Out damn stretch! Out I say!

Close up of unrecognizable pregnant woman's stomach with stretch marks. Copy space.
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Can We All Stop Pretending Stretch Marks Are Preventable?

Come. Sit. Let’s talk.

In a recent TikTok video, model Sofia Richie, who is seven months pregnant with her first child (a baby girl she will welcome with husband Elliott Grainge this spring), shared some of her favorite health and beauty products that she’s been using throughout her pregnancy. Blotting papers for skin that’s gotten extra oily, assorted magnesium supplements to help with notoriously miserable pregnancy sleep, an adjustable body pillow, and two different unguents aimed at preventing stretch marks.

“I am so afraid of getting stretch marks. I know it comes with the territory but I’m doing everything I can to prevent,” she said on TikTok as she introduced her first “essential” product (a shea butter lotion that she loves so much she’s already gone through six tubs). She follows this up with a belly oil (and before you ask, no, she says it doesn’t ruin or feel weird under her clothes) and has been positively chuffed with the results she’s observed. “So far, knock on wood, not one stretch mark,” she concluded happily.

I get it. I’m a girl who loves a good skincare routine. Honestly, just the process of spending time to take care of yourself and give your body a little bit of love and moisture feels great for me, even better if you’re happy with the lasting results.

I’m sure, many a pregnant person remembers doing the same. Maybe not with the specific brand of lotion Richie talks about, but maybe generic shea butter or coconut oil. And for those among us who have stretch marks, there’s all kinds of purported remedies to get rid of them: apple cider vinegar, Vicks, potatoes. But here’s the thing: while moisturizing your skin can help minimize the appearance of stretch marks, either before or after they form, there’s only one thing you can do to prevent them entirely.

Lean in closer, my babies...

The only sure-fire way to avoid stretch marks in pregnancy is to build a time machine, travel back to before you were born, find a woman who doesn’t have stretch marks, and choose to be born to her. (Theoretically, I suppose another solution would be to just radically alter your DNA somehow but, come on, let’s be serious.) Whether or not you get stretch marks largely comes down to genetics. Does your mom have stretch marks? Your aunt? Your older sister? Your grandma? Did you sprout a few when you grew boobs, hips, and thicker thighs in puberty? If so, you’ll probably get some in pregnancy, too. Do those female family members not have stretch marks? Did you come out of puberty free of these stripes? There’s a pretty solid change they’ll be skipping you this time as well. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking it’s your best indicator.

“That’s so fatalistic!” you might be saying. “Sure, mostly it’s genetic, but does it hurt to rub lotion on our bellies to at least try?” Well, that depends. Are you hoping or trying.

Hoping feels safe. Like “It might happen or it might not, but it can’t hurt to rub on some delightfully scented shea butter that I already have in my house every night as part of my going to bed routine” then yeah, go ahead and “try.”

But if you’re earnestly trying, fervently praying to the lotion gods as you heap a retinue of specially purchased, expensive products on your bump in a desperate attempt to ward off the inevitable and become increasingly depressed as you see stretch marks begin to appear? You might need to take a step back.

I know it’s all well and good for me, a rando who doesn’t know you, to go on about your body. And to be clear: you’re not a Bad Feminist and certainly not a Bad Mom for fretting about the long-term effects of being pregnant, even if the consequence in question is merely cosmetic. I just urge anyone worried about stretch marks to take a breath, be kind to yourself, and remember that pregnancy is a truly disorienting time full of changes and worries and outcomes we have zero control over. That may sound dismal but, it can be really freeing if you let it.

But whether you’re prone to stretch marks or not, be sure to moisturize. No one needs an itchy belly on top of everything else.