Q: I'm pregnant for the first time. Is there anything I can use to prevent or eliminate stretch marks?
A: We in the beauty department here at O have a special interest in this question, as one of us—congratulations, Jenny!—has recently enjoyed the magnificent, enlarging experience of a first pregnancy. (Not to mention a first baby.) Speaking of enlarging: Stretch marks—a result of the tearing of the dermis, the skin's second layer—most commonly occur during the third trimester of pregnancy, says Haideh Hirmand, MD, clinical assistant professor of surgery at Cornell-Weill Medical College/New York Presbyterian Hospital. (They can also occur during the rapid growth of puberty, with significant weight gain, or from hormonal shifts.) Some studies have suggested that topically applied vitamin E and essential oils can help prevent the marks from forming. Once they appear, several treatments with a fractional laser, which promotes collagen production and thickening of the dermis, can reduce their appearance (but not remove them).
Keep in mind: The sooner you treat stretch marks, the better the result, says Roy Geronemus, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. So best to zap them with a pulsed dye laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) while they're still red.