The Creams That Dermatologists (and Our Testers) Swear By to Help Prevent and Fade Stretch Marks (2024)

Stretch marks are totally normal for everyone. Scientifically referred to as striae, they pop up when the skin stretches quickly—think during pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss, and puberty. They initially have a purple, pink, or red hue and gradually fade to more of a silvery color. “They indicate a breakdown in the elasticity of the skin as it stretches,” explains New York-based dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD. She recommends skin-nourishing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, or hyaluronic acid to keep the skin well-hydrated and help it remain more elastic.

You don’t need to feel pressure to shrink stretch marks, but it’s also fine to feel like you want to do something about them. The big caveat to treating stretch marks is there’s no magical lotion or potion that will erase them. With that said, we conducted hours of research to find the best stretch mark creams on the market, evaluating each option on its key ingredients, ability to hydrate the skin, and effectiveness at fading pigmentation. We also took a few products for a spin over several weeks. After consulting two dermatologists and considering dozens of formulas, we landed on these top-rated creams that actually make a difference.

Byrdie Tip

Board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Hadley King recommends using a stretch mark cream before you have them as more of a preventative measure. So, if you’re expecting or plan to be soon, get into the habit of applying a stretch mark cream daily. If you’re looking to improve the appearance of existing stretch marks and don't plan to visit your dermatologist for an in-office treatment, it’s best to start using a stretch mark cream as soon as you see it form for best results.

Our Top Picks

What We Like

  • Good for sensitive skin

  • Increases elasticity

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like

  • Results take time to show up

Key Ingredients: Cocoa seed butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks | Size: 4.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No

This brand has a large following thanks to having been around forever and its range of cocoa butter-based lotions. Ideal for your stomach, hips, thighs, and bust, Palmer's signature formula treats stretch marks with a potent, velvety blend of plant oils, pure cocoa butter, vitamin E, shea butter, and bio c-elaste (which is a combination of collagen, elastin, and an inflammation-fighting herb called Centella Asiatica).

Together, these ingredients help increase elasticity in your skin to help ward off new stretch marks. You might not see instant results, but apply this formula every day and the hydrating blend should help reduce the appearance of stretch marks over time.

What We Like

  • Fragrance-free

  • Smooth texture

  • Made from 99% naturally-derived ingredients

What We Don't Like

  • Smell might be off-putting

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil | Application Area: Stomach | Size: 6.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

This drugstore staple is proof positive that there’s no need to shell out the big bucks for a good stretch mark cream. Shea butter (known to help repair the skin barrier), cocoa butter, and jojoba give this formula its ultra-rich and creamy feel.We love that the ingredients are 99 percent natural. Reviewers rave about how well it wards off dry, itchy skin, as well as pregnancy-induced stretch marks. However, even though it’s touted as being fragrance-free, some said there is a scent that they didn’t love.

What We Like

  • Increases elasticity

  • Hydrating formula with hyaluronic acid and dimethicone

  • Can be used while breastfeeding

  • Free of parabens

What We Don't Like

  • Smell might be off-putting

Key Ingredients: Cepalin, centella asiatica, hyaluronic acid | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Size: 5.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No

This formula you can get at the drugstore earns points for helping to prevent new stretch marks from forming and treating existing ones, too. For prevention purposes, it contains a combination of hydrating hyaluronic acid and emollient dimethicone (increasing moisture in the skin keeps it more elastic and less likely to tear and scar.)

But it doesn’t stop there. Cepalin, a proprietary botanical ingredient, and Centella Asiatica (another plant extract known for its outstanding skin-soothing and healing properties) help fade the appearance of any existing marks. We also love that it’s free from parabens, chemical preservatives linked to hormonal disruption and breast cancer, making it safe for breast-feeding mamas. The only downside? It doesn’t smell particularly wonderful.

What We Like

  • Hydrating formula with shea, coconut, and mango seed butter

  • Smells good

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like

  • Unhygienic container

Key Ingredients: Shea butter | Application Area: All | Size: 5.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Mutha’s founder and CEO created this product when she was pregnant and wanted to fend off stretch marks so you know it comes from someone who gets it. It’s loaded with all kinds of nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory butter (including shea, cocoa, and mango seed) and oils that do exactly that, but it's also just an all-around great body moisturizer.

Despite the name, it has more of a soufflé-like consistency; former Byrdie GM Leah Wyar (a self-proclaimed mega-fan of the brand) notes that it melts into the skin instantly. If we have one complaint it’s that we wish it came in a hygienic pump bottle rather than a jar.

What We Like

  • Easy to spread

  • Pregnancy-safe, clean formula

  • Pump bottle

What We Don't Like

  • Smell might be off-putting to some

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, jojoba oil, calendula blossom | Application Area: Stomach, hips, breasts | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pregnant people tend to develop stretch marks because their skin stretches as their baby develops. While a cream can’t necessarily stop this, it can help make skin more elastic and therefore less likely to retain as many marks postpartum. With a blend of organic herbs and essential oils in a creamy shea butter base, this is ideal for pregnant people to slather on the hips, belly, and breasts. We love that it's just as safe and effective to use post-pregnancy, too.

Not only does it help prevent stretch marks, but it also helps soothe itching, a common side effect that comes with them. And while it doesn’t contain any synthetic fragrance, it does have a slightly sweet citrusy scent that not all reviewers loved.

What We Like

  • Increases elasticity

  • Helps produce more collagen

  • Fastens the removal of broken-down fat cells

What We Don't Like

  • Might not bring fast enough results

Key Ingredients: Peptides, lipodrone | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Size: 6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Yes, we know this one costs a lot, but when you see how it works, you’ll get why we’d spring for it. While this product isn’t geared towards stretch marks specifically (it’s meant to be used after skin-tightening procedures), it does work to stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin using active peptides. That’s what makes it a good pick, according to Mariwalla, who recommends layering it underneath a plain body moisturizer for extra hydration.

“The combination truly does improve the elasticity of the skin and can help address both the depth and width of stretch marks,” she explains. The formula doesn’t work overnight but stick with it and you should see improvements in skin tone and texture—including stretch marks.

What We Like

  • ​​Hydrating formula with shea butter, cocoa butter, and avocado

  • Treats and prevents

  • Gentle exfoliator with lactic acid

What We Don’t Like

  • Can’t be used on breasts

Key Ingredients: Proprietary complexes, lactic acid, shea butter, cocoa butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No

Exfoliating stretch marks might sound strange, but it can even out skin texture making them appear less visible. Peter Thomas Roth Pro-Strength Stretch Mark Cream contains 5% lactic acid, a gentle milk-derived exfoliator that increases skin thickness, preventing the appearance of future and existing stretch marks. The product is also very hydrating, thanks to the shea butter, cocoa butter, and avocado oil, and reinforces the skin barrier with help from Ceramide NP.

One thing to note: the product isn’t recommended for use on the breast area, so if that’s the site of your stretch marks you should opt for a different product.

If your skin feels a little on the thin/dry side, this formula will gradually work to thicken and moisturize it, improving the appearance of stretch marks in the process.

What We Like

  • 97% naturally-derived ingredients

  • Increases elasticity

  • Non-greasy

What We Don't Like

  • Might not work on sensitive skin

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, avocado peptides, maracuja | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Size: 8.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pregnant women rave about the preventative benefits of this cream, which is made from 97% natural ingredients. At work are avocado peptides, which reinforce skin elasticity, anti-inflammatory maracuja oil (AKA passion fruit seed extract), shea butter, and galactoarabinan (say that five times fast), a natural moisturizer derived from larch trees.

Although Mustela formulates the product to minimize the risk of allergic reactions (it even comes in a fragrance-free version), some reviewers with sensitive skin reported reactions after using it.

What We Like

  • Minimizes pores

  • Doubles as acne treatment

  • Helps produce a more even skin texture

What We Don't Like

  • Can be drying for some

Key Ingredients: 0.1% adapalene | Application Area: Face and body | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No

Retinoids are proven to help boost collagen while evening out skin texture and tone, making them a useful ingredient in your stretch mark-fighting arsenal. “Retinoids are my top-recommended topical ingredients for stretch marks, and nightly use of this one will help fade red or purple marks over time and also improve the texture,” she says.

The skin on our chest area was noticeably smoother after a week of use, and we loved that the product doubles as an acne treatment. But FYI, because it's a retinoid, this is definitely a no-go if you’re currently pregnant.

Read Full Review: The Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment Cleared My Acne

What We Like

  • Lightweight

  • Softens skin

  • Good for sensitive skin

What We Don't Like

  • Not safe for pregnancy

Main Ingredient: Vitamin A, vitamin E, PurCellin oil | Application Area: Hips, thighs, buttocks | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No

When tackling stretch marks, it doesn’t hurt to increase blood flow to the area using massage. For that, you’ll need a product like Bio-Oil, a fan favorite that’s been around since the 80s.We love that the product feels nourishing and hydrating but doesn’t leave a residue behind. It also contains exfoliating vitamin A (AKA retinoid), which makes this a good pick for treating scars but a no-go for use during pregnancy.

"Another staple for stretch mark sufferers, this is lightweight, easily absorbed, and can improve not only the texture of stretch marks but also the overall pigmentation of the skin,” says Mariwalla. Credit a combination of botanical ingredients like antioxidant marigold extract and anti-inflammatory chamomile, PurCellin Oil (a proprietary “delivery system” that helps the ingredients absorb quickly and gives Bio-Oil its signature lightweight consistency).

Read Full Review: This Popular Oil Promises to Even Skin Tone, so I Put It to the Test

What We Like

  • Reusable

  • Safe for all stages of pregnancy

  • Work on new and old stretch marks

What We Don’t Like

  • Takes a few months to work

Key Ingredients: Medical-grade silicone | Application Area: Stomach, breasts, hips, thighs | Size: 7 x 7 inches | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Okay, so we know this is a round-up of creams, but if you want to address stretch marks another way, these easy-to-use patches are where it’s at. They’re made entirely of medical-grade silicone, which is well-known to help heal the skin by boosting collagen production and elasticity.

Pop them on and wear them anywhere from one to eight hours per day; this kit comes with a cleaner so that you can clean and reuse the patches anywhere from 15 to 30 times. The best part: nothing enters your bloodstream when you use these silicone patches, making them safe for all stages of pregnancy. Not only are they mess-free, but they work on both new and older stretch marks. They can take some time to work though.

What We Like

  • Hydrating formula with mineral oil

  • Absorbs fast

  • Non-greasy

What We Don’t Like

  • Not specifically intended to treat stretch marks

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, retinyl palmitate, mineral oil | Application Area: Stomach, breasts, hips, thighs | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No

A new take on the brand’s beloved oil that also nabbed a spot on this list, this pick acts as a great hydrator, imparting lots of moisture in a fast-absorbing gel formula that doesn’t ever feel greasy or sticky. While it’s technically not meant to help treat stretch marks the same way the OG formula does, keeping the skin hydrated can help keep them from forming in the first place.

Mineral Oil (which is deemed safe but can be controversial because it’s derived from petrolatum) is the key moisturizer in this formula, helping to lock in hydration and reinforce the skin barrier. Plus, anti-inflammatory sunflower and lavender oils help calm and soothe the skin.

What We Like

  • Hydrating formula with avocado oil and shea butter

  • Safe for post-pregnancy use

  • Increases blood circulation to stomach area

What We Don’t Like

  • Has a slight warming sensation when applied

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, avocado oil, pink pepperslim extract | Application Area: Stomach | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Reach for this tube to treat stretch marks on your tummy (whether postpartum or not). It has avocado oil and shea butter to keep skin moisturized and flexible, plus pink pepperslim, a plant-based extract said to speed up blood circulation and fat cell metabolism.

Reviewers rave about how well it works post-pregnancy, although it does have a warming sensation upon application that can take some getting used to.

What We Like

  • Plant-based retinol alternative

  • Great smell

  • Also treats hyperpigmentation and cellulite

What We Don't Like

  • Small amount

Key Ingredients: Bakuchiol, coconut oil, camellia leaf extract | Application Area: Butt, hips, and thighs | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

The star ingredient in this cream from booty-care line Anese is bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative with the same smoothing and firming effect but without the risk of irritation.After a couple of weeks, reviewers noticed that even their most stubborn stretch marks looked lighter and less noticeable.We’re a little disappointed that the product comes in such a small jar, especially considering you’ll want to use it every day to get the best results.

What We Like

  • Absorbs quickly

  • Dermatologist- and allergy-tested

  • Easy-to-use dropper applicator

What We Don’t Like

  • May take a while to deliver results

Key Ingredients: Calendula, sweet almond oil, and grapefruit oil | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, boobs | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Applying this oil to your bump (and everywhere else) after bathing is a nourishing ritual you’ll want to continue through pregnancy and beyond.An ideal option to help prevent stretch marks as your baby bump grows, this oil is made entirely with natural ingredients–think moisturizing calendula, sweet almond oil, and grapefruit oil.The easy-to-use dropper makes application a breeze and it dries quickly so you can get dressed right after. We love that it’s dermatologist- and allergy-tested, can be used anywhere on the body, and also doubles as a moisturizing bath oil. Just remember, noticeable results will take time.

What We Like

  • Potent formula with retinol

  • Yields results quickly

  • Non-greasy

What We Don't Like

  • Can't be used if you're pregnant

Key Ingredients: Retinol, vitamin C, shea butter | Application Area: All | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Many creams targeting stretch marks can help prevent them from forming, but what about those silver stretch marks that have been around for years (think from childhood growth spurts)? Enter this retinol treatment from Paula's Choice. While it isn't marketed as a stretch mark cream, it has dozens of reviews raving about how it was able to fade old marks and treat cellulite.

It's formulated with 0.1% retinol to smooth and firm the skin, vitamin C to brighten, and glycerin and shea butter to hydrate—the perfect combination to treat unwanted marks of all kinds. However, the retinol makes this one a no-go if you're expecting.

What To Look For in a Stretch Mark Cream

  • Hydrating Ingredients: Above all, moisturizing the skin with tried-and-true hydrating ingredients—like shea butter, coconut oil, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid—can help improve the texture of stretch marks. If you’re looking for hydrating formulas, we recommend Mederma Stretch Marks Therapy or Mutha Body Butter.
  • Retinoids: These vitamin A derivatives are also at the top of Mariwalla’s list of ingredients to look for since they can help fade the color and improve the texture of stretch marks. Some of our favorite stretch mark creams that include retinoids in their formulation are the Bio Oil Dry Gel, which includes a small amount of vitamin A, and Differin Gel, which has 0.1% adapalene. The big caveat? They’re a no-go if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

FAQ

  • Do stretch mark creams actually work?

    Stretch mark creams and lotions aren’t magic—your best bet for fading existing stretch marks is to visit your dermatologist for an in-office treatment such as laser therapy. However, according to Dr. King, massaging in these topicals (especially one that contains a retinoid) may yield some improvements in their appearance. And, as Dr. Mariwalla points out above, products with nourishing ingredients can be an effective option for preventing stretch marks from occurring in the first place or at least keeping existing marks from getting worse.

  • Do stretch mark creams work on old stretch marks?

    According to Dr. King, stretch mark creams may show some improvements in old stretch marks, but you can expect any results to be on the subtle side. “Topical products or superficial exfoliation don’t have deep or strong enough effects to remodel ruptured collagen and elastin, but they may offer a mild improvement in appearance,” she says.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She slathers on a stretch mark cream nightly for prevention purposes (she rotates among many on this list) and is also hoarding many of these guys for future use once she’s pregnant.

Additional guidance was provided by Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Cornell University's Weill Medical College, and New York-based dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD.

The Creams That Dermatologists (and Our Testers) Swear By to Help Prevent and Fade Stretch Marks (2024)
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