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Stretch marks are common and normal for everyone. 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.
A true classic, Palmer's Cocoa Butter Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks is the clear winner for its skin-loving formula and reasonable price point. Another budget-friendly option is the Burt's Bees Mama Belly Butter with Shea Butter and Vitamin E, boasting 99% natural ingredients.
The big caveat 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 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
Good for sensitive skin
Might not bring fast enough results
This brand has a large 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 oil, almond oil, 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.
Main Ingredient: Cocoa seed butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, dyes | Size: 4.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
“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 Belly Butter with Shea Butter and Vitamin E
Made from 99% natural ingredients
Smell might be off-putting
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, cocoa butter, and jojoba give this formula its ultra-rich and creamy feel—plus, it's 99 percent natural. Happy reviewers rave about how well it wards off dry, itchy skin, as well as pregnancy-induced stretch marks.
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: Stomach | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, sulfates, dyes | Size: 6.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Drugstore: Mederma Stretch Marks Therapy
Can be used while breastfeeding
Smell might be off-putting
This paraben-free formula 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 current marks.
Main Ingredient: Dimethicone | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, sulfates, dyes | Size: 5.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best All-Over Moisturizer: Mutha Body Butter
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.
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: All | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, sulfates, dyes | Size: 5.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Pregnancy: Earth Mama Organics Belly Butter
Easy to spread
Smell might be off-putting to some
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 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.
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, breasts | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, petroleum, dyes, artificial fragrance | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Splurge: Alastin TransFORM Body Treatment
Helps produce more collagen
Fastens the removal of broken-down fat cells
Might not bring fast enough results
While this product isn’t geared towards stretch marks (it’s meant to be used after skin-tightening procedures), it does 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.
Main Ingredient: Peptides | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Free of: Mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, dyes | Size: 6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Splurge, Runner-Up: Peter Thomas Roth Pro-Strength Stretch Mark Cream
Treats and prevents
Can’t be used on breasts
Another splurge-worthy pick, this is a pro-grade product that relies on a few proprietary complexes that help increase the look of skin thickness, preventing the appearance of future and existing stretch marks. It’s also very hydrating, thanks to the shea and cocoa butters in the mix, and also contains gently exfoliating lactic acid to even out skin tone overall.
Main Ingredient: Proprietary complexes, lactic acid, shea butter, cocoa butter l | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs | Free of: Fragrance | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Prevention: Mustela Stretch Marks Cream
Has a fragrance-free version
Might not work on sensitive skin
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.
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts | Free of: Alcohol, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, phenoxyethanol | Size: 8.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Retinoid: Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
Doubles as acne treatment
Can be drying for some
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.
Main Ingredient: 0.1% adapalene | Application Area: Face and body | Free of: Mineral oil, phthalates, sulfates, dyes | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Oil: Bio-Oil Multiuse Skincare Oil
Good for sensitive skin
Smell might be off-putting to some
“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.
Main Ingredient: Sunflower oil | Application Area: Hips, thighs, buttocks | Free of: Parabens, phthalates | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Non-Cream: Dermaclara Enhanced Siliconefusion Stretch Mark Kit
Safe for all stages of pregnancy
Takes a few months to work
Okay, so we know this is a round-up of creams, but if you want to address stretch marks some other way, these easy-to-use patches are where it’s at. They’re made entirely of medical-grade silicone, which is well-known for helping to 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. Not only are they totally mess-free, but there’s also nothing entering your bloodstream, so they’re totally safe for all stages of pregnancy. Plus, they work on both new and older stretch marks.
Main Ingredient: Medical-grade silicone | Application Area: Stomach, breasts, hips, thighs | Free of: Chemicals | Size: 7 x 7 inches | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Multi-Tasker: Bio-Oil Dry Skin Gel
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. Still, like the OG Bio-Oil, it’s also great for targeting scars and stretch marks. However, it does contain a type of retinoid, so it’s not safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Main Ingredient: Shea butter, retinyl palmitate, mineral oil | Application Area: Stomach, breasts, hips, thighs | Free of: Alcohol, sulfates, parabens, phthalates | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Stomach: Maelys B-Flat Belly Firming Cream
Safe for post-pregnancy use
Reach for this tube to treat stretch marks on your tummy. It has avocado oil and shea butter to keep skin moisturized and flexible, plus pink pepperslim, a plant-based extract. Reviewers rave about how well it works post-pregnancy, although do note that it does have a bit of a warming sensation upon application that can take some getting used to.
Main Ingredient: Shea butter, avocado oil, pink pepperslim extract | Application Area: Stomach | Free of: Parabens, SLS | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Oil for Pregnancy: HATCH Maternity Belly Oil
Works everywhere on the body
Easy-to-use dropper applicator
An ideal option to help prevent stretch marks as your baby bump grows, this is made entirely with natural ingredients, think calendula, sweet almond oil, and grapefruit oil. The easy-to-use dropper makes the application a breeze, and it dries quickly so you can get dressed right after. It’s dermatologist- and allergy-tested, can be used anywhere on the body, and also doubles as a moisturizing bath oil.
Main Ingredient: Calendula, sweet almond oil, and grapefruit oil | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, boobs | Free of: Parabens, phthalates, dyes, fragrance | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Natural: Nessa Body Saviour Stretch Mark Butter
Works everywhere on the body
Treats and prevents
Understandably, many people prioritize using clean, natural products when pregnant or breastfeeding, which is why this cream earns our vote. It touts a minimal ingredient list composed mostly of plant-based oils and butters, including rosehip oil to help heal and renew skin. 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.
Main Ingredient: Sweet almond oil, shea butter, rosehip oil | Application Area: Stomach, hips, thighs, boobs, buttocks | Free of: Parabens, phthalates, dyes, fragrance | Size: 3.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Stretch marks are 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 HATCH Maternity Belly Oil. 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.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Kavita Mariwalla is a board-certified dermatologist and a 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 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.
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 breastfeeding.
Do stretch mark creams actually work?
Stretch mark creams and lotions aren’t magic, and 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 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.
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.
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