<p>Aside from reducing stretch marks, the act of massaging in your chosen product can feel like some much-needed self-care</p> (iStock/The Independent)

Aside from reducing stretch marks, the act of massaging in your chosen product can feel like some much-needed self-care

(iStock/The Independent)

Stretch marks affect many of us, often occurring in pregnancy, puberty, and after rapid weight gain. While many choose to embrace these newfound stripes, others might feel more confident caring for their scars (or trying to prevent them from occurring in the first place).

Applied regularly to the stomach, thighs, bottom and breasts, we’ve found a range of oils and creams specifically targeted at improving the structure of the skin, leaving it feeling soft and nourished in the process. Gentle circular movements are best, with most brands recommending applying at least twice a day (we tried these products just before bed, and after our morning shower).

As Harley Street skin specialist Dr. Emma Wedgeworth explains: “Stretch marks (known as striae distensae in dermatological terms) are line-like scars which develop due to excessive stretching of the skin. We don’t know exactly why they occur, but the changes seem to be shearing of the elastic tissue alongside changes in key structural proteins which sit in the mid-layer of the skin (dermis).”

“When stretch marks first develop, there is often some mild inflammation and swelling, so they are red and slightly raised. Over time, they flatter and become pale with a finely wrinkled surface.”

Wedgeworth adds that “there are several things you can do to improve the overall appearance of the skin. Keeping the skin well hydrated with ingredients like shea butter, hyaluronic acid and ceramides can improve the overall appearance of skin and protect the skin barrier. Topical retinoids can prove effective, but shouldn’t be used while pregnant or breastfeeding”.

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Aside from reducing stretch marks, the act of massaging in your chosen product can feel like some much-needed self-care and an opportunity to celebrate your changing shape. For those that are pregnant, it can also be a lovely way to bond with your bump, and many of these formulas would make a gorgeous gift for mum-to-be.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Pai the gemini pomegranate & pumpkin seed 2-step stretch mark system

Described as “pregnant skin’s elasticated waistband”, this organic two-step system from Pai, felt like a heavenly spa experience. Presented in a giftable box set, it contains a squeezy tube of pomegranate and pumpkin seed cream for morning application, and an elegant glass bottle with a pump containing your evening oil. Instantly relieving itchiness, it smells divine and was a welcome step in our pre-bedtime routine – one we’ll be continuing with, long after the baby arrives.

Buy now £49.00, Paiskincare.com

Hatch Mama belly oil

With its uplifting scent of grapefruit and almond; and lightweight, hydrating, non-greasy formula, this botanical-packed oil is suitable for use all over, and the bottle is big enough that you can slather on with wild abandon. You can use it before and after the baby comes along, and it’s versatile too – just add a couple of drops to a warm bath for an extra pamper. We can see this elegant glass bottle (complete with handy pipette), on the shelves of pregnant beauty editors the world over, and genuinely looked forward to applying it morning and night.

Buy now £58.00, Harveynichols.com

Typology stretch marks gel-to-oil with baobab oil

Recently awarded B Corp status for its ethical ingredients sourcing and sustainability efforts, French skincare brand Typology has come up with this clever gel-to-oil repairing formula. It smells wonderful (like a grown-up bakewell tart) and was a total joy to apply – we loved how it transforms on contact with warm skin. The stripped-back packaging is effortlessly stylish too, taking pride of place in our bathroom cabinet. With active ingredients including baobab oil, passionfruit concentrate and shea butter, the brand recommends applying twice a day for best results, and we found it sunk in quickly, without leaving any residue behind.

Buy now £23.80, Typology.com

Weleda stretch mark massage oil

Developed with, and recommended by midwives, Weleda’s products are free from all synthetic ingredients. Extensively tested on pregnant women; and particularly those with very sensitive skin, it contains arnica, a natural anti-inflammatory to prevent stretch marks from forming, along with jojoba, wheat germ oil and vitamin E.

Delicately fragranced with essential oils suitable for pregnancy, we found the mix of skin-healing geranium, calming lavender, uplifting orange and indulgent sweet almond oil had a spa-like, relaxing effect on us.

Buy now £19.95, Weleda.co.uk

Clarins body partner

Claiming to visibly reduce the length, width, depth and colour of your stretch marks (and stop new ones from forming), Clarins’s creamy formula is ultra-nourishing. Sinking in quickly, we found it provided instant comfort, (partly due to hazelnut oil, which is thought to reduce the feeling of tightness). It’s great for busy mornings, as it absorbs instantly, so there’s no waiting around for it to dry before putting your clothes on,

The combination of pump and squeezy tube ensures a precise application, so you won’t waste a drop, and the suggested application method was easy to follow.

Buy now £40.00, Clarins.co.uk

Omorovicza firming body oil

This ultra-luxe oil left our skin instantly hydrated while perfuming the bathroom with its delicious mix of rosemary, chamomile and geranium essential oils. The key ingredients when it comes to stretch mark prevention are calendula oil, almond and apricot kernel oils, which work together to promote elasticity. It’s not the cheapest, but every application felt like a real treat, and our sensitive skin loved it.

Buy now £55.00, Omorovicza.co.uk

Dermatology M ultra rich vitamin E 10% intensive face & body cream

Combining Chinese medicine with modern formulations, this peach-hued cream is scent-free and suitable for those with eczema or hypersensitive skin. It contains a hefty dose of vitamin E, an antioxidant known for its skin regenerating benefits, and is even gentle enough to use on baby skin. Made in the UK, the herbal ingredients are cold-pressed to improve their efficacy, including soothing allantoin, pro vitamin B5 and aloe vera.

The only downside is the price; at £42 for 50ml, you’ll get through quite a lot of it if you’re to follow the brand’s advice of applying three to five times a day. That said, a little does go a long way, and we loved how nourished our skin felt after use.

Buy now £42.00, Dermatology-m.com

Science of Skin solution for stretch marks

Designed especially for new mums, not only does this product promise to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, but it’s oh-so soothing when applied to irritable, itchy skin. It contains a powerhouse of ingredients, including antioxidant-rich green tea, ultra-moisturising microalgae, collagen-boosting vitamin C and rejuvenating vitamin E.

It’s fragrance-free but smells like it’s getting to work in a no-nonsense, medical way, and we appreciated the pump and creamy formula. For best results it will need to be applied at least two to three times a day, massaging into the targeted area for at least one minute until fully absorbed.

Buy now £39.99, Scienceofskin.com

Nuture nourishing skin treatment cream

Nuture’s plant-based skincare range includes this ultra-rich cream formulated to target both old and new stretch marks. It contains seven per cent centella extract (found to calm inflammation, speed wound healing, stimulate new cell growth, build collagen, and improve circulation), as well as three per cent collagen extract which can improve the skin’s elasticity.

It takes a while to fully absorb, but we can see how the thick white cream would inject moisture into dry skin. The brand recommends using it for at least three months for best results.

Buy now £12.99, Nutureskin.com

Coco and Eve bounce body masque 212m

With a focus on tightening, firming and sculpting, we’d probably save this mouth-wateringly juicy formula for post-baby. It smells so good you could eat it, thanks to mango, lychee, dragronfruit and tropical mangosteen (reminiscent of The Body Shop’s Nineties-famous body butters). As a face mask for your tum, the brand recommends applying liberally to dry skin and leaving to set for ten minutes, before washing off with warm water and following up with a moisturiser.

Buy now £39.90, Cocoandeve.com

Burt’s Bees mama bee duo

If you can’t choose between a cream or oil, this duo has got you covered. The belly butter has a rich but easily spreadable consistency, with a subtle cocoa, shea and jojoba butter scent, perfect for applying before bed. The body oil has a stronger lemony note (not dissimilar to citronella candles) and is best smoothed over damp skin to lock in moisture. Both are enriched with vitamin E to nourish the skin.

Buy now £21.58, Amazon.co.uk

Kit & Kin stretch mark oil

This Soil Association-approved organic oil includes an array of active natural ingredients designed to boost the skin’s elasticity. These include antioxidant-rich macadamia oil, cold-pressed strawberry oil and tissue-regenerating patchouli. Safe and gentle, with a delicious scent (and with change from a tenner), we reckon it’s worth giving it a go.

Buy now £9.99, Kitandkin.com

Elemis japanese camellia body oil blend

The dainty little lid isn’t the easiest to prise open, however, if you manage to overcome that obstacle, the nourishing oil within contains a blend of camellia oil, vitamin E and sweet almond oil. Unlike some of the others, this has more of a floral scent, thanks to the camellia, which is a bright pink Japanese flower, known for its all-round moisturising powers. It’s also great for nails and hair too.

Buy now £40.00, Elemis.com

Neal’s Yard mother’s balm

Predominately made from coconut oil, apricot kernel oils and beeswax, this organic balm has a consistency somewhere between an oil and a cream. It’s virtually scent-free, which will appeal to some, and melts in your hand, making it easier to spread. Offering long-lasting hydration, if your pre-pregnancy routine included coconut oil, we reckon you’ll love this.

Buy now £20.00, Nealsyardremedies.com

Mama Mio tummy rub trio

We’re confident this new trio would make a great gift for all new mums-to-be. The formulas have the consistency of cold cream (and are quite chilly when you first apply them), but leave skin so incredibly soft we found ourselves stroking our stomach in awe. The rehydrating shea butter is really comforting, and when used from boobs to bump, we didn’t experience any irritation whatsoever.

Because it’s so easy to slather on, we can see us getting through a tub quickly, which is why this set of three is such a nice bundle. Personally the original is still our favourite, closely followed by the fragrance-free version (which feels ever so slightly thicker), and finally, the lavender and mint, which smelt slightly synthetic.

Buy now £50.00, Mioskincare.co.uk

Dr Lipp BBF balm

Building on the popularity of its original nipple balm (which we use as a rich lip balm), this is Dr.Lipp’s first-ever skincare product and can be used on hands, face and body. Perfect for pregnancy, it contains just two natural ingredients – coconut oil and lanolin, an emollient used to prevent dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin and ideal at promoting elasticity. It smells similar to the original formula, but with a more spreadable texture that’s better suited to larger body parts.

Buy now £15.30, Justmylook.com

Bio-Oil skincare oil

If you’re in the market for stretch mark prevention, you’ll no doubt be aware of the hard-working Bio-Oil range. It’s long been used for improving the appearance of scars, stretch marks, and uneven skin tone, and the light oil consistency is highly spreadable. If you don’t mind the slightly medicinal scent, we’re confident you’ll see good results after three months of daily application – and it can also be used as a bath oil.

Buy now £16.99, Boots.com

The verdict: Stretch mark creams and oils

Pai’s two-step approach genuinely became the highlight of our day, offering instant comfort to our irritable growing skin. If you’re on a budget, Typology stretch marks gel-to-oil is equally luxurious and well worth a try.

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For the latest discounts on stretch mark creams and other skincare offers, try the links below:

For more skincare heroes, check out our round-up of the 8 best polyglutamic acid products that hydrate thirsty skin