Do Stretch Mark Removal Creams Actually Work? Here’s the Truth
Different types lines appear on our bodies as we age throughout the years, from wrinkles to stretch marks. Stretch marks are the long, narrow lines that, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, develop when our skin stretches (or shrinks!) quickly, causing the collagen and elastin support network to rupture.
Depending on your skin color, stretch marks can range from red, to purple, to dark brown, and commonly crop up on the abdomen, hips, thighs, and/or breasts, usually around puberty and during pregnancy: In fact, a 2015 study in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology found that more than half of all pregnant women will develop stretch marks during pregnancy.
Though millions of people develop stretch marks at some point in their lives, many strive to get rid of them as quickly as they show up. If you’re looking to disguise or get rid of your stretch marks, here’s everything you need to know:
Do stretch mark creams actually work?
Unfortunately, most stretch marks can’t be fully removed, confirms Manish Shah, M.D., a plastic surgeon based in Colorado. This is because stretch marks are technically breaks in the skin, which are difficult to repair. However, he says that there are ways to soften the appearance of stretch marks by improving the collagen content of the skin and getting the color to fade with time.
The best way to treat stretch marks is with prevention: make sure that your skin is healthy and strong. “Dietary fish oil supplements can help keep the skin hydrated and elastic, vitamin C supplements ensure that you make good quality collagen, and the use of moisturizers and sunscreen protects the skin from continuing damage,” says Dr. Shah. For at-home stretch mark treatment, Dr. Shah says the best thing to do for a new stretch mark “is to vertically massage the stretch mark and cover it with sunblock to soften and fade it.”
Birnur Aral, Ph.D, director of the Beauty Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, suggests “products that can increase elasticity of skin before the stretching injury happens.” She suggests looking for “cohort topicals with hyaluronic acid (a powerhouse humectant), and tretinoin, a prescription retinol cream.” However, pregnant women should consult their doctors for recommendations: certain collagen- and elastin-producing ingredients can be iffy for use during pregnancy.
Below, a list of the best products to prevent stretch marks, help heal them once they’ve formed, and even help to temporarily disguise them.
Best Overall Stretch Mark Removal Treatment
Apply Bio-Oil daily to minimize stretch marks and scars — even if you’ve had the blemishes for a few years. In one clinical study, more than half of testers saw changes to scars after two weeks.
Great for your whole body and face, the GH Seal star is absorbs quickly and also helps even out your skin tone. It’s packed with powerhouse ingredients like natural oils and a vitamin A derivative to hydrate skin and improve its appearance.
- Minimizes the appearance of scars
- Evens skin tone
Best Value Stretch Mark Removal Cream
Massage Lotion For Stretch Marks
Replace your regular moisturizer for one that is rich in hydrating ingredients such as argan oil and shea butter, both found in this cult-classic and budget-friendly lotion. “When you develop a stretch mark, [one of] the best things to do is to vertically massage the stretch mark,” says Dr. Shah.
Best Cream to Fade Stretch Marks
Body Partner Stretch Mark Cream
A thick cream formulated specifically to minimize the appearance of stretch marks, this lotion uses plant-based ingredients to target trouble areas. “I had deep stretch marks on my legs that really bothered me,” one reviewer says. “I noticed results quickly, the dark purple faded and the marks became smaller.” Take note: some reviewers disliked the packaging, since the cream is thick and hard to squeeze out.
- Helps minimize the appearance of marks
Best Retinol Stretch Mark Removal Cream
RESIST Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
If you want to try a retinol without getting a prescription, opt for this over-the counter body treatment. Retinol and antioxidants help to re-texturize and firm skin, creating a smoother surface. “I decided to try this to fade some scars on my leg,” one reviewer says. “It has worked wonders.”
- Retinol helps skin texture
- Evens skin tone
Best Cream for Stretch Mark Prevention
Ultra Healing Body Lotion
When it comes to body lotions, this one has been a longtime favorite for the GH Beauty Lab. The formula of glycerin, oat and shea butter is a nearly unbeatable combination. In Lab tests, it was found to boost skin hydration by 56% for over six hours, meaning it will help keep your skin hydrated and plump to ward off stretch marks.
Best Stretch Mark Cream for Pregnancy
Mama Bee Belly Butter
Designed specifically with expecting mothers in mind, this body butter is a game-changer when it comes to stretch marks during pregnancy. “It was my first pregnancy and I was really worried of getting stretch marks,” one reviewer says. “I did so much online research to find the right product and I am glad it was this one! I started in the second trimester. It kept my skin so smooth the entire time, and luckily for me, I did get not a single mark.”
- Smooths and softens skin
- Fragrance-free and non-irritating
Best Firming Stretch Mark Removal Cream
Brazilian Bum Bum Cream
Packed with cupuaçu butter, açaí oil and coconut oil, this rich, buttery cream leaves skin soft, smooth and supple. “I get compliments on my skin, saying it looks like satin and the cream leaves my skin firm and soft when I use it,” one reviewer says. It also smells like a caramel and pistachio sundae, which is always a plus.
- Smooths skin
- Deeply hydrating
- Smells good
Best Stretch Mark Prevention Cream for Pregnancy
Stretch Mark Prevention Cream
This product has been a go-to for pregnant women for decades, and it has glowing reviews: 96% of women who used this product regularly throughout their pregnancy did not develop stretch marks during their pregnancy, according to a clinical trial conducted on 26 pregnant women.
- Helps skin elasticity
- Targets stretch marks before they happen
Best SPF for Stretch Mark Prevention
AntiOxidant+ Sunscreen Lotion
Protect your skin by applying an SPF every day: “sunscreen protects the skin from continuing damage,” says Dr. Shah. A winner in our Lab test for best sunscreens, this Hawaiian Tropic lotion earned high scores all around. Consumers said that this sunscreen was non-irritating and didn’t feel drying on skin. Its best-rated attribute: Not making skin feel greasy, oily, or slippery, even in the hot sun.
- Protects skin from sun damage that can exacerbate stretch marks
- SPF 50
Best Hydrating Stretch Mark Treatment
Hydro Boost Hydrating Body Gel Cream
Keeping skin hydrated is one of the best ways to prevent stretch marks from ever appearing. The hyaluronic acid in this body gel cream helps quench skin’s thirst and keeps it healthy and moisturized, which can stop stretch marks in their tracks.
- Deeply hydrating
- Good for stretch mark prevention
Best Stretch Mark Removal Cream for After Pregnancy
Stretch Marks Therapy
Give your skin a hydration boost with a cream packed with hyaluronic acid and centenella asiatica (commonly known as cica). According to a survey conducted by the brand, 76% of women who used this product for 12 weeks saw a reduction in stretch marks and were satisfied with how much their stretch marks improved. If you’re not, this one comes with a money back guarantee.
- Helps even skin tone
- Can be used during breast-feeding
Best Stretch Mark Disguising Body Bronzer
Monoï Body Glow I
Since stretch marks are essentially scars, they can’t naturally tan: but you can disguise them by applying a bronzer (or self-tanner) over your lines to temporarily hide them from sight. Use this vitamin-packed liquid bronzer to give your body a healthy glow while also feeding it hydrating ingredients.
- Temporarily disguises stretch marks
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