How a Celebrity Dermatologist Avoids Stretch Marks During Pregnancy

Updated: Feb. 17, 2021

Dendy Engelmann, MD is the go-to dermatologist for skin health for the stars. So when she had her own pregnancy, women clamored to know—how did you avoid those dreaded stretch marks? Here are her secrets.

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Dendy Engelman, MD
Courtesy Dr. Dendy Engelman

Healthy mom, healthy baby

During pregnancy, moms focus so much on the arrival of their “bundle of joy” that they may neglect themselves. There are many permanent body changes and beauty surprises that happen during pregnancy—and mom may not be prepared. You can take steps along the way to ease the transition and help get your body back to its pre-birth state. Part of this process is taking steps to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy. “My pregnant patients are always asking me, ‘How can I prevent stretch marks?’ in the same breath as ‘What are the safest face products to use during pregnancy?’” says Dendy Engelman, MD, an NYC-based celebrity dermatologist. When she was pregnant with her second baby, she said she was just as concerned about what she was putting on her body as her patients were. We can all learn from her “healthy mom, healthy baby” regimen.

woman's hands holding a bottle of moisturizer

Avoid products deemed unsafe during pregnancy

When it comes to your beauty routine, steer clear of vitamin A derivatives, warns Dr. Engelman. These include retinol and retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and skin lighteners like hydroquinone. Be cautious of oral acne and Lyme disease treatments, too. So, keep an eye on things like Accutane, tetracyclines, doxycycline and minocycline, and chemical sunscreens. The American Academy of Dermatology outlines even more specifics about what acne treatments are potentially safe or unsafe during pregnancy. For example, they note that while certain antibiotics for acne seem safe, some women have given birth to a child with birth defects when taking them. To be sure, ask your doctor and learn more about the ways to prevent birth defects before and during pregnancy“My clients are usually knowledgeable enough that they stop retinoids as soon as they get the positive pregnancy test, but we forget about some toxic ingredients found in everyday beauty products,” Dr. Engelman says. “Nail polish, deodorant, acne creams, and skincare can have ingredients that could potentially be harmful to an unborn baby.”

pregnant woman rubbing cream into her belly

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

Dr. Engelman said that she didn’t get any stretch marks during her first pregnancy and also indicated similarly into her second pregnancy. She attributes this to daily preventative use of Bio-Oil and Serica Moisturizing Stretch Mark Formula. But for people who do get stretch marks, she recommends pulsed dye laser for new, red marks. A 2017 issue of The Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery reviewed various stretch mark treatments. Their conclusion is in line with Dr. Engelman’s words. “Laser therapy of early stretch marks (striae rubrae) targets vessels,” the journal notes. “Laser treatment is a physical tool used in the improvement of stretch marks with a focus on early stretch marks.” For older stretch marks though, Dr. Engelman has a different suggestion. “When they become white and strophic, fractionated CO2 laser is best to improve their appearance,” she says.
woman rubbing cream into stretch marks on her pregnant belly

Treat any stretch marks immediately

A topical treatment can help when genetics start to get in the way in the later trimesters. It’s best to start treatment right away. Do this with a silicone gel formulation designed to prevent and heal stretch marks. “Serica Skin Care offers a gel treatment formulated with a proprietary blend of silicone, sodium hyaluronate, essential fatty acids, and Amazonian Pracaxi oil,” Dr. Engelman explains. “It has been proven successful in nourishing the skin, promoting even skin tone and thus, aiding the skin to recover from the growth of our bodies.” Serica is available over the counter. Apply it to affected areas twice daily for at least 12 weeks. However, if you’d rather try other options, consider these stretch mark remedies you can make at home.
pregnant woman wearing stretch-top jeans

Get some support during pregnancy

Comfortable, supportive clothing can go a long way toward avoiding stretch marks in pregnancy.  Dr. Engelman wore Spanx during her pregnancy to provide “extra support for the bump.” She adds that the high-waisted styles are fine to wear up until delivery. In fact, she did this while pregnant with her son Gadsden, who was almost 8 pounds and healthy. “The pregnancy tights are developed to provide abdominal support without restricting growth or blood flow,” she says. “Just make sure they are the correct size and comfortable. I live in mine currently. Honestly, I feel better in them than out of them.” If you’re considering this, you’ll want to know more about the best shapewear for every kind of dress. And since she’s busy with patients all day, Dr. Engleman says shapewear helped her avoid lower back pain and supported her abdominal skin as her baby grew.
woman lacing up a pregnancy corset
Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

Consider support for after pregnancy

One of the most common myths about delivery by C-section is that those mothers require the same recovery time as women who had vaginal births. In reality, they need at least an additional two weeks. Post-surgery corsets can aid in a faster childbirth recovery. This is especially the case with a Caesarian section, which Dr. Engelman had. “I wore a corset by Bellefit that helped support the abdominal muscles and skin that were cut during the Caesarian section,” she says. “I started wearing it three days after surgery for about 4-6 weeks. It minimized post-op pain and had me back to life much more quickly than my patients, friends, and colleagues.”