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Chemical Peels and Pregnancy

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
Chemical Peels and Pregnancy
Chemical peels may be not be safe during pregnancy. Photo Credit AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

When a woman is pregnant, the things she puts in and on her body can affect her baby. Because babies are developing health systems, such as the immune system, they often are not as equipped as adults to handle harsh chemicals. This can become a factor if a woman is accustomed to undergoing dermatological treatments, such as a chemical peel.


Chemical peels involve applying a diluted chemical solution in order to provide a variety of skin refreshing effects. These include reduction in blemishes, wrinkles, sun damage and even precancerous skin growths, according to the University of Virginia Health System. While the peels are most commonly associated with being applied to the face, they also can be applied to the hands, chest, legs, arms, etc. Chemical peels vary in strength, meaning some may penetrate deeper layers of skin than others, which can result in a number of side effects. Because these topical ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream, they can affect an unborn child.

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A number of chemical peel types exist and each has a differing skin penetration and effect, according to the University of Virginia Health System. These include alpha hydroxy acids, which include glycolic, lactic and fruit acids. This type of peel does not penetrate to the deeper layers of skin, but is associated with reducing acne, dry skin and sun-damaged skin. Trichloacetic acid peels are deeper peels, but do not typically require anesthesia to perform. Benefits of these peels include smoothing out fine wrinkles, reducing blemishes and reducing the noticeability of age spots. Finally, phenol peels are deep peels that require sedation and even months of recovery. These peels can smooth out very deep wrinkles and remove precancerous growths, such as moles.

Expert Insight

According to Dr. Jeanette Graf, MD, FAAD, a clinical and research dermatologist on The Family Groove, certain forms of chemical peels may be permissible during pregnancy. Examples of these safe-for-treatment peels include glycolic acid, lactic acid or other alpha-hydroxy acid peels. Dr. Graf recommends using buffered peels, which contain enough acid concentration to be active for only 5 minutes or less.


While some forms of chemical peels may be safe for use during pregnancy, others, such as salicylic acid and beta hydroxy acid peels should be avoided, according to The Family Groove. This is because salicylic acid is absorbed by the skin and can affect your growing baby.


In addition to the effects a chemical peel can have on your baby, it's also important to consider the effects one can have upon your own skin. According to the Cleveland Clinic, pregnancy increases the risk that a woman may experience temporary or permanent discolorations on the face. These can occur when the chemical peel has a negative reaction with the skin and causes pigment in the skin to darken. While this risk is low, it's important to discuss with your physician, even if you are undergoing a mild peel.

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