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Stretch marks are common and absolutely normal for any human. Technically called striae, they indicate a breakdown in the elasticity of the skin as it stretches, explains New York-based dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla. They pop up when the skin stretches quickly—think during pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss, and puberty—and initially have a purple, pink, or red hue, gradually fading to more of a skin-toned color.
The big caveat when it comes to treating stretch marks is that there’s no magical lotion or potion that will erase them. Dermatologists unanimously agree that in-office treatments like lasers and light devices are the best solution. That being said, over-the-counter creams with certain ingredients like hyaluronic acid can keep the skin well-hydrated and help it remain more elastic. Moisturizers and balms with vitamin A—also known as retinoids—can speed up the fading of stretch marks. Look on the packaging for skin-nourishing ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil, which are good options for preventing stretch marks from occurring in the first place or getting worse, as Mariwalla points out.
The bottom line: Stretch marks are normal, and you don’t need to feel pressure to cover them up or change them at all. That being said, it's just as acceptable to feel like you want to try and do something about them.
If that’s the case for you, check out the best stretch mark creams on the market.
Best Overall: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks
Main Ingredient: Cocoa seed butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, dyes | Size: 4.4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
This brand has a cult-like following thanks to its variety of cocoa butter-based lotions and Mariwalla calls this one the “OG of stretch mark creams.” Ideal for your stomach, hips, thighs, and bust, Palmer's signature formula works to treat stretch marks courtesy of a potent, velvety blend of argan and almond oils, as well as pure cocoa butter, vitamin E, shea butter, and bio c-elaste (which is a combination of collagen, elastin, and Centella Asiatica). Together, this combo helps increase elasticity in your skin to help ward off new stretch marks (whether or not you're pregnant). And at such a wallet-friendly price, you can slather it on with reckless abandon without having to worry about breaking the bank.
“By moisturizing with ingredients that are well-absorbed by the skin, you can improve skin hydration and potentially the texture stretch marks as well,” explains Mariwalla.
Best Budget: Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: Stomach | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, sulfates, dyes | Size: 6.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: 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, cocoa, and jojoba butters give this formula its ultra-rich and creamy feel—plus, it's 99% natural. Happy reviewers rave about how well it wards off dry, itchy skin, as well as pregnancy-induced stretch marks.
Best for Pregnancy: Earth Mama Organics Belly Butter
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, breasts | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, petroleum, dyes, artificial fragrance | Size: 8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.
With a blend of organic herbs and essential oils in a creamy shea butter base, this is ideal for expectant moms to slather on the hips, belly, and breasts—and is 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.
Best for Stomach: Mio Skincare Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Butter
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, dyes | Size: 4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Try this super-sized tub of deeply moisturizing body butter meant to prevent stretch marks as your baby belly grows. It uses organic sweet almond and olive oils to relieve redness and itching, while rosehip fruit oil helps heal and renew skin.
Best Hydrating: Mederma Stretch Marks Therapy
Main Ingredient: Dimethicone | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, sulfates, dyes | Size: 5.3 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
This paraben-free formula earns points for both 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 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 to fade the appearance of any current marks.
Best Splurge: Alastin TransFORM Body Treatment
Main Ingredient: Peptides | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, dyes | Size: 6 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
While this product isn’t geared towards stretch marks (it’s meant to be used after skin-tightening procedures), it does in fact work to stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin. According to Mariwalla, that’s what makes it a good pick; she 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.
Best for Prevention: Mustela Stretch Marks Cream
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Free of: Alcohol, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, phenoxyethanol | Size: 8.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Pregnant women rave about the preventative benefits of this cream. At work are avocado peptides, which reinforce skin elasticity, and galactoarabinan (say that five times fast), a patented ingredient. Also nice: It comes in a fragrance-free version, too.
Best Multi-Tasker: Bio-Oil Multiuse Skincare Oil
Main Ingredient: Sunflower oil | Application Area: Hips, thighs, buttocks | Free of: Parabens, phthalates | Size: 2 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
“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 PurCellin Oil and vitamin A, which also makes this a good pick for treating scars, too. Plus, you can't beat the drugstore price tag.
Runner-Up, Best Oil: Environ A, C, & E Body Oil
Main Ingredient: Vitamin A | Application Area: Hands, arms, legs, feet, decolletage | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, dyes | Size: 3.4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
As the name suggests, this oil is loaded with good-for-your-skin vitamins. Not only is it deeply hydrating—always a good thing when you’re dealing with stretch marks—but also, vitamin A helps to stimulate cell turnover. Overall, this works great for stretch marks but also helps keep all skin healthy and youthful.
Best Retinoid: Differin Gel
Main Ingredient: 0.1 percent adapalene | Application Area: Face and body | Free of: Mineral oil, phthalates, sulfates, dyes | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Yes, this retinoid may be marketed as an acne treatment, but according to Mariwalla, it’s worth trying on stretch marks, too. “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. But FYI, because it's a retinoid, this is definitely a no-go if you’re pregnant.
Best All-Over Moisturizer: Mutha Body Butter
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: All | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, sulfates, dyes | Size: 5.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
If you’re on the hunt for a cream that will not only address stretch marks but is also an all-around great body moisturizer, look no further. The brand’s founder and CEO created it when she was pregnant and wanted to fend off stretch marks, so the formula is loaded with all kinds of nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory butters and oils that do exactly that. And despite the name, it has more of a soufflé-like consistency; Byrdie GM Leah Wyar (a self-proclaimed mega-fan of the brand) notes that it melts into the skin instantly. Translation? You’ll want to slather it anywhere and everywhere.
Best Natural: Calm A Mama Organic Mama Belly Balm
Main Ingredient: Sunflower oil | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, sulfates, dyes | Size: 4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Understandably, many people prioritize using clean, natural products when pregnant or breast-feeding, which is why this cream earns our vote. It contains only 10 natural ingredients, is USDA organic-certified, and also totally hypoallergenic. Use it to minimize the look of stretch marks and combat dry itchy skin on your belly, thighs, breasts, and bum—whether or not you’re pregnant.
Stretch marks are totally normal and unavoidable for many—and can be tough to treat with topical creams. But topical creams can at least help, especially our top choices. The Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks is effective and beloved by many for tummy, thighs, butt, hips, and bust. Pregnant mommas should consider the Earth Mama Organics Belly Butter (which is great for soothing itch, too), the Mustela Stretch Marks Cream (a good preventative pick), or the Calm A Mama Organic Mama Belly Balm. And if you’re looking for a great all-over moisturizer that just happens to help address stretch marks, too, try the Mutha Body Butter, a splurge-worthy option that Byrdie editors rave about.
What to Look For in a Stretch Mark Cream
Above all, moisturizing the skin with tried-and-true hydrating ingredients—like shea butter, coconut oil, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid—can potentially help improve the texture of stretch marks.
These vitamin A derivatives are also at the top of Mariwalla’s list to look for since they can help fade the color and improve the texture of stretch marks. The big caveat? They’re a no-go if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
Do stretch mark creams actually work?
Stretch mark creams and lotions aren’t magic, and your best bet for fading existing stretch marks is visiting your dermatologist for an in-office treatment such as laser therapy. However, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley 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 prevent existing marks from getting worse.
When should you start using a stretch mark cream?
Dr. King recommends starting to use a stretch mark cream before you have them, treating 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. However, 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.
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.
Meet the Expert
• Dr. Kavita Mariwalla is a board-certified dermatologist and the full-time provider at Mariwalla Dermatology in West Islip, NY. She specializes in skin cancer detection and treatment and is a fellowship-trained MOHS surgeon, and is also a skilled aesthetic clinician.
• Dr. Hadley King is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, as well as a clinical instructor of dermatology at Cornell University's Weill Medical College.
How We Test Stretch Mark Creams
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain products; you can read more about our product review methodology here.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any stretch mark creams from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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.