There’s lots to love about a baby bump—except stretch marks. They’re not so fun. But is there any way to actually get rid of them? We chatted with a dermatologist—who’s also a mom-to-be!—to find out.
First, the unpleasant details: A whopping 75 to 90 percent of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy, most often on the stomach, but also on breasts, hips, thighs, lower back, and butt. Whether or not you’ll end up getting them is tough to predict: “Nobody knows why some people get them and others don’t,” says Lisa Chipps, M.D., a dermatologist in Beverly Hills.
During pregnancy, stretch marks are the result of hormone changes and rapid weight gain, which cause the skin to literally stretch and tear, forming a scar. And while experts agree there isn’t anything you can do to prevent them from forming, it’s not all bad news. With a little TLC, you can minimize the damage, Chipps says.
To minimize stretch marks, just remember the two M’s: Massage and moisturization. Gently rubbing the stretch marks will help stimulate healthy skin growth, while slathering on a moisture-rich lotion or belly oil can help to make your skin more pliable. (We like Weleda Natural Stretch Mark Massage Oil $25 for 3.4 ounces.)
The technique works best when your stretch marks are fairly new (new stretch marks are reddish or purple). Once they’ve turned white or silver, stretch marks can be harder—but not impossible—to treat. “Retinoid cream has been shown to stimulate new skin growth,” Chipps says. “There are other topical lotions, too, but the science doesn’t really back them up.” The one drawback? You’ll have to wait until you’re finished breastfeeding, since retinoid can’t be used on nursing moms.
Other treatment options include glycolic peels and laser removal, but both tend to be expensive and require several sessions before you’ll notice any results. And no matter what route you go, think of it as a process instead of an overnight fix. “Any stretch mark solution will generally take three to four months,” says Chipps.
More from New Parent: How to Love Your Post-Baby Body