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Stretch marks can appear out of nowhere when your body is changing shape rapidly, whether that’s during pregnancy or post-birth, or at a time of sudden weight loss or gain.
While they’re partly genetic, and difficult to avoid if you’re prone to getting them, there are lots of treatments you can use to try to limit the damage or help them to disappear faster.
From oils and balms to lotions and creams, there are various types of stretch mark treatments out there – some specifically designed for use in pregnancy, others to offer more general elasticity and hydration.
From the scientific and eye-wateringly expensive to the homespun kitchen table remedies, you’ll find one that suits your budget and gives you that 'Aaaah, that’s better' feeling.
Here are the 10 best stretch mark creams and oils to try.
1. Best oil for stretch marks: Bio-Oil
“I used Bio-Oil every day from the first trimester as recommended by my sister-in-law – not a single stretch mark, thankfully. I was also influenced by a friend who is a nurse who does antenatal care. She says she can tell which are the Bio-Oil tummies!”
The go-to product for many a Mumsnetter and most pregnant women hoping to avoid stretch marks as their bumps grow, Bio-Oil has been around more than 30 years and is clinically proven to improve the appearance of scars and stretch marks.
Plant extracts and vitamins are suspended in an oil base which you massage in a circular motion into problem areas to help improve the skin’s elasticity, which may help to prevent stretch marks as you grow. It promises to reduce the appearance of them afterwards.
In trials, 95% of users said they saw an improvement in the look of their stretch marks within two weeks.
2. Best for pregnancy: The Organic Pharmacy Mother & Baby Stretch Mark Oil
“The Organic Pharmacy Stretch Mark Oil is amazing. Every one of my friends that has used it hasn't had any stretch marks.”
With extracts of rosehip, calendula, lavender, orange and jojoba, this stretch mark treatment oil smells gorgeous and feels like a treat rather than a chore to apply each day. It’s 99.8% organic too.
Pump some of the oil into your hands after a bath or shower and smooth onto damp skin to help keep it supple and smooth.
3. Best stretch mark cream for sensitive skin: Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter
“I used it everyday after a shower and sometimes just to relax. No stretch marks, but that could be down to genes! It smells and feels lovely anyway.”
Like all Burt’s Bees products, this looks as beautiful as it smells and you’ll be happy to have this pretty jar sitting by your bed or bath tub ready to be rubbed into your belly each day.
It has a really rich consistency and feels very soothing as you apply it – perfect for itchy, tight bumps and dry skin anywhere on your body. The ingredients are 99% natural, and include Vitamin E, hydrating cocoa, shea and jojoba butter to thoroughly moisturise your belly.
4. Best for preventing stretch marks: Mustela Maternite Stretch Marks Prevention Cream
“All my friends and friends of friends that used Mustela swear by it. I used it day and night with my firstborn and didn't have one stretch mark. Pregnant again and using it again.”
This ‘best kept secret’ cream from French brand Mustela is a bit of a gem. They also do a serum and an oil.
Designed to help prevent the appearance of stretch marks in pregnancy, this cream smooths on to increase skin hydration and therefore elasticity as well as help your bump feel more comfortable.
If you’re feeling turned off certain smells during pregnancy, you’ll be pleased to hear this cream is also available in a non-scented version.
5. Best budget stretch mark cream: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks
“Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. Smells amazing and keeps you moisturised literally all day – you can feel it when changing before bed.”
With its distinctive chocolatey scent, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter has been a favourite among mums with growing bumps for years and it continues to impress today.
It may not have fancy packaging or premium credentials, but you can pick up a bottle in most supermarkets and, for less than £4, you can afford to slather it on with impunity. It also seems to improve the skin's condition and possibly prevent stretch marks.
Cocoa and shea butters keep your skin moisturised and supple for up to 48 hours and, in tests, 98% of women saw improved elasticity within eight weeks.
6. Best postpartum stretch mark cream: StriVectin
“I’m using StriVectin at the moment. It's expensive and you have to religiously apply it three times a day, but it's definitely improving the appearance of my stretch marks.”
If you suffer badly with stretch marks and are happy to splash out, users of StriVectin swear by this lightweight formula that targets wrinkles and works wonders on stretch marks.
It’s a treatment rather than a prevention, and the secret ‘sciencey’ ingredient is a patented form of Niacin, a type of Vitamin B3, which has been shown to strengthen the moisture barrier of skin and improve the performance of other ingredients.
It feels a bit medical rather than like a spa treatment but, anecdotally, seems to get great results. Many users say it has completely eradicated even historical stretch marks, fading them from angry red and purple lines to silvery ones that are now hardly visible.
This is an expensive cream, but if you’re willing to throw money at the problem, it’s definitely worth a go, particularly if pregnancy left you with a few souvenirs you’d rather see disappear.
7. Best stretch mark cream for itchy skin: Mama Mio Tummy Rub Oil
“Another vote for the Mama Mio Tummy Rub Oil here. I had it as a gift when I found out I was pregnant, otherwise I might not have bought it in the first place as it isn't cheap. I'm a bit hooked now though. It just smells so nice and really does help with the itching.”
Mums-to-be rave about the zingy, citrusy scent of this tummy oil with orange and bergamot. If you find the smell of cocoa or shea butter a bit sickly, this might be the treatment for you because it’s really fresh-smelling. It also sinks into the skin much better than some products, with no film left on the skin to feel sticky or mark your clothes.
The base of the treatment is avocado, inchi and argan oil, all rich in Omega- 3, -6 and -9, which help keep your skin supple. Olive, coconut, rosehip and almond are added to help nourish, soothe and protect.
One pump of this goes a long way and should be enough to cover your entire belly, making it pretty good value. Start as early in pregnancy as you can, using it twice daily. Mama Mio recommends you continue using the oil for four months after your baby is born.
8. Best organic stretch mark cream: Neal’s Yard Remedies Mother's Balm
“I’ve been through a tub of Neal’s Yard Mother's Balm which is AMAZING. Zero stretch marks at the moment and I’m 29 weeks so fingers crossed I don’t get any.”
Neal’s Yard’s super-soothing balm is unscented but really rich and comforting. It's sure to calm itchy, stretched bumps with its blend of apricot kernel, sweet almond and coconut oil, along with beeswax and macadamia seed oil.
The 100% organic ingredients are designed to boost the skin’s elasticity and therefore reduce the chance of stretch marks appearing. Lots of mums say it did exactly that if used regularly (recommended twice a day). A little goes a long way and it sinks in really nicely – dry skin, in particular, laps it up.
9. Best blow-the-budget stretch mark oil: Clarins Tonic Body Treatment Oil
“I used this every day and it was amazing!”
This deliciously scented oil with rosemary, geranium and mint is a favourite among Mumsnetters for both removing and preventing stretch marks.
Hazelnut oil locks moisture into the skin, keeping it smooth and hydrated as your skin grows and changes, whether that’s during pregnancy, afterwards, or during a period of weight loss or gain.
At around £40, it isn’t cheap, but this is more than just a stretch mark treatment – it’s a skin ritual in its own right and fans say they enjoy setting aside a little time each day to smooth on the oil and allow it to sink in. It also leaves you delicately fragranced all day as well as hydrated and silky soft.
10. Best stretch mark oil for skin conditioning: Bloom and Blossom Anti Stretch Mark Oil
“I’ve been using Bloom and Blossom. So far so good and smells lovely.”
This calming oil, scented with lavender and ylang ylang, among others, is a balm to the soul as well as the skin.
The oil itself includes 11 natural and nourishing ingredients such as rich argan kernel and sweet almond oil to protect the skin, as well as marigold extract to encourage cell regeneration.
It’s said to be a wonder at reducing the appearance of scars as well as stretch marks and is also a great general skin conditioner, ideal for when you feel dry, itchy or uncomfortable.
It’s recommended to be used twice a day and is absorbed quickly and easily into the skin so you don’t have to hang around waiting for it to dry before you can get dressed.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks (or striae distensae, to give them their posh name) are effectively small scars on the skin. When the skin is stretched too quickly during growth, small tears can appear in the dermis, causing stretch marks.
They look like little lines or streaks, and can be pink, red or purple, or even brown or black. They usually fade to silver and become less easy to see over time. They appear most often on the tummy, bottom, hips, thighs and upper arms – all the places you’re most likely to gain weight.
Who gets stretch marks?
Women tend to get them more than men, though men can get them too. They most commonly affect women in pregnancy – particularly in the second and third trimester when your bump is growing most quickly – but also affect children in puberty and anyone gaining weight quickly.
Annoyingly, they can also suddenly appear as you lose weight. Stretch marks are also genetic, so if your mum got them, chances are you will too.
Do stretch mark creams really work?
The NHS says that there’s little evidence that any stretch mark creams work and that the best way to reduce your chances of getting them is to maintain a healthy body weight.
That’s sometimes easier said than done though, particularly if you’re pregnant, and it’s understandable if you want to do all you can to prevent them or get rid of them. Most of the lotions and potions on the market claim to work by hydrating the skin and keeping it supple and more elastic. To what extent you can affect what goes on in the dermis, as opposed to the top layer of your skin, is debatable, but it might be a case of every little helps.
Also, there are plenty of benefits to looking after your skin in pregnancy anyway, such as keeping your bump comfortable and reducing that itchy feeling as your skin stretches.
What can I do to avoid stretch marks?
You really can’t avoid them completely. If you’re genetically predisposed to them or you grow quickly, whether that’s putting on weight fast or carrying a baby that grows at a rate of knots, they’re just going to happen. The most important thing is to stick to a healthy diet and try to gain and lose weight at a steady pace as much as possible.
How long do stretch marks take to fade?
How long is a piece of (red and angry-looking) string? Most women say their stretch marks faded within six months to a year of giving birth, but it can take longer. For some women, they may never fully fade.
What is the best treatment for stretch marks?
There’s definitely more you can do to treat the appearance of stretch marks than there is to prevent them. According to the NHS, only solutions like laser treatments, retinoid and microdermabrasion will completely eradicate stretch marks and, even then, new ones can appear in the same places.
If you’re thinking of going down this route, always talk to your GP first and remember many of those types of treatment won’t be safe in pregnancy.
What natural remedies are there for stretch marks?
While there’s little evidence to back any definite theory here, anecdotally some natural products have been shown to help prevent or fade stretch marks. These include aloe vera, rosehip oil, argan oil, cocoa and shea butter, and coconut oil. The theory behind all these tends to be that they add elasticity to the skin to help prevent the dermis tearing as the skin grows. The key with them all is regular application – twice daily if you can – and giving your skin a good massage at the same time.
Can you permanently remove stretch marks?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure-all solution where stretch marks are concerned and they can still crop up again from time to time. If you’re naturally predisposed to them, you might get the odd one every time your body shape changes. If you had them in your first pregnancy, you’re likely to get them again.
Which oil is best for stretch marks?
There are lots of oils available that claim to help with stretch marks. Choose one that you like the scent of (or is unscented) and look for ingredients such as olive oil and argan oil that make the skin supple and stretchier. We think Bio-Oil is a good choice and lots of pharmacists and midwives recommend it over any other oil.
What’s the best pregnancy stretch mark cream?
Again, a stretch mark cream with ingredients designed to protect and strengthen your skin and keep it well moisturised are what to look out for, as well as a scent that you like.
If you’re not sure what you want, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter is a good place to start. It won’t blow the budget and you can pick it up on any high street. And if the stretch marks still appear, you’ve only spent a few quid and will smell deliciously of chocolate, so there’s very little to lose.
How we chose our recommendations
It’s very difficult to test the efficacy of stretch mark treatments in any scientific way simply because there’s little evidence to say whether they do or don’t prevent them. Even in a testing situation, the fact that someone doesn’t get stretch marks could simply mean they were never likely to get them in the first place rather than that a cream has prevented them.
So we based our recommendations largely on empirical evidence from Mumsnetters about what had worked for them in pregnancy. When looking at treatments to fade rather than prevent stretch marks, it was easier to measure success and identify products that worked.
We trawled the Mumsnet forums for conversations about creams and oils that worked for mums and made careful notes about which had the best hit rate. We then looked at reviews across the media, both in the parenting and beauty sectors, to find out which products were rated most highly by reviewers and which scored best in their testing.
We then collated this list of products with our own to come up with 10 creams and oils that we think offer something for every taste and budget.
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