Chemical Peels for Stretch Marks – Watch your Scars Peel Away!

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We’ve talked at large about products that might diminish the appearance of stretch marks, but now we’d like to turn our attention to using chemical peels for your stretch marks.

This is an extremely efficient, though often overlooked method of reducing the size and severity of scars.

Basically, what is a chemical peel, and how does it work for stretch marks?

A chemical peel is a cosmetic process in which an acidic substance is applied to thef skin to shed or burn away several of the outermost layers (don’t worry, it’s not painful).

By peeling the stretch marks, you’re gradually making them look better and smoother. Chemical peels also stimulate cell regeneration, which can help heal newer stretch marks and give your skin that “glowing” aspect.

While there are several acid peels for stretch marks available, we’ll begin with (and focus on) the two main types of chemical peels that are generally used for stretch-marked skin: glycolic acid and TCA (trichloracetic acid).

1. Glycolic Acid for Stretch Marks

A glycolic acid peel is considered a medium-strength peel, meaning it does the job done but is not too abrasive. A medium peel might not work as well on profound scars.

There are two main categories of acids used in this type of peels: AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids). AHAs are water-soluble and work to loosen the bonds between skin layers (which makes the skin peel). BHAs are oil-soluble and focus more on unclogging the pores.

Glycolic acid is an AHA that penetrates the cells and chips away at the outermost layers. It’s great for stretch marks because it enters the middle layer of skin (aka the dermis, where stretch marks happen), not just the outer.

Glycolic acid peels have been proven to help boost the production of collagen, which is essential in stretch-marked skin because it generally had a deficiency of both collagen and elastin (the stuff that keeps your skin bouncy and elastic).

One significant benefit of glycolic peels is that it takes very little time for your skin to recover afterward.

The same study showed that glycolic acid peels help treat both new and old (white-ish) stretch marks. Many chemical peels don’t work as well on older stretch marks.

See, by boosting collagen, they’re encouraging the skin’s natural regeneration process. Except with white marks, your skin has already kinda given up on that and is just learning to live with the scars (which isn’t all that bad).

So, ideally, you should start using these peels as early as possible (when your stretch marks are still colorful), because then, you have a better chance at helping heal and reduce the damage.

2. TCA Peels For Stretch Marks

Trichloroacetic acid is derived from acetic acid (vinegar), and it works by breaking up the keratin protein your skin consists of and causing it to peel off.

TCA peels are generally used to fix pigmentation issues and even out the surface of the skin, which makes them another big favorite in treating stretch marks. They work particularly well on newer stretch marks, but can also be effective on white marks (striae albae).

Another reason we’d recommend a TCA peel for a woman just recovering from pregnancy is the pigmentation factor. As you may or may not be aware, one of the signature traits of pregnancy is that it causes this thing called melasma.

Also known as ‘pregnancy mask’, melasma sprinkles little brown spots on your skin. Though entirely harmless, these can become quite annoying, so using a TCA peel might be a bit like shooting two birds with one stone.

The big difference between TCAs and Glycolic is that TCA can penetrate the skin at a far-deeper level. So, it’s better for stimulating cell regeneration and collagen and elastin production. This is why you’re left with smoother, more faded marks.

A TCA peel will leave your skin red and looking a little irritated, but shouldn’t be too bad, as far as recovery downtime goes. Generally, recovery for a TCA is lengthier than for a glycolic peel and can take up to 10 days.

What’s Up with the Different TCA Strengths?

There are different TCA strength levels available that determine the depth of your peeling experience. This should be resolved with a professional, in our opinion.

However, if you prefer doing it at home by yourself, we recommend trying a lighter speed first to see how your skin reacts, what results you get, etc. and then work your way up to a higher level, if you feel it’s necessary.

Light peels are generally considered to be around 10% to 20%, while a medium is considered to be about 30% to 35% concentration. Once, it was possible to go all the way up to 70%, but such peels proved too strong and ended in complications for the patient. They are no longer recommended, and we would not advise you to go past a 30%-35% concentration, either.

3. Salicylic Acid for Stretch Marks

Salicylic Acid (the main BHA), though not as popular as the previous two, is another worthwhile treatment to be considered for stretch-marked skin. It’s been shown to be of great help in treating fresh, angry red stretch marks (striae rubra).

This is because salicylic acid has a high anti-inflammatory agent that soothes the redness that usually accompanies new stretch marks.

Salicylic acid can significantly improve the appearance of stretch marks and lighten them, but can not make them disappear completely.

We’d recommend trying a mixture of this with another chemical peel (and doing them alternatively) for the best results. Salicylic and glycolic would be a good idea.

4. Lactic Acid for Stretch Marks

Again, not a very popular peel, but yet another available option. Lactic acid, like glycolic, is an AHA and works to slough away dead skin cells and reveal newer, healthier skin.

However, it is far less potent than glycolic. Whereas that penetrates both the top and the middle skin layers, lactic acid only reaches as far as the top layer. It’s great for lighter peels, like face peels, to keep the skin looking young and fresh, but it’s not exactly ideal for stretch marks.

5. Phenol Peel

Phenol is among the deep peels out there and, as such, should be taken much more seriously. Typically, it’s used for treating severe conditions and deep wrinkles.

We include it in our list because it may be useful in treating particularly bad (deep) stretch marks, but it should not be used to less severe ones. We would not advise you do a phenol peel on your own, as it can be damaging.

Also, we think it’s worth noting that phenol peels are generally not recommended for use on areas other than the face, so maybe not a great idea for treating stretch marks.

However, we’ve seen some places that do them. We don’t know what to tell you about those, just that these peels are extremely useful (it usually takes only one session to see final results, whereas, with most chemical peels, you need more).

It also takes a lot of time to recover, though. There should be a “crust” over your skin for 10 days or so. So keep this in mind.

How Much do Chemical Peels Cost?

Naturally, costs vary depending on the region you live in, the availability of the products and the salon you chose. A general list of prices we were able to compile goes something like this:

  • Glycolic Acid Peel ~ $200 – $500;
  • TCA Peel ~ $300 – $1000;
  • Salicylic Acid Peel ~ $150 – $900;
  • Lactic Acid Peel ~ $150 – $300;
  • Phenol Peel ~ $300 – $4,000.

As you can see, they are pretty costly, and we encourage you to look at all the before and after pictures you can find before making a decision.

Can I Get a Chemical Peel on My Butt?

Chemical peels are generally considered safe for use on the body, including on the buttocks. However, bear in mind that we are talking about applying acid to your very sensitive derriere. It stings when applied to the face and other areas, so you can imagine that it’s going to be quite painful on the butt.

Because of the sensitivity, the chemical peels used will probably be lighter than on other areas, and also take more sessions to see results.

There is also the issue of skin regeneration here. Since the skin on the butt doesn’t regenerate as easily or as rapidly as in other areas, the chemical peel might leave you with dry/rough skin for a longer time. It might also cause skin discoloration.

Make sure you have a professional check you out and assess the situation. Also, discuss other options for removing the stretch marks on your butt before you settle on a chemical peel.

Can I Get a Chemical Peel During Pregnancy?

No, you should not get a peel while pregnant or breastfeeding. We understand that those fresh stretch marks can appear unsightly, but when doing a peel, you are exposing your skin to various chemicals. Some of them will get absorbed into your system and can endanger the baby (or seep into the milk, if nursing).

The only peel that is technically safe is the one with lactic acid since you already have that substance in your body. But we highly recommend that you wait until after pregnancy and the breastfeeding period to get a peel.

What are the Best at-home Chemical Peels out there?

We know that sometimes we don’t have the time (or the money) to get a chemical peel at the doctor’s office. But for those who wish to keep all the benefits of a peel, but at a much lower price, here’s our review of ten commercial peels.

1. 50% TCA Home Skin Peel Kit by Splendora

As you can probably tell, this peel has a high concentration and should always be diluted before usage (you can do this by adding water, since the product is water-soluble).

  • Customers who used it at a 25-30 % saw some improvement in treating pigmentation and wrinkles;
  • On the other hand, they all note that it’s a highly corrosive agent and should be used with great care;
  • FDA approved;
  • Several customers burned their skin and risk scarring by applying it straight to the skin.

While this 50% TCA Kit seems to have quite a few satisfied customers who efficiently used it, we would not recommend starting with this, especially if you haven’t done at-home peels before. You risk burning your skin, and honestly, we think that’s a too high price.

However, it does seem to be effective, so if you know you have the patience and the care to dilute and apply it carefully, then you might consider giving this kit a try.

Always, always do a patch test on the inside of your wrist before applying it to larger surfaces.

50% TCA Home Skin Peel Kit
by Splendora

2. TCA 15% Peel Enhanced with 5% Salicylic Acid by Ideal Image Solutions LLC

When purchasing this product, you get both a TCA solution (with 5% salicylic acid), as well as another peel called Jessner’s Peel. This is a solution of salicylic and lactic acid.

We think this would make an excellent starting option, 15% concentration being quite mild. We like the inclusion of salicylic acid, as well as the Green Tea (anti-bacterial) and Willow Back extracts.

  • FDA and GMP approved;
  • It’s light enough so that you don’t risk burning yourself, but concentrated enough to give results;
  • Several customers noted that after about a week, their skin had peeled off completely and revealed a smoother, brighter layer;
  • On the downside, it is quite pricey. But considering that such a procedure would officially cost at least a few hundred dollars, we think it’s quite a bargain.
TCA 15% Peel Enhanced with 5% Salicylic Acid
by Ideal Image Solutions LLC

3. TCA Peel 30% by Dermalure

Another worthwhile option for an at-home TCA peel seems to be this product from Dermalure. With excellent customer reviews, it seems to achieve what it sets out, that resurfaces brighter, healthier skin.

  • It should be noted that Dermalure advertise it for professional use, and so your at-home results may be less than ideal;
  • Given that it’s quite strong, we recommend diluting it, at least for the first few applications. Alternatively, you can try one of their lighter peels
  • We like that they offer a bigger bottle since this will more than likely require multiple applications to get the desired effect;
  • Some customers note that the product is strong, so make sure you use with care;
  • Once again, not cheap, but preferable to an in-office procedure.

P.S.: We see quite a few of these peels advertised as “tattoo removing”. If you’re considering this, please don’t. It may be more expensive to have them professionally removed, but also much, much safer.

TCA Peel 30%
by Dermalure

4. 30% Salicylic Acid Skin Peel with Tea Tree Oil & Green Tea Extract by Planet Eden – Best Ingredients

First of all, may we just say we love the ingredient list on this one. Tea Tree Oil is a natural antimicrobial that has been shown to boost the healing of wounds, which makes it an excellent treatment for stretch marks. Green Tea Extract, again, is another anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory that improves skin elasticity.

  • Might be a little too concentrated, especially for sensitive skin (so either try diluting or using a milder product);
  • One downside we found is that it’s alcohol-based, as opposed to water or oil-based. Alcohol can cause skin irritation and is a much harsher agent;
  • We haven’t seen any evidence that it works on stretch marks, sadly;
  • Bear in mind that the manufacturers recommend using this with the Skin Peel Neutralizer;
  • A nice little bonus is that it comes with its’ very own fan, application brush.

Tip: Several customers suggest using baking soda to neutralize the effects of the acid!

Best Ingredients
30% Salicylic Acid Skin Peel with Tea Tree Oil & Green Tea Extract
by Planet Eden

5. Lactic Acid Peel 50% – Skin Peel by Splendora – Best Mild Peel

Another product with an excellent reputation, this lactic acid peel is quite strong (for this type of peel), and several customers have noted its’ effectiveness in resurfacing smoother skin.

  • Since lactic acid peels aren’t as strong as other types, this concentration might work well for you, even as a first-time use. However, make sure you do a patch test first and dilute it if it’s too stinging;
  • We haven’t been able to establish its’ effectiveness for stretch marks, unfortunately;
  • Some even saw results as fast as after two treatments.

Overall, we’d recommend you try this peel. It’s a better option than jumping headfirst into something like a concentrated TCA peel and might end up giving similar results.

Best Mild Peel
Lactic Acid Peel 50% – Skin Peel
by Splendora

6. 88% Lactic Acid Chemical Skin Peel by Planet Eden

Talk about high concentration, huh?

While we have little doubt that this product is of good quality, we wouldn’t encourage you to use it as a first-time peel. As with anything, your skin first needs to build up a resistance to the solution, and if you start with 88%, there’s not much further you can go, is there?

Alternatively, you can always purchase this and dilute it with water, since the peel is water-based.

  • Keep in mind that several customers got burned and scarred after using this, so please use with caution;
  • Verified effect in diminishing the appearance of stretch marks.

Definitely not for rookies, but seems to get the job done.

88% Lactic Acid Chemical Skin Peel
by Planet Eden

7. Professional Medical Grade Trichloroacetic Acid at 15% by Ideal Image Solutions LLC – Best TCA Peel

Once again, the Ideal Image delivers a top-notch ingredient list. We like the many excellent anti-bacterial extracts that promote and sustain the peel’s effects.

  • What we don’t like, however, is that it is alcohol-based, which again, can be a bit harsh;
  • It comes with loads of excellent reviews and very few negative ones. That being said, it seems to do exactly what it promises;
  • Another aspect we love is that it’s mild, and as such, can be used by first-timers without too much worry. However, you should always keep a neutralizer at hand, just in case;
  • It’s a bit pricey;
  • Yet another thing that draws our attention is that it comes with a small jar of moisturizer to combat the peeling dryness.

We think this might be your best bet if you want to try TCA peels.

Best TCA Peel
Professional Medical Grade Trichloroacetic Acid at 15%
by Ideal Image Solutions LLC

8. Trichloroacetic Acid 25% TCA Chemical Peel Kit by RePare Skincare

This concentration is in something of a gray area. It’s not low enough to qualify as mild, but not high enough to qualify as medium exactly. And perhaps this is the reason some got burned, while others didn’t see any effect at all.

Reading through the many reviews this had, it seems to be an excellent product, with dozens of delighted customers.

  • They do warn that you should follow instructions, and we advise you do;
  • It seems this is “the real deal”, but it might be a bit strong for first-time use. We recommend building up resistance with a couple of 15% TCA peels before trying this.
  • Very reputable brand;
  • We love that it comes in a wide variety of bottle sizes – great if you’re looking to try once, but also if you’re planning to do multiple sessions.
Trichloroacetic Acid 25% TCA Chemical Peel Kit
by RePare Skincare

9. M-61 PowerGlow Peel by M-61 – Best Combo

Here’s something you don’t see every day. The PowerGlow peel is an AHA-BHA power-combo, containing both glycolic and salicylic acid (as well as soothing chamomile extract).

  • We particularly like how it’s formulated as packs (you can get a 10-, 30- or 60-treatment pack). However, this restricts your possibility to try it out once and go on from there, but we think their packs are very reasonably priced;
  • Overwhelmingly good reviews;
  • Seems to give a bit of a rash to people with sensitive skin;
  • Relatively mild peel – it’s recommended for 1-minute use, starting at three times a week and working up to everyday use, so not too corrosive.

Definitely an ingenious format, one that might provide gradual (perhaps slower) effects.

Best Combo
M-61 PowerGlow Peel
by M-61

10. TCA Fusion Peel Unit by Medpeel – Best Quality

This one seems to be a mish-mash of all the peels – it has TCA, it has glycolic, salicylic, lactic… basically, it’s trying to get the best of all worlds.

  • One thing we don’t like is that they don’t tell you the exact concentrations for each acid;
  • Has excellent reviews, no thoroughly bad ones at all;
  • Lauded as being professional and effective, though quite strong;
  • It’s quite pricey for such a product, but seems to be worth it;
  • The downtime appears to be around 7 days, at least, so bear that in mind (don’t use it before a big event).

As far as we can tell, there were no burns or unpleasant experiences associated with this peel, but make sure you follow instructions and test first.

Honestly, we’re quite impressed with the sheer quality of this product and would heartily recommend it.

Best Quality
TCA Fusion Peel Unit
by Medpeel

Conclusions

Best Quality: TCA Fusion Peel Unit by Medpeel

Best TCA: Professional Medical Grade Trichloroacetic Acid at 15% by Ideal Image Solutions LLC

Best Mild: Lactic Acid Peel 50% – Skin Peel by Splendora

Best Combo: M-61 PowerGlow Peel by M-61

Best Ingredients: 30% Salicylic Acid Skin Peel with Tea Tree Oil & Green Tea Extract by Planet Eden

While most of the products above seem reputable and of good quality, these are the five we’d most recommend. Please take care of how you use them, though, to avoid any unpleasantness.

We hope our reviews have helped you decide what chemical peel option is best for you.