According to a 2016 study in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, nearly 50 percent of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Many will see the purple or white lines appear on their abdomen, thighs, arms and breasts. The stretch marks form when the skin rapidly expands and its elastic tissue tears.
Genetics likely play a part in determining if you will get stretch marks. According to 2013 study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, four genetic markers seem to be linked with stretch marks. Particularly, one DNA sequence variation linked with pregnancy-related stretch marks was located close to the elastin gene.
This leads us to ask: Are stretch marks preventable? And what kinds of stretch mark creams are best to help treat them?
Whether you get them from pregnancy, fast growth during puberty or rapid weight gain, find out what SheKnows editors, writers and readers say worked (and what didn't!) on their stretch marks.
Palmer's cocoa butter for stretch marks
This budget-friendly cream was the top choice of many editors, writers and readers. Containing cocoa butter, vitamin E, collagen, elastin and shea butter, this cream is safe to use during pregnancy.
- "Palmer's Tummy Butter in the tin is inexpensive and widely available, so I only used it at bedtime. Didn't get a single stretch mark that time (knock on wood!). Switched to the Palmer's Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Cream this time so I could use it morning and night — but I use more of it because I feel like it doesn't moisturize as long [as the tummy butter]." — Kristin Bustamante
- "I used Palmer's, too. I didn't get stretch marks on my belly, but I had some previously on my thighs from a 'growth spurt' in college. I interviewed some docs a year ago for an article regarding how to avoid stretch marks, and they all said none of the creams are really proven 100 percent effective. They said that genetics is a huge part of it, as well as staying hydrated. So drink up… water, that is!" — Molly Smith
- "It didn't work, but it made my skin feel awesome and not itchy." — Brandy Hagelstein
- "I tried Palmer's, but it didn't work for me. I've heard that it's all in the genetics, and mine indicate stretch central. It's like my own personal roadmap to birth. —Sarah Caron
- "I used Palmers last time and pure vitamin E cream, and I did great — no stretch marks. And then, all of the sudden at 36 weeks, she dropped, and I got them! I was so frustrated and upset, but now I look at them as a beautiful thing because they are a part of a wonderful time in my life." — CallieGrace12
?- Callie Grace12 message boards????
Mustela double-action stretch mark cream
One of our editors is a fan of Mustela Double Action Stretch Mark Cream.
"A little on the expensive side, but it was my only indulgence (I swear!) and it did a good job! No stretch mark in sight! Oh yes, when I saw 'double action' — whatever that meant — I was hooked. It worked — no stretch marks on this tummy! I'm definitely planning to use the same next time. — Josée Laflèche
Mustela double-action stretch mark cream, $34.97 at A Pea in the Pod
Neutrogena lightweight body oil
"I don't think it's genetics. My mom was loaded with stretch marks on her little tummy. My tummy stretched a ton and I didn't get any (thank goodness!). I was too nauseated the first four months to use anything. Afterward, I used Neutrogena Body Oil. I used it before I was married, and 20 years later, I'm still using it. And my little girl said it makes me smell like I did when she was a baby. — Mary Fetzer, SheKnows writer and blogger
Neutrogena lightweight body oil, $9.99 at Amazon
CocoCare 100% Cocoa Butter The Yellow Stick
"Believe it or not, I never got any after four kids. The last three babies were big, too: between 8 pounds 10 ounces and 9 pounds 4 ounces. I'm not sure if it was the pure cocoa butter I often put on my itchy tummy, but it sure smelled great!" — Vanessa Sands
CocoCare 100% Cocoa Butter The Yellow Stick, $4.18 at Amazon
Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter
"I have to agree: I think it may be genetics. But, for good measure, for both of my pregnancies I used Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Balm. No stretch marks here, so maybe it was worth the $11 per jar I paid. Only con I can think of was that I wasn't a huge fan of the scent, but maybe that can be chalked up to morning sickness. (Did anything smell good?!)" — Michelle Maffei, SheKnows writer
Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter, $12.64 at Amazon
"I used California Baby Lotion . It's meant for babies, but I like it for myself for its low score at the Cosmetic Safety Database. I don't know if there was any stretch mark prevention (I had some from my prior pregnancies but didn't get any this last time), but it made my skin feel great!" — Monica Beyer, SheKnows writer
California Baby Everyday Lotion, $16.34 at Amazon
"Coconut Body Butter — my favorite. And though it didn't prevent me from getting stretch marks, it worked great when my belly was itching like crazy, and it smelled so good." — Crystal Patriarch
The Body Shop Coconut Nourishing Body Butter, $18.48 at Amazon
Stretch mark tips
Although stretch mark creams don't work for everyone, they are worth a try. At the very least, they will soothe your itchy skin during pregnancy. If all else fails, take comfort in knowing that you are beautiful, powerful, and not alone — and you certainly earned those tiger stripes.