Pregnancy stretch mark cream: how to use it

For top results with stretch mark creams, here's all you need to know about how, when and where to apply it

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Using stretch mark cream can help to improve your skin’s elasticity – and that can mean that, as your pregnancy bump grows, your skin’s likely to be able to stretch more easily, meaning you’ll develop fewer stretch marks.

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Experts suggest it’s a good idea to get into a routine of applying stretch mark cream twice a day: once before you get dressed in the morning, and again just before you go to bed at night. 

Generally speaking, it’s best to apply stretch mark creams, lotions and oils after you’ve had a shower or a bath, when your skin is still slightly damp. 

That’s because, while the natural cycle of skin means that we shed skin cells even while we’re asleep, a shower or bath can accelerate the removal of the top layer of skin.

“It happens due to the combination of the drying effects of water, the use of non-moisturising shower creams and soaps, and a rough towel,” says Harley Street dermatologist Dr Ariel Haus. Applying moisturiser after a shower or bath counteracts this drying effect.

What’s more, after bathing, moisturiser can penetrate further within your skin – because you have shed the top layers of your skin, the cream can reach deeper layers of your dermis (the middle of your 3 layers of skin) than before.

And finally, the creams, lotions and oils themselves are best absorbed after a shower, when your skin is slightly damp. This is because moisturisers help to trap the water that’s still present in the skin, further boosting hydration. 

You can use a special pregnancy stretch mark cream, if you like. If you opt for a  ‘normal’ cream or oil, choose one that contains vitamin E, almond, grape, or ceramics – all of these are considered safe to use in pregnancy – and avoid brands containing urea, essential oils, salicylic acid or retinoids, as these can be harmful in pregnancy.

Pour/scoop some of the cream or lotion or oil into your hand and then use your other hand to gently rub it in to the skin of your bump – and any areas that can be prone to stretch marks, including your legs, hips and back.

“Do massage it in gently,” says midwife Virginia Howes, spokesperson for Independent Midwives UK and author of The Baby’s Coming. “When you’re putting it on your bump, I advise using a downward motion. Later in pregnancy, the motion of your strokes can help get your baby into the right head-down position for labour – and it’s good to get it all down to a fine art early on!”

Give yourself plenty of time. For the best results, you’ll need to apply a thick layer and allow it to sink into your skin. This can take 10 to 20 minutes for some creams, so if you’re in a hurry in the mornings, it’s worth using a lotion as these have a faster absorption time.

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