A TCA, or trichloroacetic acid, is a common ingredient found in both medium and deep chemical peels. Strength and depth of a TCA peel can be customized, adjusting the concentration to improve the appearance of fine lines, age spots, melasma, and acne scars.
The SkinnyTCA Peel
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About the Procedure
Chemical peels use a variety of ingredients to exfoliate the skin to reveal a more rejuvenated complexion. TCA peels are popular for both at-home and professional use. DIY versions are sold at lower concentration ranging from 5-15% while higher concentrations of 20-35% should be used only by licensed providers. TCA peels have been performed at even higher concentrations but were associated with a greater risk of scarring. Some plastic surgeons and dermatologists recommend that regardless of concentration, chemical peels should be done in an office setting to ensure proper application and depth of penetration. Otherwise, patients may accidentally cause severe chemical burns to the treated area. Once a patient is determined to be a good candidate for a TCA chemical peel, they will need to complete any pretreatment skincare regimens, such as a daily tretinoin cream to reduce healing time or a series of lighter chemical peels to prepare the skin for a deeper exfoliation. On the day of treatment, the patient may require general, local, or no anesthesia depending on the depth and concentration of the chemical peel. The customized solution will be applied to the face, with multiple layers applied to areas of concern such as deep wrinkling and uneven pigmentation. The solution will be left on the skin until a frosting affect occurs. The provider will determine the depth of exfoliation visually, by observing the progression of skin frosting. Once the desired depth of exfoliation has occurred, the chemical solution will be neutralized and removed from the skin. A soothing lotion or serum may be applied after treatment.
TCA chemical peels are used to create a youthful skin texture by improving the evenness of skin color and pigmentation. Depending on the intensity of the chemical peel the appearance of wrinkles, sun-damage, skin discolorations, blotchiness, brown spots, scars and certain precancerous skin growths can be reduced.
What to Expect
TCA chemical peels use trichloroacetic acid as the main skin peeling agent to chemically exfoliate away skin imperfections, revealing softer, smoother skin underneath. Here is a quick guide for what to expect before, during, and after a TCA chemical peel.
- Minimize sun exposure
- An antiviral medication may be prescribed
- A preparatory retinoid or tretinoin cream may be prescribed to prime the skin
- A bleaching agent may be recommended to prevent changes in skin pigmentation
- Do not exfoliate or use aggressive products for 1 week
- Skin will be cleansed
- Sensitive areas around lips and eyes protected
- Customized solution is brushed onto the skin for 15 minutes
- Chemical solution is neutralized
- Soothing lotion or serum is applied
After a TCA chemical peel patients may experience pain and discomfort of the treated areas. Depending on the depth of treatment, moisturizing ointments may need to be applied daily. Skin peeling and flaking will begin 3-10 days after treatment. Most patients will require 1 week away from normal activities regardless of depth of treatment,
The ideal candidate for a TCA peel is someone with fine surface wrinkles, pigmentation abnormalities, or superficial blemishes, does not mind a slightly longer healing time for more dramatic results than a superficial peel, but cannot afford many weeks of skin peeling associated with deep peels.
Not Recommended For
TCA chemical peels are not recommended for use on darker skin tones due to risk of hypopigmentation. TCA chemical peels can be used for darker complexions however it is important to seek treatment with an experienced provider to ensure best results.
Side effects from a TCA peel may include local infection, contact dermatitis, irritation, burning, pruritus, pain, persistent erythema, edema, blistering. Delayed side effects may include scarring, delayed healing, milia, textural changes, hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, lines of demarcation, loss of cutaneous barrier and tissue injury, and acneiform eruptions.