Stretch marks: most of us have them but what exactly are they, and can anything be done about them?
Fear not, we asked some brilliant experts and trawled the beauty aisles to find you the best products worth spending your hard-earned cash on. “Stretch marks (striae gravidarum) occur in 50 - 90 per cent of pregnant women and can look different on everyone. They can be red, pink, brown, black, silver or even purple and more often than not they start out darker and fade over time,” Helen O’Leary, Physio and Director of Complete Pilates told us.
They usually occur when the underlying growth of tissue is faster than the skin surrounding it. “As the growth happens, the structural fibres in the skin like collagen and elastin are torn,’ says David Delport, the Global Ambassador for REN Skincare. “A natural example is pregnancy where stretch marks may occur across an expanding abdomen, or other areas that experience sudden weight gain or trauma. Stretch marks can occur anywhere skin is stretched but is mostly apparent on the stomach, upper legs and upper arms.”
What products can help treat the look of stretch marks?
Celebrity facialist and all-round skin guru Shane Cooper says he “always advises clients to use products although sometimes it’s not always possible to avoid getting them. Vitamin E oil can be effective. Also keeping the body hydrated with water and a good diet full of nutrients that improve skin health. Be sure to moisturise daily, using products that are nourishing and target skin elastin.”
Interestingly, GP Dr Nisa Aslam from Puressentiel told us that certain essential oils can be effective for reducing the visibility of stretch marks. Lavender essential oil for example, increases the production of collagen, which is lacking in the skin of people with stretch marks, and also encourages the formation of new connective tissue.
Essential oils can boost collagen, reduce inflammation and promote skin cell turnover, all of which help to firm the skin. It’s important to include antioxidant essential oils such as Rosemary which has been shown in research to reduce oxidant free radicals in the skin. Lemon Essential Oil and Sage Essential Oilalso have proven antioxidant capacity which can help to firm the skin. Sandalwood is known for its anti-inflammatory and skin moisturising benefits and geranium for its essential moisture balance and skin renewal properties.
Regardless of which lotion or potion you choose, the key is to use it regularly, believes wellbeing expert Gemma Naylor. “There are many positive benefits to not only applying a hydrating oil to your skin but also taking the time to make it into a mini self-care ritual. When we take care of ourselves both mentally and physically our self-esteem is likely to increase. A little bit of self-love really does go a long way.”
So, what are the best treatments for your stripes? We slathered our bellies, bums and boobs in some of the very best on the market - here are the winners.
Clarins Body Treatment Oil
Ask any new mum-to-be about stretch mark prevention and this oil won’t be far from their lips. Known and universally loved as one of the best stretch mark treatments on the market, this oil contains powerful plant extracts including Rosemary, Geranium and Mint and claims to help ‘firm, tone and improve elasticity, smoothing the appearance of stretch marks,’ while Hazelnut Oil helps to lock in moisture to leave the ‘body skin soft, satiny-smooth and elastic.’
While on the spenny side, it’s a powerhouse product that goes a long way so will be part of your routine for ages. Use it on damp skin fresh from the shower to make it last even longer.
Buy now £42.00, Clarins
Neal’s Yard Remedies Mother's Balm
Certified organic and fragrance-free, this intensely nourishing balm helps reduce the appearance of stretch marks making it the ideal gift not only for new mums and mums-to-be but for absolutely anyone who wants to take care of their skin. Consisting of a blend of nourishing oils and beeswax to replenish, soothe and boost skin’s elasticity, this one is also fragrance free which is perfect for anyone with a sensitivity or allergy to fragrance. It also means you can pop some of your favourite essential oils into the balm and concoct your own personalised balm if you fancy it. It also comes in the gorgeous indigo blue Neal’s Yard glass packaging which will look lovely on your shelf.
Buy now £20.00, M&S
Omorovicza Firming Oil
This Firming Oil is delicious to use first thing in the morning as it really does wake up the senses. Full of plum almond oil to help restore suppleness and elasticity to the skin, apricot kernel oil to soften and with essential oils of sage, chamomile, rosemary and rose geranium, this oil smells heavenly.
It also contains something called ‘Hydro Mineral Transference™ (no, us either) which claims to deliver ‘minerals deep into the skin to leave it firmer.’ We’re not sure about the mineral transference but it is lovely to use, and our tester noticed his skin ‘felt smoother and stretch marks seemed softer.’
Buy now £42.00, Lookfantastic
L’Occitane Almond Supple Skin Oil
There isn’t a beauty junkie worth their salt who hasn’t got a few L’Occitane elixirs sitting pride of place on their bathroom cabinet.
Loved the world over for their delightful French skincare, this Almond Supple Skin Oil comes highly rated for the yummy almond smell as well as overall efficacy. Made with 50 per cent pure almond oil, it’s lightweight in texture and helps to fight dryness and skin slackening, whilst silica extract helps firm and tighten.
It leaves skin soft, supple and with a beautiful, smooth-as-satin finish - bliss.
Buy now £38.00, M&S
ILA Spa Body Balm for Feeding Skin and Senses
Designed to nourish the driest of skin, the Ila Spa Body Balm for Feeding Skin and Senses also claims to help soothe skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Enriched with argan oil and rosehip seed oil, which are both rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants to nourish your skin and protect it against free radicals. While not technically aimed at preventing stretch marks, we’ve included this yummy tub of goodness because it’s so divinely fragranced that you’ll be reaching for it consistently and using a product regularly is key to helping prevent the little red marks before they appear.
Our tester said they looked forward to using this at the end of a long day and it was a joy to use.
Buy now £18.00, Brand Alley
Weleda Stretch Mark Massage Oil
A bestseller for good reason, you need only scroll through lists of stretchmark-busting oils that mums recommend to see it usually comes out on top.
Weleda is an all-natural German brand that produces some of the best quality body oils you can buy and all at reasonable prices. Full of sweet germ oil with extracts of arnica, testers were unanimous with their results, this really does seem to help prevent stretch marks.
Buy now £17.09, Amazon
Mama Mio Tummy Rub Butter
The Mama Mio brand is a byword for excellent pregnancy-focused skincare. They have a wide range of lotions and butters designed for boobs, bums and bellies but it’s the Tummy Rub Butter that really caught our eye and delivered results.
The rich belly butter glosses over the skin and contains Mama Mio’s unique ‘Omega Rich Skin Stretch Complex’, a blend of oils derived from avocado, inchi and argan all aimed at supporting the skin’s elasticity during nine months of stretching or for any time when your skin needs an extra dose of super hydration.
Buy now £17.50, Lookfantastic
Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Body Lotion
This cult bottle of cocoa butter goodness is synonymous with helping to treat bumps and boobs all whilst leaving you smelling good enough to eat (it really does smell like chocolate). For less than a fiver you really can’t go wrong, and our tester loved it so much she said she would ‘bathe in a tub of it every day if I could.’ That says it all, really.
Buy now £3.99, Boots
Aveeno Daily Moisturising Body Lotion 300ml
Natalie Fell, Director of Event Hosts and mum of twin boys slathered this Aveeno lotion all over her bump twice a day, every day and swears by it for helping her to avoid stretch marks during her 36 week twin pregnancy.
Technically this one is not actually marketed as helping treat or prevent stretch marks but Natalie (and incidentally we’ve heard similar comments from other new mums) report that they wouldn’t be without it during pregnancy.
Clearly there is something in the prebiotic colloidal oatmeal formula that works wonders. Great price too.
Buy now £5.13, Boots
Puressentiel Firming Dry Oil
Puressentiel Firming Dry Oil contains no less than 18 essential oils with firming and toning properties, all aimed at improving skin tissue.
If you’ve been paying attention in class you’ll know by now that essential oils have been clinically proven to help the look and appearance of stretch marks. This Dry Oil also smells divine and has science to back up its claims, showing skin benefits in a clinical trial with 20 women.
Alas, this one isn’t suitable for pregnancy but should be on your list for post-partum which is also a time when the stretchies can appear.
Buy now £19.99, FeelUnique
Elan Skincare Pure Goodness Body Butter
The Elan Pure Goodness body butter is rich in botanical nutrients derived from organic, unrefined oils, butters, plant extracts and natural, vegan wax and is jam packed full of shea butter, cacao seed butter, squalane and oat kernel oil - rich in ceramides, which all help strengthen the skin’s barrier function. This multiple award-winning balm helps moisturise and repair skin, by forming an effective barrier against dryness.
Handmade with fresh organic botanicals: plant butters, oils, and waxes, it’s easy to see why this body butter has won so many accolades. It leaves skin feeling super smooth and nourished with the added bonus of helping to treat existing stretch marks.
Buy now £20.00, Counter Culture Store
Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil
Rumoured to have pride of place on Kate Middleton’s dressing room table, which is ample endorsement alone.
Trilogy's cold-pressed, wild harvested rosehip seed oil has the double whammy of helping prevent aging and stretch marks. Slap it on your face and rub it on your stretch mark prone areas afterwards and you can’t go wrong.
We were impressed with Trilogy’s proven results during independent clinical studies showing that the Trilogy Rosehip Oil helps improve the visible appearance of scars by 41 per cent, stretch marks by 43 per cent and fine lines and wrinkles by 23 per cent. A delectable little bottle of golden goodness, our tester raved that they wished they’d discovered it sooner.
Buy now £17.40, FeelUnique
Coraline Saving Grace Repair and Replenish Body Balm
Coraline Skincare is new on our radar and is vegan, organic and sustainable created by parents Kevin and Liz Troy at the beginning of 2020.
Their passion for ‘happy skin’ started after discovering there were limited solutions available for their daughter Coraline, who was diagnosed at birth with Down's syndrome and two holes in her heart, and also has sensitive skin. Coraline Skincare’s mission is to provide the purest honest and eco-friendly skincare products to heal even the most difficult skin concerns as naturally as possible.
Our top pick from the range is their lovely Saving Grace Body Balm, designed to calm and heal troubled areas, as well as provide all-over skin hydration. Made using a gentle and calming blend of plant oils and butters including skin-softening apricot oil and shea butter. We like this one because it’s essential oil free so if you’re allergic or sensitive to fragrance this one is perfect.
Buy now £17.95, Coraline Skincare
Science of Skin Solution for Stretch Marks
Developed by skin and scarring experts, this super moisturising formula contains active natural ingredients including green tea extract, micro algae and vitamins C and E to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks caused by pregnancy, weight gain or growth spurts.
Targeting prone areas such as the breasts, thighs, hips and tummy, it also has the double benefit of helping to soothe sore, uncomfortable and irritable feeling skin. Lovely to use throughout the hot summer months too.
Buy now £26.53, Amazon
Little Butterfly Cocoon of Bliss Stretch Mark Butter
With a formula that sinks in fast, this organic tub of goodness combines whipped butters of cupuaçu, kokum, mango, illipe, cacao and shea and claims to ‘deliver long-lasting nourishment, help to boost cell regeneration and provide lipid barrier protection.’
Vitamin-rich sea algae, and something called ‘amanilkara’ helps to promote collagen and elastin production while rooibos and arnica flower help to calm itchiness and soothe sensitivity. This one is safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding and is vegan-friendly too.
Buy now £27.50, Feelunique
For the scent, the experience of rubbing in the formula, and most crucially, the results, Clarins Toning Oil is our winner.
It’s a pleasure to use this essential oil-based product and it did indeed help prevent stretch marks during our tester’s 40-week pregnancy. We love Clarins’ advice to really take the time to rub the oil in and make it a pampering experience so it’s psychologically beneficial as well as physical.
Highly recommended not just for new mums but anyone who wants to help improve or prevent stretch marks.