to help to minimize the appearance of existing or emerging stretch marks. “Frequent skin massaging and emollients may improve skin elasticity and be beneficial,” says Teng. Moreover, a decent stretch mark cream will strengthen your body’s natural defenses by boosting circulation, building collagen and smoothing your skin. Diet and lifestyle also play 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 pregnancy stretch mark cream in the first trimester. “Start as soon as possible! The earlier you get ahead of the damage, the better your chances are for minimal scarring,” says Engleman. Remember, consistency is key, so for best results all three experts recommended using stretch mark cream once or twice a day. Moist skin is better at absorbing emollients, so Teng recommends applying lotions and oils after bathing. As for application technique, Engelman says to massage products into your skin with gentle sweeping motions to circulate blood flow. If you plan to layer different types of products, consider how each formula will work together. If you take this approach, Teng says to “start with the lighter cream then follow with an oil-based product to help lock in moisture.”

Is It Safe to Use Retinol-Based Stretch Mark Cream After Birth?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: retinoids are not safe to use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, retinol products can be great for post-pregnancy. “Topical retinoids (retinA) are the single best topical treatment in that scientific studies prove they can stimulate new collagen synthesis, thicken the skin and smooth it out,” says MacGregor. But remember there’s no such thing as a “miracle cream” or a one size fits all solution for stretch marks. If you are concerned about introducing a new product to your skincare regime, always seek professional advice from a dermatologist or doctor.

About the writer:

Danielle Halibey is a contributing writer for The Bump, where she pens e-commerce content focused on baby and toddler gear, pregnancy and postpartum must-haves, and thoughtful gifts for everyone in the family. Over the last seven+ years, she’s become a trusted voice for new and expectant parents as they navigate the beautiful yet sometimes chaotic journey of raising little ones. No matter which publication she’s writing for (from Babe by HATCH to Cubby at Home), she delivers carefully curated product roundups that highlight the latest trends, safety considerations and value for money—all to help parents make informed purchasing decisions.

Interested in becoming a product tester for The Bump? Head here to apply.

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.

Sources

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. She earned her medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

American Academy of Dermatology Association, Stretch Marks: Why They Appear and How to Get Rid of Them

National Library of Medicine, Skin Changes and Safety Profile of Topical Products During Pregnancy, February 2022

The Bump survey of 300 parents and moms-to-be, May 2023

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