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Stretch marks are a common side effect of rapid weight gain or loss, and many people develop them when pregnant. Several creams may help moisturize the skin and minimize stretch mark appearance.

Stretch marks, which doctors call striae distensae, appear when the skin stretches rapidly, such as during sudden weight gain or loss. When a person becomes pregnant, the skin around their abdomen stretches to accommodate the growing baby. This causes the skin’s support structure to break down and form a scar.

Learn more about how the skin changes throughout pregnancy.

Other factors, such as family history, hormones, and stress, can increase the risk of more visible stretch marks.

Several stretch mark creams are available for use during or after pregnancy to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. However, evidence on the effectiveness of these treatments is inconclusive.

Hyaluronic acid, silicone, ascorbic acid, cocoa butter, and some forms of oil, such as almond and coconut, may help increase collagen production. However, people will need to use these therapies for a long time and may only notice moderate results.

Learn more about how to boost collagen production.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) states that stretch marks, like other scars, do not go away completely. However, they may become less noticeable with time, and treating them with topical applications when they first appear may make them less visible.

People who are pregnant should consult a healthcare professional before using stretch mark creams, as some ingredients can cause harm to the fetus both before and after birth.

For example, retinol, a common ingredient in skin repair products and scar treatments, can cause birth irregularities, such as growth delay before birth, atypical face and skull shapes, and issues with the central nervous system or the heart.

If a person is pregnant or nursing, they also need to avoid products containing hydroquinone. This is a common ingredient in skin-lightening products, which some may use to try to reduce the appearance of reddish stretch marks.

The body absorbs 35% to 45% of hydroquinone, so healthcare professionals recommend people who are pregnant or nursing avoid using products containing this ingredient.

The following table compares the stretch mark creams in this article on price, ingredients, and more.

PriceSizeTypeKey ingredientsCustomer rating
Mutha$45/
$95
1.7 fluid ounces (fl oz)/
5.5 fl oz
butter• shea butter
• mango seed butter
• cocoa seed butter
4.7 out of 5 stars
Burt’s Beesaround $136.5 ozbutter• shea butter
• cocoa butter
• jojoba butter
• vitamin E
4.5 out of 5 stars
Glow Organicsaround $254 ozbutter• organic shea butter
• organic cocoa butter
• organic macadamia
• organic grapeseed oil
• organic almond oil
4.3 out of 5 stars
Bio-Oilaround $306.7 fl ozoil• vitamin E
• vitamin A
• chamomile oil
• rosemary oil
• lavender oil
• PurCellin oil
4.7 out of 5 stars
Mustelaaround $225.07 fl ozcream• avocado peptides
• maracuja polyphenols
• hamamelis plant extract
• beeswax
• shea butter
4.5 out of 5 stars
Earth Mama$208 fl ozlotion• aloe juice
• olive oil
• shea butter
• oat protein
• jojoba oil
4.8 out of 5 stars
Palmer’saround $108.5 fl ozlotion• shea butter
• cocoa butter
• vitamin E
• collagen
• elastin
• lutein
4.6 out of 5 stars
Mommy Knows Bestaround $184 fl ozcream• shea butter
• jojoba oil
• green tea
• green bean seed
3.9 out of 5 stars
Munchkin Milkmakersaround $145.33 ozroll-on• coconut oil
• rosehip oil
• shea butter
4.3 out of 5 stars
Pipettearound $204 fl ozoil• squalane
• vitamin E
• calendula
• winter cherry
4.4 out of 5 stars
Derma Earound $212 fl ozgel• zinc oxide
• panthenol
• allantoin
4.3 out of 5 stars

Medical News Today chooses stretch mark creams for pregnancy based on the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: MNT will only select products that are safe to use while pregnant and nursing.
  • Lifestyle and diet suitability: MNT will choose a range of products suitable for most lifestyles and diets, such as people who are eco-conscious, vegan, or gluten-free.
  • Fragrance: MNT selects products that have a fragrance and those that do not suit people more sensitive to scents.
  • Formulation: MNT chooses products that are oils, creams, and butters to suit people’s preferences.
  • Price: MNT selects products in a range of prices to suit most budgets.
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While stretch mark creams can hydrate the skin and relieve any itchiness or discomfort, there is not enough evidence to suggest they treat current stretch marks or prevent new ones.

It is always important to read ingredient lists before committing to a purchase. Most common ingredients include shea butter, vitamin E, and oils, which are not harmful to a fetus. However, manufacturers do make some creams that they do not market specifically for pregnancy that may contain harmful ingredients, such as retinol.

It is also important to avoid any products that contain ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction. For example, a person who has a tree nut or coconut allergy needs to avoid products that use coconut oil.

People may also wish to consider the scent of the cream. Anecdotally, those who are pregnant may have a higher sensitivity to smell. An unscented cream may be more tolerable throughout pregnancy.

Many unpreventable factors contribute to the development of stretch marks, such as a family history of this condition and hormones.

However, there is some evidence that hydration and the consumption of fruit and vegetables may help prevent stretch marks. A 2018 study of 288 pregnant women found that a higher intake of water, fruits, and vegetables led to fewer stretch marks over the course of pregnancy.

Learn more about preventing stretch marks.

Here, we answer some common questions about these products.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends starting treatment for stretch marks as soon as they appear.

Some people may choose to use moisturizing products before or during early pregnancy to hydrate and protect the skin.

According to anecdotal reviews, stretch mark creams appear to work best on newer stretch marks.

Coconut oil hydrates the skin, which may help ease discomfort and improve skin elasticity.

There is no definitive research proving that either cream or oil-based products are best for preventing or treating stretch marks.

A person should choose the type of product they prefer and use it consistently for best results.

There is no one product or treatment that is proven to effectively prevent or treat stretch marks during pregnancy. However, a 2018 study found that regular intake of water, fruits, and vegetables during pregnancy may help prevent stretch marks.

Stretch marks are visible scars due to the skin stretching quickly. While these marks fade over time, stretch mark creams may help prevent further scarring as they hydrate the skin and may help elasticity.

However, pregnant people need to consult with a healthcare professional before using stretch mark creams, especially ones that manufacturers do not market for use during pregnancy. Some ingredients can cause birth irregularities.