We updated this guide in February 2022 to add more information about each featured product, including key ingredients, based on extensive testing done by the Good Housekeeping Institute. Many of our original top-rated picks, selected by the GH Institute Beauty Lab, remain the same, with the addition of our pick for the best organic stretch mark cream.
Stretch marks have a tendency to appear seemingly overnight as you age. Contrary to popular belief, stretch marks aren't always due to weight gain; they can also appear as your skin stretches or shrinks through the years. According to materials published by the American Academy of Dermatology, stretch marks earn their flashy "stripes" after the skin's cellular support network of collagen and elastin ruptures altogether.
What are stretch marks and what causes them?
Stretch marks and their long, narrow lines appear differently on a multitude of bodies. Depending on your skin color, stretch marks can range from red to purple to dark brown, and commonly crop up on the abdomen, hips, thighs, and/or breasts. They are especially common around puberty and during pregnancy as the skin expands and shrinks: In fact, a 2015 study in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology found that more than half of all pregnant women will develop stretch marks during pregnancy.
Though millions of people develop stretch marks at some point in their lives, many strive to get rid of them as quickly as they show up — and often turn to over-the-counter remedies to do so. The following list of the best products to prevent stretch marks and help them fade after they've formed, can help you disguise or diminish stretch marks in due time.
Our top picks:
- Best Overall Stretch Mark Cream: Bio-Oil SkinCare Oil
- Best Value Stretch Mark Cream: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion
- Best Stretch Mark Cream for Pregnancy: Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter
- Best Stretch Mark Treatment: Paula's Choice RESIST Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
- Best Cream for Stretch Mark Prevention: Curel Ultra Healing Body Lotion
- Best Cream for Old Stretch Marks: Clarins Body Partner Stretch Mark Cream
- Best Postpartum Stretch Mark Cream: Mederma Stretch Mark Therapy Prevention & Treatment
- Best Belly Stretch Mark Cream: Mustela Stretch Marks Prevention Cream
- Best Organic Stretch Mark Cream: Botanic Tree Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Cream
- Best SPF for Stretch Mark Prevention: Hawaiian Tropic AntiOxidant+ Sunscreen Lotion
Apply Bio-Oil daily to minimize stretch marks and scars — even if you’ve had the blemishes for a few years. In one clinical study, more than half of testers saw changes to scars after two weeks.
Great for your whole body and face, the GH Beauty Award Winner absorbs quickly and also helps even out your skin tone. It’s packed with powerhouse ingredients like natural oils and a vitamin A derivative to hydrate skin and improve its appearance. "Small lines have disappeared," shares one reviewer. "My skin is very smooth and seems to glow."
Key Ingredients: vitamin A, vitamin E and purcellin, chamomile, sunflower and lavender oils
- Minimizes the appearance of scars
- Evens skin tone
"When you develop a stretch mark, [one of] the best things to do is to vertically massage the stretch mark," says Dr. Shah. Palmer's lotion, a cult-classic and budget-friendly option, is a great one to try this technique with. It is rich in hydrating ingredients such as argan oil and shea butter but isn't heavy or overly thick. "Absorption is very good, and I don't have a sticky feel afterwards," shares one reviewer.
Key Ingredients: cocoa butter, shea butter, argan oil, vitamin E
Designed specifically with expecting mothers in mind, this body butter is a game-changer when it comes to stretch marks during pregnancy. "It was my first pregnancy and I was really worried of getting stretch marks," one reviewer says. "I did so much online research to find the right product and I am glad it was this one! I started in the second trimester. It kept my skin so smooth the entire time, and luckily for me, I did get not a single mark."
Key Ingredients: shea, cocoa and jojoba butters, vitamin E
- Smooths and softens skin
- Fragrance-free and non-irritating
If you want to try a retinol without getting a prescription, opt for this over-the-counter body treatment. Retinol and antioxidants help to re-texturize and firm skin, creating a smoother surface. "I decided to try this to fade some scars on my leg," one reviewer says. "It has worked wonders."
Key Ingredients: retinol, vitamins C & E (antioxidants)
- Retinol helps skin texture
- Evens skin tone
When it comes to body lotions, this one has been a longtime favorite for the GH Beauty Lab. The formula of glycerin, oat and shea butter is a nearly unbeatable combination. In Lab tests, it was found to boost skin hydration by 56% for over six hours, meaning it will help keep your skin hydrated and plump to ward off stretch marks. One reviewer loves how long it keeps her skin moisturized: "It keeps my skin soft and smooth for at least 24 hours."
Key Ingredients: ceramides, glycerin, oat, shea butter
- Intensely hydrating
- Long lasting effects
- Not greasy
Give your skin a hydration boost with a cream packed with hyaluronic acid and centenella asiatica (commonly known as cica). According to a survey conducted by the brand, 76% of women who used this product for 12 weeks saw a reduction in stretch marks and were satisfied with how much their stretch marks improved. If you're not, this one comes with a money back guarantee. "I've seen quite a difference in my stretch marks," says one reviewer. "They're less visible and the skin is smoother."
Key Ingredients: hyaluronic acid, centenella asiatica (cica)
- Helps even skin tone
- Can be used during breastfeeding
A thick cream formulated specifically to minimize the appearance of stretch marks, this lotion uses plant-based ingredients to target trouble areas. "I had deep stretch marks on my legs that really bothered me," one reviewer says. "I noticed results quickly, the dark purple faded and the marks became smaller." Take note: some reviewers disliked the packaging, since the cream is thick and hard to squeeze out.
Key Ingredients: clycyrrhetinic acid (from licorice), hazelnut oil, centella asiatica and green banana extract
- Helps minimize the appearance of marks
- Difficult to dispense
This product has been a go-to for pregnant women for decades, and has glowing reviews: 96% of women who used this product regularly throughout their pregnancy did not develop stretch marks during their pregnancy, according to a clinical trial conducted on 26 pregnant women. Plus, "the cream isn't sticky and goes on smooth," shares one reviewer.
Key Ingredients: avocado, shea butter, sunflower seed oil
- Helps skin elasticity
- Targets stretch marks before they happen
Packed with organic cocoa butter, shea butter, organic avocado, and olive oil, Botanic Tree's rich cream helps soften and smooth skin, while improving elasticity. The natural formula is designed to both prevent and treat stretch marks, both in pregnancy and any other scars from a growth spurt or weight gain. Reviewers rave that it works well on both old and new stretch marks and even diminishes deep red ones.
- Absorbs quickly
- Light, fresh scent
Protect your skin by applying an SPF every day: "sunscreen protects the skin from continuing damage," says Dr. Shah. A winner in our Lab test for best sunscreens, this Hawaiian Tropic lotion earned high scores all around. Consumers said that this sunscreen was non-irritating and didn't feel drying on skin. It's best-rated attribute: Not making skin feel greasy, oily, or slippery, even in the hot sun.
Key Ingredients: green tea extract
- Protects skin from sun damage that can exacerbate stretch marks
- SPF 50
Most stretch marks can't be fully removed, confirms Manish Shah, M.D., a plastic surgeon maintaining a private practice based in Colorado. This is because stretch marks are, technically, breaks in the skin and are therefore difficult to repair. However, he tells us that there are ways to soften the appearance of stretch marks by improving the collagen content of the skin and getting the color to fade with time.
The best way to treat stretch marks is through prevention: Make sure that your skin is healthy and strong. "Dietary fish oil supplements can help keep the skin hydrated and elastic, vitamin C supplements ensure that you make good quality collagen, and the use of moisturizers and sunscreen protects the skin from continuing damage," Dr. Shah explains. For at-home stretch mark treatment, he adds that the best thing to do for a new stretch mark "is to vertically massage the stretch mark and cover it with sunblock to soften and fade it."
Birnur Aral, Ph.D, director of the Beauty Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, says to shop for "products that can increase the elasticity of skin before a stretching injury happens." She suggests looking for "cohort topicals with hyaluronic acid (a powerhouse humectant), and tretinoin, a prescription retinol cream." However, pregnant women should always consult their doctors for recommendations. Certain collagen- and elastin-producing ingredients can be iffy for use during pregnancy.
The Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab is constantly testing skincare products, such as creams and lotions that claim to improve the look of body skin, including stretch marks. In the Lab, scientists use the Corneometer device to measure the hydration levels in skin before and after application of a standardized quantity of the moisturizer. Consumer testers then utilize the products at home in their daily routine for a set time period to report back on the ease of use, product attributes and performance. These data points are then tallied together to determine which products are the most effective.