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The Truth About Pregnancy Stretch Marks

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Is Prevention Possible?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent stretch marks. There’s not a cream, lotion, or “mommy” balm that can do that -- and if that’s the claim on the bottle, don’t be fooled, Lupo says.

It's always a good idea to keep your skin hydrated with a rich lotion or cream, Lupo says, especially if it makes your skin feel better, look smoother and more toned, and helps the itchiness that can come with your growing belly.

It also helps to keep your body hydrated with water, says Anne Chapas, MD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Focus on Fading

While some stretch marks naturally fade to faint, silvery lines, others remain darker and more showy. The best time to treat the marks, Waldorf says, is while they're still in that reddish stage. Gels made with a mix of onion extract and hyaluronic acid may help. In one study, people using the gel said their marks faded after 12 weeks of daily use.

Another option is a retinoid, which your dermatologist can prescribe. “This speeds up cell turnover and can stimulate new collagen growth, leading to plumper, healthier skin,” Waldorf says. (You can’t use a retinoid if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, though.)

Other in-office treatments include lasers that heat the skin. That boosts collagen growth and shrinks dilated blood vessels. It may take a number of sessions to see results, says Jeanine B. Downie, MD, a dermatologist in Montclair, NJ.

Gentler processes such as dermabrasion can also help renew the skin, Downie says, but don't expect a big change.

Some women are simply trying to accept the new skin they’re in, now that the baby has arrived. “Knowing that there’s really no magic spell, I have decided to embrace [the stretch marks] as a part of my new mom body. New curves, new shape -- new skin, too,” Shaw says.

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Reviewed on September 27, 2013

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