Stretch marks—whether caused by weight gain, pregnancy, or weightlifting—are a common source of self-consciousness. Stretch marks can make wearing a bathing suit or taking your clothes off in front of another person extremely stressful. While stretch marks will never go away on their own, having stretch marks treated can reduce their visibility and greatly improve your confidence in your appearance.

One common treatment for stretch marks is a chemical peel.  Unfortunately, they haven’t produced good results in improving stretch marks.  There are better alternatives, including:

What Is a Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel is a type of skin treatment where an acidic solution is applied in order to burn off the surface layers of skin. The process removes dead and damaged skin cells and encourages skin regeneration. It is commonly used to reduce the appearance of age spots, sun damage, freckles, acne scars, and stretch marks.

Three types of chemical peels are available depending on the level of skin damage being treated. The most superficial chemical peel uses an alpha-hydroxy acid to burn off only the topmost layer of skin. A more aggressive treatment uses glycolic acid to affect both the top and middle layers of skin. The most aggressive treatment uses phenol. It is the deepest chemical peel available and requires only one treatment for full effectiveness.

Are Chemical Peels Effective for Stretch Mark Removal?

Stretch marks are scars that form in the middle layer of skin—the dermis—when skin tears due to rapid changes in the shape of your body. While a phenol-based chemical peel can penetrate the dermis, it cannot penetrate enough layers of your skin to burn away stretch mark scars.

A chemical peel may provide minimal improvement in the appearance of your stretch marks, but it will not reduce their visibility enough for the scars to be unnoticeable.

Costs, Risks, and Recovery

The cost of a chemical peel varies depending on the type of peel you want. The lightest chemical peel may be available for as little as $150, but as the lightest peel does not impact the dermis, the treatment will have little to no effect on the appearance of stretch marks.

For the deepest, most aggressive chemical peel, you will likely need to be put to sleep with an anesthetic, and this will significantly increase the cost of the procedure. On average, the cost of a deep chemical peel is around $6000.

When undergoing anesthesia for a cosmetic procedure, you should seriously weigh the benefits against the risks. While uncommon, the side effects of anesthesia can result in brain damage or death. Additionally, the more aggressive chemical peel treatments carry some risk of infection or scarring as a result of the procedure.

One significant disadvantage of a chemical peel is the long recovery period. Skin is visibly damaged by a chemical peel and will appear dark red for days or weeks before scabbing over, and it can take months for skin to completely heal after a deep chemical peel.

More Effective Stretch Mark Treatments

It is not necessary to spend thousands of dollars to feel better about your body. Many cost-effective stretch mark treatment products are available that, when applied regularly, can reduce the appearance of your stretch marks. These lotions and creams are available for purchase over the counter and can be a great starting point in your journey to a life without stretch marks.

If the cost of a deep chemical peel isn’t daunting for you, consider looking into laser treatment for stretch marks. Laser treatment costs are comparable to those of deep chemical peels. However, laser treatment can require many months of recurring treatments in order to be fully effective.  You can use our Treatment Cost Calculator to estimate what your cost might be.