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How Do I Choose the Best Chemical Peel for Stretch Marks?

By Jami Yontz
Updated May 21, 2024
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Stretch marks created by rapid weight loss or gain can be removed or faded through a chemical peel. The best chemical peel for stretch marks is one that is performed by a skin professional or dermatologist, who can safely apply a mid-level or deep layer peel for stretch marks. Only low-intensity chemical peel products are available for at-home use, and they do not contain the chemicals necessary to change the appearance of stretch marks.

Stretch marks are long, white or purple scars that form usually on the hips, buttocks, thighs or stomach. Many women are left with stretch marks after pregnancy or severe weight loss, and the marks can appear as thin, barely visible white lines or as thick, raised purple marks. Stretch marks form below the outer layer of skin, the epidermis, so for a chemical peel for stretch marks to be effective, it must be able to reach the second and sometimes the third layer of skin, known as the reticular dermis.

A chemical peel for stretch marks works by essentially removing the layers of skin. Skin does this naturally by sloughing off dead layers, but as a person ages the natural exfoliation process slows down. Once the layers of the skin are removed the body begins the healing process, which usually takes around two weeks. A mid-level or deep skin peel may not fully heal for several months.

Only a professional chemical peel will contain materials that are able to remove layers of skin below the epidermis. A deep skin peel usually contains trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or phenol, and these products might be combined with salicylic acid and glycolic acid to cleanse pores and remove sun spots or acne scars. Medium strength or deep skin peels will fade stretch marks and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and melasma. These peels are more highly recommended because there is greater risk of infection and scarring with a deep skin peel. A medium depth peel may need to be applied a few times over several months to obtain the type of results desired.

Medium depth and deep chemical peels for stretch marks can be painful, and only a professional should administer the chemicals and provide post-procedure care. Chemical peels will leave the skin sensitive to light, and it may permanently lighten the person’s skin coloring. A person interested in undergoing a chemical peel should talk with a dermatologist about the risks and how their skin may react to the procedure.

How Much Are Chemical Peels for Stretch Marks?

Prices for chemical peels can vary widely. The amount you'll pay depends on a few factors, including the type and strength of peel used. The least expensive peels often start at around $100 and increase in price from there. You'll want to keep in mind that results from chemical peels depend on their strength:

  • Superficial: exfoliating your skin's top layer
  • Medium: affects the middle and outer skin layers
  • Deep: completely penetrating the skin's middle layer

How Stretch Marks Form 

When you see stretch marks, you're seeing connective tissue in the dermis layer that's been stretched beyond its normal elasticity. Rapid expansion of the skin, such as during pregnancy or unexpected weight gain, can pull on the fibers inside that connective tissue. At the same time, the outer skin layer becomes slightly thinner. That's what gives stretch marks their characteristic appearance. If inflammation is involved, you'll see red or purple tones in these stretch marks.

Superficial Chemical Peels

Superficial chemical peels focus only on the outermost layer of skin. They typically involve the application of a mild acid, such as alpha-hydroxy acid, to carefully shed that top layer. This helps remove dead skin cells, but it also can minimize the appearance of shallow wrinkles, fine lines, mild acne scarring and uneven skin tone. Since light chemical peels never go past the top skin layer, they won't do much of anything to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. These treatments usually cost between $100 and $300.

Medium Chemical Peels

Medium chemical peels reach the middle layer of skin where stretch marks form. Stronger acids, such as TCA or glycolic acid, penetrate the upper skin layer. TCA is an analogue of acetic acid, the primary ingredient in vinegar. Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane. Both exfoliate the entire top layer of skin. Once this happens, new healthy skin can form. Medium chemical peels typically costs from $1,000 to $3,000.

Deep Chemical Peels

Deep chemical peels are classified as surgical procedures because of the strong acid involved , plus the need for sedation and local anesthetic. After phenol is carefully applied to the skin's top layer, it penetrates the skin quickly and destroys it. This removes damaged skin and allows new skin to grow in its place.. Deep chemical peels are best for major skin concerns, such as deep wrinkles and severe scarring, and can cost $2,500 to $6,000.

How Long Does a Chemical Peel Take?

Total procedure time for a chemical peel is determined by the strength of the acid being used. Most take 30 to 90 minutes for application, treatment and neutralization of the acid. Light chemical peels generally require less time from start to finish. With deep peels, you must also factor in surgery prep time plus sedation and post-procedure recovery.

After a light chemical peel, you can usually begin wearing makeup again the next day. Medium chemical peels take a little longer — usually seven to 14 days after a glycolic acid or TCA peel. Deep peels require extensive healing. New skin takes about two weeks to develop after a deep chemical peel, but it may take several months to completely recover. You'll need to consult your dermatologist or esthetician for additional details.

How To Speed Up Peeling After Chemical Peel

Naturally, your outer layer of skin will start peeling off after a chemical peel. For medium chemical peels, this process starts after 24 to 72 hours. This is also true for superficial peels, although you may not see as much redness or discomfort compared to a medium strength peel. Clients recovering from medium and deep peels may experience peeling skin for three to 10 days after the procedure.

Risks of Premature Peeling

While recovering from a chemical peel, you'll want to keep a few things in mind. Your ultimate goal is for your skin to heal properly so you can see the benefits. Do not try to peel skin off yourself — this can cause irritation, scarring and hyperpigmentation. You also shouldn't exfoliate at home after a peel. After all, chemical peels already exfoliate the outer layers.

During the healing process, it's important to practice good skincare habits. Use a gentle facial cleanser and steer clear of rubbing or pressing on the new skin. You should also apply moisturizer and sunscreen to rehydrate your skin and protect it from UV damage. Maintaining the right moisture balance is essential, so take care not to let your skin dry out or apply too much moisturizer.

What Are the Layers of the Skin?

Your skin may seem simple, but the body's largest organ is a complicated and fascinating structure. The skin contains three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis.


The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin that functions as a physical barrier to the outside world. It contains melanocyte cells that control pigmentation and can drastically affect someone's appearance.


Below the epidermis lies the dermis. The dermis is home to connective tissues, nerves, sweat glands, and hair follicles. The dermis is slightly thicker than the epidermis and is the middle layer of skin.


Beneath the dermis lies the hypodermis. The skin's thickest layer is home to connective tissue, nerves, blood vessels, fat cells, and immune cells. Because fat cells are in the hypodermis, this layer plays a prominent role in the body's shape. Fat cells not only affect appearance, but they also play an essential role in your health. Fat cells produce hormones and regulate body temperature.

What Is an Over-the-Counter Chemical Peel?

Anyone can purchase a chemexfoliation product online or in the stores to try at home. Suitable chemical solutions will have a pH of 2.0. Anything higher or lower than that number could reduce the product's effectiveness.

There are two types of over-the-counter tinctures that you can try at home: Superficial and medium peels.

Superficial Peels

These products get their name because they only penetrate the top or superficial layer of skin. They will not get rid of any deep-seated skin issues, but they could make a difference for light acne or dark marks. They include low-strength acids that will slough off cells on the surface.

Medium Peels

Also available in blends you can use at home, medium peels penetrate deeper than superficial peels. These products target the epidermis, so they help shed the skin's top and middle layer. Because they get to lower levels, medium formulations can treat deeper issues. Wrinkles, lines, mild scars and age spots can all benefit from a medium peel. Active ingredients include glycolic or trichloroacetic acid for more intense exfoliation.

Though you can attempt these treatments at home, you should visit your physician for the best results. A medium peel will cause redness and stinging for a short time after the application and may take over a week to fully heal.

What Type of Chemical Peel Takes Place in a Doctor's Office?

A dermatologist can perform any derma peel, but they usually reserve office visits for medium or deep peels.

Deep Peels

A deep chemical peel infiltrates further into the skin's middle layer than a medium peel. Deep treatments are effective for severe scars, discoloration and more challenging wrinkles. These remedies use a higher concentration of trichloroacetic or phenol acid. The ingredients in a deep peel can severely damage the skin if misused, so never attempt one on your own.

Due to the intensity of these treatments, doctors will use sedation to ease discomfort. More powerful tonics will have side effects like dry and inflamed skin, swelling or burning. You may need to take pain medication during recovery. If performed incorrectly or a patient has an adverse reaction, a deep peel can cause permanent damage. In rare instances, these chemexfoliations could result in infections, scarring, or even organ damage. Even in best-case scenarios, the skin may take months to heal from a deep chemical treatment.

How Much Are Chemical Peels for Stretch Marks?

The price point for a chemical peel varies drastically. Options range from over-the-counter to professional peels performed by a dermatologist. A light at-home product typically starts around $100, while a professional peel can reach several thousand dollars. A mid-range chemical therapy typically runs over $600.

Is Chemical Peel Good for Stretch Marks?

Cellulite occurs when extra space appears between fat cells in the hypodermis. Because chemical peels don't reach the hypodermis, they can't altogether remove stretch marks. Though these remedies can't completely rid your body of these deep scars, they could fade their appearance. Other cosmetic surgical procedures claim to remove cellulite permanently. While these procedures may reduce the appearance of cellulite, like peels, they also cannot get to the heart of the problem. In some cases, they may even make skin dimpling more pronounced.

What Is the Best Chemical Peel for Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks reside deep within the skin's second and third layers. Light regimens that only reach the epidermis will do little to fade their appearance. A deep chemical peel administered by a dermatologist will provide the best results for stretch marks.

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Discussion Comments
By pleonasm — On May 26, 2013

I actually think that laser treatment for stretch marks is probably a bit more effective. I had it to remove some hair and in the process it rejuvenated my skin a little bit as well, which was a nice bonus.

You have to be careful to go to someone who knows what they're doing though and that goes for chemical peels as well. Unfortunately, there are plenty of shady characters around who are only looking to make money and there are plenty of pictures around of people who ended up paying for their greed.

By lluviaporos — On May 25, 2013

@bythewell - I just wish that people would accept these kinds of things and see them as just another part of themselves. It's particularly sad when it's someone who has gone through a pregnancy and ended up with stretch marks.

Those are your battle scars for going through an arduous process, you shouldn't be trying to minimize them as much as possible. Maybe you don't have to flaunt them, but you should just see them as part of you.

To turn it around, I have to wonder who would actually go around looking at stretch marks and judging people for them. I would never have any respect for the opinion of someone who did that, so why spend lots of money to get a painful chemical skin peel just to get into their good opinion?

By bythewell — On May 25, 2013

I read recently (although I haven't tried it myself) that using petroleum jelly is one of the best ways to get rid of stretch marks. And this was from someone who had tried a whole bunch of standard treatments, like bio-oil and vitamin E lotions and shea butter and so forth.

I don't know if she had tried a chemical peel, but she seemed to think it was only a few days before the marks began to fade, so it might be worth a try if you really want to get rid of them and are impatient with the ways you've tried so far.

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