Unless you’re one of the few humans who’s fond of spidery, wiggly purple and red marks across your belly, thighs, butt, and boobs (and if you are, we salute you; please teach us how to be you), then we’d like to declare that stretch marks are a pain in the ass. And—don’t shoot the messenger—but regardless of what you’ve read on the Internet or what your grandmother swears by, there is no true way to completely prevent 100 percent of stretch marks. But before you give up all hope and throw away every pair of shorts in your closet, we’re here with a surprisingly positive alternative: Find peace and comfort in your body’s natural progression through life, and love your stretch marks just as they are. Or second alternative: Slather them with products specifically formulated to plump fine lines, smooth bumpy patches, and lighten those deep, dark marks.
First, know this: Your stretch marks are often totally unavoidable, appearing during pregnancy or after rapidly losing or gaining weight. “Your skin can’t cope with extreme tension changes in short periods of time, and that can result in permanent damage to your skin collagen, leading to stretch marks.” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner.
And while the only real way to prevent stretch marks would be to go into your DNA and change its coding—which is obviously super easy—you can still help mitigate their appearance by using ultra-protective moisturizers, gently exfoliating lactic acid, and, if you’re not pregnant, wrinkle-fighting retinoids. And to help guide you in the right direction, we combed through every stretch mark-fighting product on the market, eliminating all of the ineffective formulas with unrealistic promises to present to you only the the best of the best products. See all five of them, below, and get slathering.