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Do chemical peels work on stretch marks?

Updated January 7, 2021

Woman applying chemical peel to her legs

What is a chemical peel treatment?

A chemical peel is a skin-resurfacing procedure to help treat a variety of skin conditions, including stretch mark scars. A solution is applied to your skin to remove the top layers, letting the skin to grow back smoother. Depending on the severity of the scars, you can choose one of three levels of chemical peels:

Light chemical peels. A light, superficial, chemical peel removes the outer layer of skin called the epidermis. It’s typically used to treat wrinkles, acne scars, and uneven skin tone. For more significant scarring, you might need to do a light peel every two to five weeks.

Medium chemical peels. A medium chemical peel digs a little deeper, removing skin cells from the epidermis and from the top part of the dermis, the middle layer of skin. Like with the light peels, you might need to repeat these a few times to achieve your desired result.

Deep chemical peels. As the name says, a deep chemical peel removes skin cells even deeper than the light or medium treatments. These are recommended for deeper wrinkles and scars. You can receive their full effect after just one deep peel procedure.

Are chemical peels effective for stretch mark removal?

Studies have shown that chemical peels are effective on many scars and skin conditions, including stretch marks. By using peels on the area where the stretch marks occur, you’re gradually making the skin smoother and healthier. Chemical peels also promote skin cell regeneration, which can help lessen the look of stretch marks and give your skin a smoother texture.

Are chemical peels safe?

A chemical peel is usually a very safe procedure when performed by a qualified medical professional. Typical side effects include redness and swelling to the area, changes in the skin color, infections, and, in extreme cases, damage to your heart, liver, or kidney. Light peels typically have fewer issues, while deep peels can have more serious side effects. Be sure to do your research and take the advice of your doctor on which is best for you.

Note: if you are pregnant, avoid chemical peels until after the baby is born. They pose risks to both you and the baby.

Red vs. white stretch marks: what does the color of stretch marks mean?

When stretch marks first appear on your skin, they are usually a pinkish-red or purple color that can be slightly raised and itchy. As they get older, they usually start to look more recessed into the skin and fade to a silvery-white color.

Note: chemical peels work better on fresh stretch marks, which are still in the process of healing. The longer they’ve been on your skin, the harder they are to treat.

Glycolic peel or TCA peel for stretch marks?

Chemical peels are very effective in improving your skin’s texture and treating any damage to your skin, including stretch marks. Two of the most common chemicals used are TCA and glycolic acid. Most chemical peels will actually use a combination of both glycolic and TCA.

  1. Chemical peel procedures typically begin by spreading Glycolic acid on the area, which is milder than TCA. Glycolic acid penetrates the top layer of your skin, called the epidermis, to break down the dead skin cells.
  2. Once neutralized and wiped off, TCA is applied to penetrate deeper into the dermis layer of your skin. 

While there isn’t a permanent solution to removing stretch marks, the combination of these acids provides a deeper peel that will result in improving your overall skin health.

How does a glycolic or TCA peel work for stretch marks?

Chemical peels, as a whole, are skin resurfacing techniques that remove the dead skin cells and reveal fresh, smooth skin underneath. Each peel differs by type of acid used as its active ingredient, such as the TCA peel using Trichloroacetic acid. 

Each skin peel comes with a variety of acid concentrations for varying skin issues. A higher concentration of acid will be more effective in the deeper layers of your skin. This is particularly important when targeting stretch marks, which occur in the dermis layer of the skin.

Note: Any chemical peel with 30-50% acid is only available at a doctor’s office or a medical spa.

What kind of results can I expect?

A light chemical peel improves the look of your skin and lessens the appearance of stretch marks. The results may be subtle to start, but can increase with multiple treatments. If you do a medium peel, the treated skin will be more noticeably smoother. It may take a few treatments to see the results you want. Lastly, after a deep peel, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in the treated areas after only one procedure. While the results may not be permanent, they can certainly help.

Note: After all acid peels, your skin will be more sensitive to the sun for a short time. Talk with your doctor about how to keep your skin safe from the sun and how long it will take to heal.

FAQs

Are there other stretch mark removal treatment options?

  1. Specialized creams: There are a variety of stretch mark creams that have ingredients, such as cocoa butter and vitamin E, proven to help lessen the appearance of stretch marks.
  2. Microdermabrasion: A skin resurfacing treatment to promote skin regeneration, improving the tone and texture of your skin.
  3. Microneedling with PRP: A procedure where tiny needles infused with the blood’s own platelet-rich plasma penetrate the skin to create small wounds. These small wounds promote the growth of new skin cells and smooth out the stretch marks.
  4. Laser Treatments: Laser removal treatments work by removing the outer layer of skin to promote new, healthy skin growth. During the procedure, concentrated beams of light are pulsated into the skin to encourage new growth.

How much do chemical peels cost?

The cost of the procedure will vary depending on what type of peel you want to get and the area you want to treat. Light peels can cost as low as $150, while deep peels can cost upwards of $3,000 or more. 

Can I get a chemical peel on my butt?

Absolutely. Chemical peels may improve the skin texture and visibility of stretch marks on your buttocks by exfoliating a specific type of acid onto the area. The type of acid used depends on how extensive the stretch marks are.

Can I get a chemical peel during pregnancy?

Light peels are deemed safe during pregnancy, but we don’t recommend getting any chemical peels while pregnant because of risks to you and the baby. It’s best to hold off until you give birth. If you decide to go for a lighter peel while pregnant, just be sure to discuss it with your doctor first.