Does Salicylic Acid Help Stretch Marks?

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If you’ve ever dealt with stretch marks, you’ve probably heard it recommended that you use salicylic acid on them. And you’ve no doubt wondered to yourself, does that really work? Well, I’m here to answer that through this full, comprehensive review. Careful, this isn’t an article about what to use to exfoliate stretch marks with multiple options, but a piece targeted specifically at salicylic Acid.

What Exactly Is Salicylic Acid, And How Does It Work?

Salicylic Acid is a Beta-Hydroxy Acid, derived from willow bark, commonly used in chemical peels, to get rid of your skin’s outermost layer. As a BHA, it has the ability to seep in more in-depth into the skin and work from the inside out, as opposed to most topical creams and ointments that sit atop the skin.

The salicylic Acid gets into the skin and dissolves the “glue” that keeps skin cells together. This leads to the shedding of old, dead skin cells, at the same time encouraging the appearance of new, healthy skin cells. This cell renewal stimulation is why it’s a big favorite in the treatment of acne and stretch marks, because by continually promoting new cells, it reduces the appearance of stretch marks, over time.

It also acts as a potent anti-inflammatory, which allows it to soothe pimples, as well as bright, red stretch marks, and make them less noticeable.

Stretch marks (commonly known as striae distensae) occur when the skin is stretched beyond its tolerance point, which leaves behind those pesky tiger stripes. While stretch marks can’t, as such, be prevented, since they’re primarily the result of genetics, there are things you can do to minimize their appearance.

Salicylic Acid acts as a chemical exfoliating agent on the stretch marks. It destroys the dead skin that’s preventing healing and the absorption of moisturizers (which in turn make your skin more elastic, and thus better capable of stretching).

How Do You Use Salicylic Acid to Exfoliate Stretch Marks?

How you use Salicylic Acid on your skin will depend largely on the type of product you’ve chosen, as well as the concentration of BHA within.

Cosmetic Products That Contain Salicylic Acid

There are many excellent products out there, such as cleansers, serums, creams, and exfoliating gels, containing Salicylic Acid. Usually, these include a very small amount of the stuff and can be used daily or even twice a day without any problem. Always follow the product’s specific instructions when using.

Pure Salicylic Acid

Salicylic Acid is also sold as a stand-alone product, in a much higher concentration. Here, as well, you can opt for daily usage, although do so with care. Do a patch test first, and at the first sign of irritation, stop using the product. Salicylic Acid is a very harsh exfoliating agent that can leave your skin red or feeling abnormally tight. After applying the salicylic Acid as part of your skincare routine, ideally, top it off with a hydrating product, such as Hyaluronic Acid or Niacinamide.

Tip: This depends on the concentration! Lower concentrations (2% – 5%) can be used daily, while higher ones (20% – 30%) should be left at once or twice a week.

Salicylic Acid Chemical Peels (Professional)

In a professional setting, the practitioner will first prep the skin by cleansing and covering your hair. Next, they will apply an intense chemical peeling solution and leave it on for anything from 15 to 30 minutes. Next, they will neutralize and clean your face of the solution and apply cool compresses to soothe the skin. Because this salicylic acid version is much stronger, you should only undergo professional peels every 4 weeks or so.

What Are the Benefits Of Salicylic Acid For Stretch Marks?

Salicylic Acid can:

  • Improve the appearance of both new and old stretch marks;
  • Stimulate blood flow and encourage skin shedding;
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory, soothing red stretch marks.

What You Need to Know About It

  • Are there side effects to using Salicylic Acid?

Yes, sometimes, using Salicylic Acid can lead to irritation, dryness, redness, itching, or a burning sensation. If any of these occur, stop using immediately.

  • Can I use Salicylic Acid while pregnant?

Yes, cosmetic products that contain Salicylic Acid are considered safe for pregnant women. However, you should avoid using strong salicylic acid concentrations (over 2%).

  • Is chemical exfoliation the same as manual exfoliation?

Not at all. Using salicylic Acid can take care of the chemical side for you, but you’re also encouraged to alternate with mechanical peels (e.g., scrubs, dry brushes, etc.) to get rid of the actual cells.

  • How often does it take to see results?

You’ll begin seeing an improvement after about 7-10 days, but to reap the full benefits of Salicylic Acid, give it at least 30 days!

Salicylic Acid Cosmetic Products – Your Options

This section will be looking at some of the best options containing Salicylic Acid for at-home stretch mark treatment.

Skin Beauty SALICYLIC Acid Peel 30%

This 1-ounce peel from Skin Beauty is a super-concentrated option, and as such, I wouldn’t recommend it for those who’ve never used salicylic Acid before. But as a highly concentrated peel, it works well and fast.


  • Immediate difference;
  • Also helps with pigmentation;
  • Great for overall skin tone;
  • Works well even on sensitive skin.


  • Pricey;
  • Dropper makes it hard to apply.

While I believe this product sounds great, don’t be swayed by the “immediate action” claims. You need to accustom your skin to the stuff. Otherwise, you risk breaking out and making the situation worse.

Perfect Image Salicylic 20% Gel Peel

This cleanser is also said to be improved with tea tree, cucumber, and green tea, all of which are excellent for treating scarring, reducing redness, and hydrating skin. Also, as it’s less concentrated, it might be a better idea for first-timers.


  • Leaves skin softer and fresh;
  • Properly cleanses;
  • Skin looks amazing;
  • Excellent for acne;


  • Expensive;
  • Might give an allergic reaction.

Personally, I’m loving the reviews for the Perfect Image Peel, and would definitely recommend you start with this one, and maybe move on to a higher concentration later on. It may be pricey, but it’s well worth it!

Revitale Salicylic Acid Scrub Soap

I get asked a lot what soap is best for stretch marks, and the Salicylic Acid one from Revitale should definitely be up there, among your top choices. It’s gentle, but at the same time, you will see a difference.


  • Light, apricot scent;
  • Doesn’t dry out the skin excessively;
  • Might actually fade stretch marks;
  • High-quality product.


  • Might irritate sensitive skin;
  • Expensive for 1 bar of soap.

If you’re looking for a soap option, then this is the way to go, as it’s the only product so far that specifically worked on stretch marks! It’s also time-efficient since it doesn’t take any extra skincare work other than a regular shower.

Dermalure Salicylic Acid Peel 30%

This Dermalure option sounds appealing because of the lower price and high concentration. It also comes from a well-known brand, so that’s always something.


  • It’s very strong;
  • Fast results;
  • Leaves behind soft, clear skin.


  • Might irritate because of the high concentration.

The Dermalure Peel does seem to be a good product, one that I would recommend, but as before, to someone who’s worked up a tolerance to the stuff. Do not spring for the 30% concentration if it’s the first time using, or you may end up regretting. While there were no stretch marks related reviews, this peel does seem to be efficient, so go for it!

Stridex Strength Medicated Pads

This final product is a bit different. Instead of a peel, we’re looking at salicylic acid pads for stretch marks, with a concentration of 2%. As such, these are suited for everyday use and are free of alcohol, so they shouldn’t cause irritation.


  • Great anti-acne, anti-aging effects;
  • Easy and quick to use;
  • Depending on how much skin you need to cover, you can cut one pad into two, and make them last longer;
  • Light exfoliators;
  • Smooth skin.


  • Leave behind a white residue;
  • Some say the formula has changed.

Judging from the several great reviews I’ve read, I would recommend starting with these pads, especially if you want a product to use every day. They also have a pretty good price!

Final Words

Salicylic Acid is one of several chemical peels good for stretch marks, and you should give it a shot, regardless if you’re suffering from older, faded marks, or fresh red ones!