Because stretch marks (striae) are common during pregnancy or after changes in weight, there is a huge market for makers of stretch mark products. You can find a variety of lotions, creams and oils to choose from, but have realistic expectations about the claims for these products before you buy them.
A Selection of Stretch Mark Products
The following products are popular and though reviews are mixed, they all have overall favorable consumer ratings.
Mederma® Stretch Marks Therapy Advanced Cream Formula
Mederma® Stretch Marks Therapy Advanced Cream Formula costs about $25 for a 5-ounce tube. The cream contains:
- Centella Asiatica, (extract of the leaves of the Indian pennywort tree)
- Cepalin® (onion extract)
- Hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed collagen and soy proteins
On the company's website, reviewers mostly rated the cream three to five out of five stars and most reported that, though the stretch marks were still visible, there were noticeable improvements.
For existing stretch marks, the cream is claimed to reduce the appearance and smooth the texture of stretch marks in four weeks, if applied twice a day. During pregnancy, the company recommends starting the cream in the second trimester. According to Mederma, the product softens the skin to prevent it from stretching and tearing, thus preventing stretch marks.
Mederma Clinical Study
This is the only product that was evaluated in a clinical trial. In 2010, the Mederma company funded a study which was reported in the journal SkinMed. The investigators found that there was a significant difference in the appearance of stretch marks on the thighs of women after 12 weeks of treatment, compared to untreated stretch marks.
Marksil™ Stretch Mark Cream
Marksil™ Stretch Mark Cream has a blend of:
- Centella asiatica
- Two peptides, palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide, said to increase collagen production in the skin
- Aloe (skin healing) and green bean (anti-inflammatory) extracts
- Vitamins A, C and E
- Shea butter, cocoa butter, almond oil and other botanical extracts and moisturizers
There are no independent consumer reviews but in a "consumer perception study," 100% of users gave good reviews for improvement in stretch marks and the softness and smoothness of skin. This cream is said to diminish the appearance of stretch marks and improve elasticity and hydration to give softer, smoother skin.
The company claims that a study of the main ingredient showed 35% improvement in stretch marks after women used the product twice daily for four weeks. The actual study is not available for review. The cream retails for about $70 for 5 ounce bottle.
StriVectin-SD® Intensive Concentrate for Stretch Marks & Wrinkles
- Oligopeptides, which are amino acid fragments of proteins that are said to be biologically active and may boost collagen production in the skin
- StriVectin's patented NIA-114, a biologically active form of Niacin that can penetrate the skin; Niacin derivatives have been shown to penetrate skin and improve skin elasticity
Reviewers on Macy's website say this cream is light and moisturizing. The combination is claimed to reduce stretch marks in 2-8 weeks when used daily. The product sells $15 for 0.35 ounces.
CeraVe® Intensive Stretch Mark Cream
CeraVe® Intensive Stretch Mark Cream is a formulation of:
- "A unique complex of peptides and botanical extracts," said to boost collagen and minimize the appearance of stretch marks
- Hyaluronic acid, a moisturizer which attracts water to the skin to keep it supple and prevent new stretch marks
- Ceramides, which help to restore the water protective barrier of the skin's surface to keep it hydrated
- Argan oil, which has vitamin E and other antioxidants to improve the skin's elasticity and appearance of stretch marks
The company's patented MultiVesicular Emulsion (MVE®) technology is said to allow the ingredients to penetrate through layers of the skin to work over time. There are no parabens, phthalates or sulfates.
Many reviewers on Amazon gave this product four or five stars and find it non-sticky, moisturizing, fragrance-free and reasonably priced. The product claims to give visible results in 12 weeks when applied two times daily. It retails for around $20 for a 5 ounce tube.
TriLASTIN-SR® System 2 Stretch Mark Treatment
TriLASTIN-SR® System 2 Stretch Mark Treatment is a 2-part system that includes:
- Part One: TriLastin-SR HT Hydro-thermal Accelerator - a "pre-delivery system optimizes effectiveness" to prepare the skin for the active ingredients of part two
- Part Two: TriLastin-SR Maximum Strength Stretch Mark Cream - the active ingredients "reduces the appearance of new or old stretch marks" and "sustained-release technology" delivers the cream throughout the day
Specific ingredients include hydrolyzed soy protein, retinyl palmitate (a vitamin A derivative), niacinamide, vitamins E and C, moisturizers, corn extract and other botanical extracts. It is non-greasy, unscented, and paraben-free.
Customers on Amazon rate this product well for reducing stretch marks and its smoothness and lack of fragrance. The treatment is promoted to improve red, white and silver new or existing stretch marks. If applied daily there are visible results in three weeks. Eighty percent of their consumers say they would recommend the cream. It about costs $70 for 5.5 ounces, a month's supply.
Mustela Stretch Marks Double Action
Mustela Stretch Marks Double Action stretch mark cream contains:
- Elastoregulator™, which includes soy and avocado peptides to improve skin elasticity and suppleness and promote cell renewal
- Arabinogalactane™, which helps to prevent skin from stretching and developing new stretch marks during pregnancy and minimizes stretch marks
- Shea butter and other moisturizers
- Vitamin E and botanical extracts
This cream contains no parabens, dyes or phthalates, but has fragrance.
On the Sephora website, many customers give this product four to five stars and feel it is non-sticky and soothing to itchy skin. The company recommends applying the cream twice a day from the start of pregnancy. They claim that 79% users of the product saw reduction in stretch marks in two to three months. It retails for $45 for 8 ounces.
Celtrixa® Stretch Mark Lotion
Celtrixa® Stretch Mark Lotion is formulated with:
- Peptides palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl tetrapeptide and palmitoyl tripeptide
- Hyrolyzed hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate and whey proteins
- Patented Vanistryl® and Matrixyl® 3000, and Milk Peptide Complex (MPC)
- Aloe and other botanical extracts, vitamins A, C and E and moisturizers
Customers on Amazon rate this lotion well for being moisturizing and for quick results. The company reports that in a study of "the active ingredient," 100% of users saw reduction in the appearance of their stretch marks. Users in the study reported improvement in stretch marks in two weeks with maximum results in three months.
Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion For Stretch Marks
Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion For Stretch Marks is formulated with:
- Centella asiatica
- Hydrolyzed collagen and elastin which are said, like other peptides, to increase collagen and elastin production
- Cocoa and shea butter
- Coconut, mineral, palm, almond and other oils and vitamin E
Customers on drugstore.com comment that the lotion is light, absorbs easily and is less expensive than other brands. The formula is said to improve elasticity and suppleness of skin during and after pregnancy. Apply it three or more times a day.
An eight ounce bottle retails for about $5.
Most of the companies claim that, if applied as directed, you should begin to see results in as little as two to three weeks, real results in about three months, and further improvement with further use for six months or more. The expected results include reduction in the length, width, depth and color of old or new stretch marks.
Most companies use the phrase "visibly diminish the appearance of stretch marks." Most of them don't claim that their product can make stretch marks disappear or prevent them.
According to the companies, more recent stretch marks will show better improvement than older ones. Reddish or purplish stretch marks will fade over several months. Keeping your skin moisturized during pregnancy may prevent the stretching and tearing of elastin fibers, which might explain the results seen with the products.
Despite marketing and consumer claims of the benefits of stretch mark products, there is little research evidence to support these claims or endorsements. Specifically, there are no studies that prove a product can prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
The Mederma cream was the only one tested as formulated and the extract, centella asiactica, was also evaluated in a clinical trial and shows promise in preventing or reducing stretch marks.
Centella Asiatica, present in the Mederma, Marksil and Palmer's products, appears to be able to increase skin fibroblasts collagen production, according to clinical studies.
- In a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetics Science, another unidentified product containing centella asiatica, hydrolyzed collagen and elastin and vitamin was tested, and 89% of the women who used the cream during pregnancy did not get stretch marks whereas all the untreated women did.
- In addition, in a review article of stretch mark creams in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2000, only the cream with the centella asiatica extract was found to be effective for reducing stretch marks.
It is likely that existing stretch marks improve slowly over time without treatment beyond keeping your skin moisturized. Though they will fade, most are unlikely to disappear, however.
Although a cream may prove to be able to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, no current product or ingredient has been proven capable of repairing damaged elastin or collagen fibers, which is the cause of stretch marks.