How to Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy and Beyond

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How to Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy and Beyond featured image
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You have enough to be concerned about during pregnancy, so let’s take stretch marks out of the equation. Thanks to expert advice and cutting-edge innovations, the pesky tiger stripes can be prevented, eased and fully erased (if you want).

Let’s be real, these marks don’t just occur during pregnancy. Some of us have had our stripes since our first growth spurt, and others see them occur commonly when either gaining or losing weight. But since pregnancy involves so much stretching to accommodate your developing bundle of joy, the tiger stripes that occur during pregnancy can be particularly troublesome.

The good news is, we have the expert-approved solutions.

Featured Experts

  • Olga Bachilo, MD is a plastic surgeon based in Houston
  • Norman Rowe, MD is a plastic surgeon based in New York
  • Rebekah Mustaleski is a certified professional midwife
  • Sejal Shah, MD is a dermatologist based in New York
  • Martha Soffer is an Ayurvedic expert and founder of Surya Spa

What Are Stretch Marks?

According to New York plastic surgeon, Norman Rowe, MD, stretch marks are a type of scar. “Stretch marks are due to the rapid expansion and/or contraction of skin,” Dr. Rowe says. “Make no mistake, stretch marks are a scar and need to be treated as such.”

Unfortunately, the most common factor behind the formation of stretch marks is straight up genetics. Things like hormones, how many children you’re having, and your size before pregnancy are all factors, but none of those are really in our control.

There really is only one thing in our control when it comes to preventing stretch marks: keeping our skin hydrated. “The most important thing that you can do for your abdominal skin is really to keep it hydrated,” says New York dermatologist, Sejal Shah, MD. 

When Can They Appear?

Any time your skin is asked to stretch or shrink quickly, you could see stretch marks. That means everything from pregnancy to major weight loss could result in those dermal scars.

“I am seeing more stretch marks now due to what I think is the popularity of the semiglutide medications to promote weight loss, often at an accelerated rate,” Dr. Rowe adds.

While many pregnant women notice stretch marks on their bellies, certified professional midwife and compression director at Motif Medical, Rebekah Mustaleski explains that nowhere is off limits. “They often start as a small spot that can be itchy, and they can grow into a line over time,” Mustaleski says. “Stretch marks can show up all over the body. They aren’t limited to one particular area.”

How to Prevent Stretch Marks

For Ayurvedic expert and founder of Surya, Martha Soffer, preventing the formation of these marks has everything to do packing in as much moisture as possible. “I recommend oil, oil, and more oil!” Soffer says. The idea is to keep skin hydrated in anticipation of how pregnancy will stretch it out, providing it with the essential nutrients it needs to stay strong.

“I often remind clients that stretch marks only form when the skin is dry and being pulled/stretched in usual ways,” Soffer explains. “If the skin is instead moisturized during such pulling and stretching, no stretch marks end up forming.”

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) agrees, noting that early intervention is the best strategy when trying to avoid the formation of these marks. There are even some in-office options you can have while pregnant.

“I find that microneedling and platelet rich plasma treatment yield the best and most reliable results,” Dr. Rowe says. “This treatment can be performed on anyone, including a pregnant/lactating patient.”

Products to Prevent Stretch Marks

It’s important to remember to ask your OBGYN about the safety of any product before you begin using it. Retinol, for example, is not a pregnancy-safe ingredient.

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Summer Fridays Babymoon Belly Balm ($29)

Created by an expecting mother, the Babymoon Belly Balm melts into skin for an instant boost in skin elasticity. Using pregnancy-safe ingredients like avocado and sunflower oil, this balm doesn’t just pack in hydration, but also helps soothe the irritation that comes with stretch marks.

“I’m now expecting my second child, and have finally perfected our belly balm while testing it on my ever-changing body,” explains cofounder Lauren Ireland. “I am so happy with how this product has eased feelings of itchiness and irritation that come with being pregnant.”

BUY NOW – $29

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Elemis Japanese Camellia Body Oil Blend ($62)

Designed for pregnant and postpartum skin, this camellia body oil delivers rich plant collagen right where your skin needs it. In clinical testing, 92 percent of users found this oil made their skin more supple, a key factor in preventing the formation of stretch marks.

Conditioning and nourishing skin, nails and even hair, this body oil was Victoria Beckham‘s pregnancy must-have.

BUY NOW – $62

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Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream ($11)

You don’t have to shell out the big bucks to get a big impact with Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream. Formulated with dermatologists and accepted by the National Eczema Foundation, this moisturizer is packed with niacinamide, glycerin and skin-essential vitamins.

The formula specifically addresses the tight feeling skin can get when it’s dry, delivering critical moisture to make skin more elastic. That’s exactly what you want to prevent stretch marks.

BUY NOW – $11

Treating Existing Stretch Marks

According to the AAD, many remedies that can help prevent the formation of stretch marks don’t really do much for ones that are already there. “In studies, popular home remedies have not worked,” explains the AAD’s page on stretch marks. “Researchers found that none of the stretch marks faded when people massaged almond oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, or vitamin E into their stretch marks.”

In fact, the majority of the treatments and recommendations you’ll find from experts are the kind you need to get in-office or by prescription. Ingredients like tretinoin and retinol have been shown to help improve the appearance of these marks, but by and large, experts recommend treatments that stimulate collagen and elastin.

A before and after showing the treatment of stretch marks.
Dr. Orit Markowtiz treated this patient with the V-Beam Perfecta pulse dye laser.

Houston, TX plastic surgeon Olga Bachilo, MD notes that when it comes to treating existing stretch marks, the sooner you start treating them, the better off you’ll be. “The best time to treat them is when they’re fresh,” Dr. Bachilo says. “But radio-frequency microneedling works to decrease existing marks as well by remodeling collagen and increasing skin quality.”

While topical products may not yield major results, there are treatments meant to tackle the more red and difficult marks, too.

“I feel that topical treatments do not yield much as far as noticeable results (putting a cream on a scar does not make it go away, right?),” Dr. Rowe says. “Laser treatment is also helpful, especially for reddened stretch marks.”

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