Pregnancy comes with lots of annoying side effects, and one of those is the stretch marks that accumulate on your belly and thighs as your skin stretches to accommodate the growing life inside you. Here’s how to keep your skin nourished and healthy.
While stretch marks aren’t inherently bad and are really just a sign that you literally created a human being, that doesn’t mean everyone wants them there. If you’re trying to avoid stretch marks, you need to use the right cream. Here’s what to look for in a stretch mark cream and some great options to try.
What to Look for in a Stretch Mark Cream
Before we dig in, there’s an important thing to know about stretch marks and stretch mark creams. First, genetics plays a large role in whether or not you get stretch marks, so don’t beat yourself up over their appearance. Second, the best time to use stretch mark cream is before you actually start to get stretch marks, so your skin is healthy and hydrated while it’s under stress.
Even if you find stretch mark creams don’t offer the miracle solution you were hoping for, they have another benefit: They’re really moisturizing, which can lessen the itchiness that comes with a growing belly. Here’s what to know about them.
- Opt for oils. A light oil isn’t just extra hydrating, which is what you want, but it’s also more absorbent and often leaves less of a residue on your clothing.
- Hypoallergenic and natural is probably best. Your skin can become more sensitive when you’re pregnant, leading to an increased risk of infection or reactions. Plus, baby could be absorbing whatever your skin is absorbing. To be on the safe side for both of you, choose formulas made for sensitive skin with hypoallergenic ingredients, and try to avoid dyes, fragrances, and harsh chemicals.
- The more hydrating the better. Again, you really want your cream to be as moisturizing as possible because this can improve your skin’s elasticity. If you’re not opting for an oil, choose a cream made with ingredients like shea butter or coconut butter.
- Look for vitamin E. Some research has shown that vitamin E might help treat scarring and visibly affect stretch marks. Known to be one of the best ingredients in stretch mark creams, it’s definitely one to look for.
- Avoid vitamin A. Also known as retinoids, vitamin A can be harmful to use during pregnancy. Retinoids have been linked to birth defects when taken orally, and while there’s no evidence they’re linked to anything when taken topically, you’re really better safe than sorry.
Best Overall: Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter
Possibly the best stretch mark cream out there is Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter, which was clearly made with pregnant mamas in mind. Made with a hydrating blend of shea butter, cocoa butter, and jojoba, this cream is truly buttery and will leave your skin feeling incredibly soft and smooth. It’s also made with vitamin E to help reduce any scarring.
Made with natural ingredients, it has only a natural light fragrance and moisturizes almost instantly. It’s also for sensitive skin, and it doesn’t include anything harsh. A little goes a long way, and this stuff will quickly become your favorite.
Best Oil: Bio-Oil Skincare Oil
Bio-Oil is a favorite among dermatologists and mamas alike for a reason—this stuff works, and it feels great when applied to skin. It’s made with a blend of oils that are incredibly hydrating for stretching skin and can even help protect the skin postpartum.
While you might assume that so much oil would feel heavy and, well, oily, this one doesn’t feel that way at all. It’s light, absorbs almost instantly, and doesn’t leave behind a weird residue or scent. It’s better as a preventative measure than on existing stretch marks. But it also has other uses: Bio-Oil is great for treating scars and can be used as an anti-aging oil all over your body. All that, and it has a great price, too.
Bio-Oil 4.2oz: Multiuse Skincare Oil
Bio-Oil is a dermatologists' favorite for its blend of richly hydrating oils that feel lightweight and absorb easily.
Best Budget: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula for Stretch Marks
If you’re looking for something inexpensive, you can’t beat Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula. Made with pure cocoa butter, shea butter, natural oils, collagen, elastin, lutein, and vitamin E, it’s strengthening and incredibly hydrating, making a truly fantastic formula that comes at an even better price point.
The nice thing about this cream is that even though it’s full of really rich ingredients, it doesn’t feel super thick or uncomfortable when you put it on. It is smooth and makes skin soft, but it doesn’t feel heavy and it spreads nicely. And thanks to the cocoa and shea butter, it naturally smells wonderful.
Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion For Stretch Marks, Pregnancy Skin Care | 8.5 Ounces
Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula is the best inexpensive stretch mark cream because it's super hydrating and strengthening.
Best Natural Option: Earth Mama Belly Butter
When you’re pregnant, you should generally try gravitating towards as many natural skincare products as possible, just in case what you’re using is getting absorbed by baby. That’s why so many expecting mamas love this Earth Mama Belly Butter. This option is made with rich, hydrating, organic ingredients and doesn’t include petroleum, mineral oil, parabens, or any artificial fragrance.
It also feels luxurious and super moisturizing, and has a natural scent that isn’t overpowering. It’s also safe to use on your breasts, hips, and thighs, or basically anywhere where the skin is stretching and feeling uncomfortable.
Earth Mama Belly Butter to Help Ease Skin and Stretch Marks, 8-Fluid Ounce
Earth Mama Belly Butter is a rich, moisturizing formula that's all natural and organic.
Best for Prevention: Mustela Stretch Mark Prevention Cream
While most stretch marks creams are used for both prevention and for reducing the appearance of already visible stretch marks, Mustela Stretch Mark Prevention Cream is made specifically with, well, prevention in mind. It’s made with plant-based ingredients like natural avocado peptides and Galactoarabinan, which promote skin elasticity and thoroughly moisturize.
As a bonus, this formula doesn’t include any alcohol or caffeine, making it hypoallergenic, pregnancy-and breastfeeding-safe, and great for sensitive skin. Although it feels rich and creamy, it absorbs quickly to get the job done.
Mustela Stretch Mark Prevention Cream for Pregnancy, 8.45 Fl Oz
Mustela Stretch Mark Prevention Cream is made with plant-based ingredients to promote skin elasticity.
Best Scent: Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Butter
Lots of pregnant women don’t actually want a product with scent, especially if they’re dealing with morning sickness, as any strong scent can easily induce nausea. But if you’re looking for something that smells great, go for Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Butter. Made with sweet almond and olive oils as well as rose-hip oil, this stuff smells pretty incredible for a stretch mark cream.
And, of course, it also actually works. It’s also made with other oils packed with omegas, like avocado and coconut oil, as well as rich shea butter for a really moisturizing experience. The rose-hip oil smells great and reduces pigmentation, so this is ideal for lessening any redness in the area.