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The Ultimate Guide to Stretch Marks in Pregnancy

Woman applying stretch mark cream during pregnancy
Image: Deposit Photos

One of the most common questions that I get about pregnancy beauty is how to prevent stretch marks. Most women have heard that stretch marks are inevitable, though that is not true. A little knowledge can go a long way!

Why do you develop stretch marks during pregnancy?

The reason for this is that the dermis becomes thinner during pregnancy so it’s more prone to stretch. Pregnancy hormones also suppress collagen production making the skin less elastic and increases water retention around your belly. When these two factors combine, there can be an increased chance of developing stretch marks at some point during or after pregnancy.

While we don’t know exactly how stretch marks form during pregnancy, we do think they are slightly different than stretch marks formed at other times in your life. Stretch marks most commonly appear during the 2nd trimester on hips, thighs, breasts and stomachs.

Who is at risk for developing stretch marks?

You are more likely to develop stretch marks if you have:

  • a history of developing stretch marks
  • family history of developing stretch marks
  • higher BMI prior to pregnancy
  • fair skin
  • low vitamin c
  • low vitamin d
  • low water intake

What are some easy ways to prevent stretch marks?

There’s no fool proof, 100% guaranteed way to prevent stretch marks. But there are some easy changes that you can make that will help prevent stretch marks and also be good for your pregnancy.

Eat a healthy diet

Foods rich in vitamins C and D will help your body produce more collagen and improve skin elasticity, reducing the risk of stretch marks. Foods such kale, broccoli, and spinach all contain these vitamins. You’ll also find them in your prenatal vitamin, talk to your doctor to select the best one for you.

Drink water

You need more water during pregnancy than pre-pregnancy, mostly to help support the pregnancy. It is also important for collagen production, maintaining a good intravascular volume and will help prevent constipation.

Do any creams work to prevent stretch marks?

The magical idea of a cream that would prevent stretch marks has been around for decades, and it is heavily promoted by some beauty brands. Unfortunately, many of the much touted ingredients have very little evidence that they help to prevent stretch marks.

Ingredients that might help (a little) with stretch mark prevention:

There are small studies that show Centella asiatica or massage with Almond Oil may prevent stretch marks or lessen their severity. Hyaluronic Acid has a little less evidence to support its use for stretch marks. Vitamin E also has some evidence to suggest that it prevents stretch marks.

Ingredients that have been shown to not help:

  • Cocoa Butter
  • Olive Oil

What do dermatologists recommend?

While there isn’t a lot of overwhelmingly helpful data about how to prevent stretch marks, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has recommended that nightly massage with a moisturizer may help over time.

What about after pregnancy?

There’s a bit more evidence to suggest that retinoids will help prevent and treat stretch marks. Unfortunately, retinoids are definitely an ingredient to avoid during pregnancy, and possibly during nursing as well. But it’s something to add back into your routine later. You can also head to your dermatologist for treatments such as IPL or other therapies.


Want product recommendations? Here are my product picks to prevent and treat stretch marks during pregnancy.

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About Me

I’m a doctor, a mommy and a bit of a beauty addict. If you let me, I can take 2 hours to get ready in the morning. Really. I'm on a quest for faster beauty that works!