At least half of pregnant women get stretch marks. These small skin streaks -- usually in the abdomen -- occur as your stomach grows faster than the skin that surrounds it. The stretch marks start out pink, purple or brown, then fade to silvery white, becoming less noticeable as time goes on. Topical creams haven't proven very effective, but there are a few remedies that show promise if your stretch marks are bothersome.
A Topical Approach
Genetics play a role in who develops stretch marks, and since the skin expanding rapidly is a cause, you're also more likely to have them if you have multiples or gain much more weight than what's recommended. Most studies have shown that topical creams don't help much. A review of six trials published in 2012 found that the creams were no more effective than a placebo. One recent study, though, in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found promise in an anti-stretch-mark moisturizer containing hydroxyprolisilane-C, rosehip oil, Centella asiatica triterpenes and vitamin E. Baby Center also recommends prescriptions containing Retin-A and glycolic acid, but Retin-A use is not recommended during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.
Zapping Them Away
More drastic -- as well as expensive and potentially painful -- options include laser treatments. Pulse-dyed laser and fractional nonablative laser treatments cost hundreds of dollars, but might fade the stretch marks or improve their texture, "Oprah" magazine says.
- Oprah: How to Treat Stretch Marks
- Baby Center: Stretch Marks
- American Pregnancy Association: Are Pregnancy Stretch Marks Different?
- The Cochrane Library: Topical Preparations for Preventing Stretch Marks in Pregnancy
- British Journal of General Practice: No Evidence for Topical Preparations in Preventing Stretch Marks in Pregnancy
- International Journal of Cosmetic Science: Use of a Specific Anti-Stretch Mark Cream for Preventing or Reducing the Severity of Striae Gravidarum