Striae gravidarum (SG), or stretch marks developing during pregnancy, affect up to 90% of women. While not medically dangerous, SG can be disfiguring, causing emotional and psychological distress. However, studies specifically addressing the prevention of SG, especially during pregnancy, are sparse. Furthermore, the molecular pathogenesis of SG is unclear and may differ from that of striae from other causes. Considering these factors, we review topical modalities that have been used specifically for preventing SG during pregnancy. We identify two major strategies (end points) addressed by these modalities, namely (i) preventing the de novo development of SG and (ii) reducing the severity of SG that have recently developed. We also identify risk factors for the development of SG and suggest that pregnant women with these risk factors are an appropriate target population for prevention. In reviewing the literature, we find that there is limited evidence that centella, and possibly massage with bitter almond oil, may prevent SG and/or reduce their severity. There is weak evidence that hyaluronic acid prevents SG. Tretinoin holds promise for reducing the severity of new-onset SG, but its use is limited by its pregnancy category. Finally, cocoa butter and olive oil are not effective for preventing SG or reducing the severity of lesions. We conclude that reliable methods for preventing SG are scarce. Furthermore, available topical modalities generally lack strong evidence from rigorous, well-designed, randomized controlled trials with ample numbers of subjects. Thus, further research is necessary to elucidate SG pathogenesis, which may lead to effective prevention modalities.
© 2014 British Association of Dermatologists.