After reading this post, you’re going to:
1) Save time and…
2) Save money every time you walk down the body care aisle filled with topical products that promise the prevention of stretch marks, or improving the appearance of them.
When I’m not working or spending time being a Mommy, I’m scouring the Internet to learn more about my craft. Upon doing so, I came across a gold mine! A study published by John Wiley & Sons and The Journal of the European Academy, that basically debunks all the big brand stretch mark topical products on the market, including Bio Oil and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, plus many more.
Now when I was pregnant, I was just like you. I wanted to do anything I could to prevent getting stretch marks, including buying bottles and bottles of Bio Oil, Palmer’s and other more expensive products I could slather on my growing body. If I had known what I now know after reading this study, I would’ve still moisturized my skin, but wouldn’t have wasted so much time obsessing over which products to use.
“How to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy “ is one of the hottest, most popular topics on any pregnancy forum and I was constantly reading them for any tips to try, which honestly only confused me more because everyone’s skin type and genetics are so different.
Speaking of which, the reason why there aren’t a lot of medical studies on stretch marks is because they do not pose a health risk to us, which is a great thing in the grand scheme.
You’ll have to take a look at the study for extensive details, but here are a few things I found most valuable…consider this the cliff notes version:
About the study…
“The aim here was to assess the evidence for the use of topicals in SD (striae distensae, or for short “stretch marks”) and to propose a structured approach in managing SD. A systematic search of published literature and manufacturer website information for topicals in SD was carried out. The results showed that there are few studies (n = 11) which investigate the efficacy of topicals in management of SD.
The causes of stretch marks…
The causes of SD are proposed to be due to the mechanical effect of tissue stretching;19 from growth in adolescence and rapid increase in the size of certain locations of the body.20, 21 The most common anatomical locations which are affected by SD are the abdomen, breasts, buttocks and thighs (Fig. 4).22
Most common methods for treating stretch marks…
The most common method for treating SD is the use of topicals.33 Only a limited number of topical agents have been evaluated in formal studies for the treatment of SD (such as tretinoin,34 Trofolastin,35Alphastria,36 cocoa butter,37 olive oil38 and silicone gel39), although, there are many topical products, available commercially on the market, which claim benefits for prevention and/or treatment of SD, which have not been formally evaluated in any clinical study.40
The use of topical therapies aims to provide lasting improvements in pigmentation and texture of both striae rubrae and albae, with minimal side‐effects, in patients of all skin types.41 However, in order to improve the appearance and reduce the symptoms associated with SD, the following processes should occur; increased collagen production and fibroblastic activity, increase in elasticity and blood perfusion, improvement in cell proliferation, increased skin hydration and anti‐inflammatory properties.35, 37, 42
It is important to assess the evidence available for the use of these topical formulations. Overall, there has been insufficient clinical evaluation of these products and many studies have failed to demonstrate efficacy. Indeed, no single treatment or management plan has been advocated for SD and the literature provides no gold standard therapy; all hampered by a paucity of level 1 evidence. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the available evidence for the use of topical treatments for the management of SD and to propose a structured management approach.
Popular topical products on the market and their claims…
The majority of topical products claim to improve the appearance of SD by the stimulation of collagen production in order to increase skin elasticity. StriVectin‐SD® (StriVectin®, New York, USA) is a skin repair cream, which is indicated for use on SD, wrinkles and ageing skin.41 The active ingredient is the molecule NIA‐114™. It is thought to work by increasing collagen type I and IV synthesis. However, there is no published evidence for its efficacy on SD.
Another topical on the market is Cussons® Mum and Me Bump Stretch Marks Cream (PZ Cussons Ltd, Manchester, UK) which is recommended by the manufacturers for use in preventing SD. It contains Lupin Seed extract, which is used to increase collagen in the skin. It is claimed that this product is clinically proven.43 Their topical formulation was tested against 5 ml of skin treatment oil. Twenty‐eight women applied the two formulations twice daily for 12 weeks. The results showed that there was a 16% increase in elasticity of the skin using the cream, within 12 weeks. This study was briefly reported on the company website, but there are no published peer‐reviewed clinical trials.
Clarins® Stretch Marks Cream (Clarins® Ltd, London, UK) is indicated for reducing the appearance of SD. The active ingredients in this product are, Crowberry and Centella Asiatica extracts, olive, coconut and palm oils and siegesbeckia. There are no clinical trials associated with this product.
Bio‐Oil® is recommended by the manufacturers for use in helping improve the appearance of scars, SD and uneven skin tone. There have been two randomized controlled studies performed to assess the efficacy of Bio‐Oil® in improving the appearance of SD.48, 49 However, these studies were only reported on the company website and the full details and results of the studies are not available. The first, a single‐blinded, randomized controlled trial, demonstrated that 50% of subjects had improvement in appearance of their SD at 8 weeks.48 As this study was only single blinded, this could have led to a positive bias.
Palmers® Cocoa Butter cream is used for prevention and to reduce the appearance of SD by maintaining epidermis elasticity and rehydration of the skin. This topical is made from cocoa butter and vitamin E, elastin and collagen. There have been two randomized controlled trials, which have investigated the effects of cocoa butter vs. a placebo, for the prophylactic treatment of SD.37, 52 Both studies found that there were no significant differences between the creams.37, 52
There are a number of topical products used either therapeutically or prophylactically for the management of SD. There are several mechanisms of action reported, (none with level 1 evidence), to be associated with these topical formulations, which include the ability to stimulate collagen production, increase elasticity, improve cell proliferation, anti‐inflammatory properties as well as rehydration simultaneously.
I chose to summarize the name brands I’m most familiar with, but the study outlines an entire table chart of all the topical products they researched. I also want to mention that the study was performed without the authors having any conflict of interest or funding sources. After reading this, has this changed the way you see stretch mark creams? What about your purchasing power? I know I feel more empowered :).
As always, thanks for reading and please comment with your thoughts. I’d love to hear them.