When you’re pregnant, your body is stretched to its limits—literally. At some point during those crazy, blissful, agonizing, and exciting 40 weeks, many women get the dreaded stretch marks. Appearing mostly on the belly–yet also breasts, hips, buttocks, and thighs–they’re fairly easy to discern: harmless streaks of red, thin, glossy skin, with a different texture than normal skin. While there’s no sure-fire way to avoid stretch marks completely, there are ways to minimize them.
Maintain a healthy weight. Excessive weight gain–whether during pregnancy or not–can lead to stretch marks. Pregnancy doesn’t give women unlimited permission to pig out on ice cream and candy bars all day (though you’re certainly entitled once in a while). It’s actually a time to boost the good-for-you factor of your meals: lots of protein, vegetables and fruit.
Drink plenty of water. “Women can keep themselves well hydrated, as healthy skin stretches better,” says Jennifer Higgins, mother of two and creator of Miss Oops, a line of beauty and fashion fixes. It’s like you’re hydrating your skin from the inside out.
Choose a moisturizer. There’s an array of products available that claim to reduce or avoid stretch marks. While there’s scant scientific evidence that they make a huge difference, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from moms who swear their product works. Higgins suggests, “Creams or oils containing cocoa butter, vitamin E or sweet almond oil help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.”
Use your moisturizer religiously. As early on in your pregnancy as you can, start massaging that cream or oil into your belly and breasts at least twice a day. Use a circular motion and spend a good minute or so. Besides improving appearance—and isn’t that what this is about?—Higgins says the massaging can help improve elasticity of your skin.
Continue the regimen post-pregnancy. Keep up your stretch mark-busting routine for at least six weeks after baby. Stretch marks generally fade with time.
- Don’t expect miracles. One thing about stretch marks is they are often hereditary. If your mom had them, you probably will too.