TCA Chemical Peel Skin Benefits For Acne Scars


TCA Chemical Peel For Skin Transformation And Healing

The thought of applying highly acidic chemicals on to the skin sounds daunting. Well, that’s the gist of a peel. If you take a strong acid of a certain concentration, it will slowly encourage skin exfoliation. The process entails damaging the epidermal layers, allowing for skin renewal to take place. Thickening of the epidermis occurs and this allows collagen to reform as part the skin’s rejuvenation process.

TCA stands for “trichloroacetic acid”. It’s classified as a medium strength peel, while being useful in many ways to re-enhance the skin. TCA peels are one variation of chemical peels that people are treating their skin with mainly to reduce acne scaring, alleviate pronounced wrinkles and lesson the appearance of lesions. Like all things in life, the downside with TCA peels is the “frosting” effect that occurs. It can end up leaving the face with a red tinge and painful looking, almost like a severe sunburn.

A TCA chemical peel is a step above the introductory “light peel” variants consisting of glycolic and lactic acids. The chemical makeup of this particular acidic solution dramatically revitalizes damaged skin. Trichloroacetic acid as a medium strength peel, penetrates both upper and lower layers of the dermis in concentrations of 35-50%. The old layers of skin slowly begin to slough away resulting in new layers of fresh skin. To do this the right way, each TCA peel session is carried out 2-3 months apart. It gives the skin ample opportunity to recover. Too many successive peels in a short time span is a bad idea!

The TCA Peel Before and After Expectations

You might find the progress made from TCA peels revert back to your dismay. Results won’t always be what you expect, so try to have tempered expectations. There will be significantly impressive TCA peel results that become permanent, but it all depends on how well your skin heals. Here are some of the variables at play: your age, any skin abnormalities, strength of TCA peel. Plus, a whole slew of factors can come into play also.

Trying Out TCA Peel at Home For Yourself

Lighter types of chemical peels such as glycolic or salicylic acid are relatively safe, so they are frequently self-applied at home without worry. Many skincare experts believe that TCA peels should only be applied by professionals with experience with chemical skin peels.

Everyone should take the necessary precautions and do their research on TCA chemical peels; this is something that can be done at home. Purchasing TCA is straightforward like it would be to buy salicylic acid from online vendors such as Amazon or eBay. These companies sell this stuff in bottles of various grades of strength.

Medium to deep chemical peels require a lot more downtime including a higher risk of complications. That is why dermatologists are in agreement: only licensed professionals should be the ones performing these acid peels.

How To TCA Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

A TCA peel isn’t in the same category as dermal fillers or acne scar surgical procedures i.e. subcision, dermabrasion or lasers. Nevertheless, TCA peels will work in conjunction with other types of treatments to enhance results compared to a standalone procedure. Light scarring such as rolling scars respond well to TCA peels which smoothens skin for unpronounced scarring.

How Much Does TCA Peels Cost?

Costs will vary from location to location, all the way to what an esthetician will charge. To save money, people are buying their own TCA at-home-kits to do themselves. TCA peels fall under “skin resurfacing procedures” and therefore are not covered under insurance.  An esthetician will typically charge prices in a structured manner all depending on the concentration of the TCA peel. A light peel (10-15%) will run you around $250 each with multiple sessions needed. Medium peel (20-25%) will increase in price to $500-750 requiring less visits. Finally, deep layer peels (30-35%) cost $750-1500 with tops 1-2 treatments. Deep TCA peels that are especially high in concentration (75-100%) require a physician to be performed, albeit for safety purposes.  

TCA chemical peel benefits

The Many Benefits of a TCA Peel?

TCA peels are a viable way to treat small precancerous lesions that are easily spotted on the skin. Medium grade TCA chemical peels work well on acne scars, evening out discoloration due to pigmentation, and deals with uneven skin tone/texture. TCA chemical peels are on a higher rung than light peels therefore you should notice a more drastic change. Compared to a deep peel, TCA peels recovery process is quicker. Applying a medium TCA peel on most areas of the body is safe. TCA peels are great way to do spot treatments considering it doesn’t take too long. 

We list some of the benefit of a TCA peel below:

  • Takes care of age spots and brown spots
  • Corrects harsh skin worn from the sun
  • Turns dull skin more radiant
  • Tightens skin and pores
  • Helps against Melasma
  • Smoothens wrinkles and lessens the appearance of fine lines
  • Fills in acne scars
  • Stimulate new collagen growth
  • Good for hyperkeratosis
  • Reduces stretch marks

Proper Aftercare for TCA Peels

Keeping the skin in a wet state is a proper aftercare method for recuperating from a TCA peel. After treating the face with a TCA chemical peel, it’s recommended to keep the skin damp. This means no hot showers that will dry out the skin. After showering, it’ll be important to moisturize the skin with petroleum jelly e.g. Vaseline

After the first week of treatment, go ahead and start introducing retinal creams. For additional healing, skin lighteners are an option or corticosteroids in case of hyperpigmentation. To promote faster healing within the skin, skincare products containing green tea is beneficial because it has anti-oxidants. An anti-inflammatory in the form of calendula extract prevents unwanted swelling. In addition, skin regeneration supplements like zinc and vitamin-B complex prevents scarring. Last but not least, lotions or moisturizers containing ceramides play an important role in protecting the skin barrier and reducing irritation.

Why Not TCA Peel on the Body Instead of the Face

A majority use TCA peels for their faces. However, TCA peels on the body work just as well. A mixture of TCA and glycolic acid are combined when used on parts of the body. The strength of chemical peels is stronger on the body and penetrates deeper into the skin. Many choose to target areas such as the legs, arms, back, chest, and neck for treatment. Targeting hard to reach spots such as the back should be done by a certifiably experienced practitioner. Did you know that non-facial parts of the body take a considerably longer time to heal? Moreover, you tend to know where you stand when TCA peeling your face compared to the rest of your body. We can all agree that stretch marks are an unwanted nuisance. Luckily, TCA peels tackle this problem; its usefulness known no bounds. When TCA peeling, only work on a small area to avoid toxicity.   

TCA chemical peels stretch marks

Doing TCA Peel for Stretch Marks 

Stretch marks respond well to TCA peels because it is able to fade and diminish them. We want to make clear: chemical peels will not get rid of stretch marks, instead it will make them less noticeable. In some cases, after just a single TCA peel, people’s skin becomes smoother, softer and even toned. However, treating stretch marks with a medium grade TCA chemical peel requires frequent applications to see desired results.

All of the Recommended TCA Peel Instructions

In general, TCA chemical peels fare better in those individuals who have light to fair skin. On the whole, TCA peeling on darker skin causes a greater chance to develop pigmentation and scarring.

  1. Don’t use any exfoliating scrubs 3-4 weeks leading up to a TCA chemical peel
  2. Cease any and all hair removal treatment on the area you plan to use the chemical peel
  3. Apply an alpha hydroxy acid or retinal cream 2-4 weeks before the start of TCA treatment
  4. Ditch Accutane 6 months prior to TCA peel
  5. Have the area treated for other skin abnormalities that could conflict with the chemical peel
  6. You cannot use any skin care product the day of the TCA chemical peel

Post TCA Treatment

  1. Sleep on your back and avoid anything touching your face
  2. Have an icepack ready to use for swelling that may result
  3. Make sure the skin stays “moist” and moisturize when necessary
  4. Avoid rubbing, touching or picking the treated area of the skin
  5. Stay in doors if possible and apply sunscreen if you go outside
  6. Talk to a physician if there’s any complications that arise

Knowing the TCA Peel Recovery Time

TCA peel recovery time all depends on the strength of TCA solution that is used for treating the skin. For example, a higher concentration will reach deeper into the layers of skin thus taking longer for the skin to heal. After treating the skin with a TCA chemical peel, the area will form a crust. This crust lingers for a week, sometimes longer. Afterwards, this crust falls off revealing a fresh new layer of skin underneath. As time goes by, the reddish and often inflamed skin will subside until it fades away completely. As the weeks come and go, the newly revealed skin should have a greater complexion. In most of the cases, you’re looking at weeks of recovery to see optimal results.

All of the Important TCA Peel Side Effects

After the first week of applying a TCA chemical peel to the skin, you’ll experience significant redness to go along with swelling. Applying a TCA peel on areas of the face will most likely cause a burning sensation of varying magnitudes. The length of time a peel is left sitting on your skin correlates to the intensity of pain you’ll feel. Yet, in terms of actual pain, you shouldn’t feel any if you go with a lower grade. If you feel discomfort then pain relievers should do the trick.

Sometimes the negative side effects outweigh the positives. Case in point, TCA peels are known to cause persistent redness after recovery time is met. A safe way to alleviate worries surrounding hyperpigmentation is to prep the skin weeks ahead of time with hydroquinone and retinol creams. A blatant side effect of TCA chemical peels are brown discolorations, but this is mostly temporary. In this example, the side effect will go away on its own. How does this happen? When the skin is exposed to the sun shortly after doing a TCA peel the UV rays have a damaging effect. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid the sun during the recovery period. Nevertheless, prudent measure should always be taken to ensure protection of the skin using a high SPF sunscreen. Besides, it’s probably a good idea to put off any strenuous activity while healing up.

Cold sores and TCA peels don’t go well together, so if you can avoid it, wait until they’re gone before applying a chemical peel. Another thing to watch out for is Milia forming while in the TCA peel healing process. Around 20% of people seem to get these inclusion cysts that can last an unbearably long time and in some cases be permanent. Milia as a side effect of TCA peels happen during deeper peels rather than medium strength ones.

Take Precautionary steps or avoid TCA entirely if the following applies:

  • Warts on the face
  • Allergic reactions to previous chemical peels
  • Have reacted poorly to dermabrasion
  • Dealing with cold sores on the lips
  • Any acute form of sun sensitivity
  • Radiation stemming from cancer therapy
  • Are pregnant or breast feeding
  • Prescribed Accutane within the last 6 months
  • Sunburn or major sun exposure in the past couple days
  • Gone in for surgery or cryosurgery within the past 6 weeks mainly related to the area(s) you plan on applying TCA 
tca peel frosting

What is TCA Peel Frosting

In order to ascertain TCA peel depth, there are three classifications of frosting color. For light peels, frosting will appear a faint white with sprinkled white spots. Medium peels will exhibit a white that is medium in color. Finally, with deep peels you’ll notice an almost frosted white appearance. By using this white color system, you can attribute light white with light peel, medium white for medium peel and so on. The one exception is with other parts of the body that are highly sensitive. The neck for instance will appear less white due to the area having a slower healing process.

Using TCA Peel for Melasma

Melasma is commonly seen on the cheeks and forehead of women during pregnancy. There is a correlation between melasma and hormonal changes of women who take birth control pills. Melasma has brownish to greyish-brown looking spots appearing because of constant sun exposure. On one hand, some women are affected by melasma by the sun whereas others will contact it as a part of pregnancy from oral contraceptive pills. A TCA chemical peel is an effective way to lighten the appearance of darkened melasma areas.


We would like to warn anyone thinking about purchasing a TCA chemical peel to try at home to be extremely careful. Remember, this is an acid that can affect the skin in a negative way if used improperly. We always recommend to start off with a low concentration TCA and to test patch on a small area to see how your skin will react. Not everyone’s skin is the same so please heed caution before considering a TCA peel. Always seek the advice from a registered health professional before trying it for yourself.

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