Trichloracetic acid (TCA) peels are considered medium-depth peels. They reach slightly deeper into the skin than alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels–and thus often produce stronger results.
These peels also have the advantage of being suitable for most skin types, including darker-toned skin. To avoid discoloration, however, people with dark brown skin need to follow a pre-treatment protocol that may include treating the skin with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) first. (Your physician will explain this process to you during your consultation.)
How Does a TCA Peel Work?
TCA is a skin-resurfacing treatment: it removes dead skin cells, uncovering a “new” layer of skin that appears smoother and more vibrant. As a result, it softens fine lines, minimizes superficial “age” spots and other skin discolorations, and generally improves the tone and texture of your skin. TCA peels are also very popular for diminishing the appearance of acne scars.
More than one TCA treatment may be recommended. Treatments are usually spaced 2 to 3 months apart. To increase their effectiveness, these peels are often combined with other skin-rejuvenating treatments, such as microdermabrasion.
TCA peels generally takes 15 to 30 minutes. The exact length of treatment will depend on how many “coats” of the acid are applied to your skin. First, your skin will be cleansed and degreased. Then the acid will be applied. As soon as the acid has reached the intended depth, your physician will apply a neutralizing solution.
You’ll experience a slight stinging sensation during the 2 to 3 minutes the solution remains on your skin. Your physician may use ice water or a fan to reduce any discomfort. If a high concentration of acid is being used, you may also be given a medication for pain or anxiety.
You’ll probably want to set aside several days to recover from a TCA treatment. Immediately after the procedure, you can expect some skin irritation, redness and swelling. Within a few days, your skin will tighten and darken–and then begin to crack and peel for the next 4 to 7 days–at which point the tighter, smoother and more youthful-looking layer of skin will emerge.
Because your skin’s newly formed layer will be temporarily more susceptible to sunburn, you’ll need to protect it with an effective sunscreen for several weeks. TCA is a strong chemical that can transform the appearance of your skin, but it should be administered only by a skilled and experienced physician.
I went to a spa to get a TCA Peel done. I wanted to improve the texture of my skin and get rid of some brown pigmentation that appeared during my pregnancy. The doctor told me that we were going to do the High Concentration TCA Peel to get the results that I wanted. Of course this was going to cost me more money, but I thought it was going to be worth it. I came out of the procedure with a dry, crusty face (that lasted for 4 days) I then started peeling and got really excited that I was finally going to see results. I have smoother skin but the brown pigment around my lips and on my forehead is still there. I think that I was sold the High Concentration peel but given the Low Concentration one. Not Happy.
- Buffalo, New York
I recently went in and had a TCA Peel done on my face to get rid of some age spots. My doctor said that a high concentration peel would yield better results for getting rid of age spots, but because it was my first time going in for something like this, I opted for the lower concentration one. I was a little bit nervous about the pain involved but went ahead and did it anyway. After the redness, flaking and itching went away, I saw a smoother, fresher me. The brown spots were almost gone, but I think I am going to go in for one more treatment to get rid of them completely.
- Saint Paul, Minnesota
I just finished my 4th peel and I really love the results. I have been going in to the same dermatologist every time, and the esthatician that I see is always really great. The procedure itself doesn't take very long at all and I only feel some slight burning, it's not really all that bad. I started going in to get peels on the recommendation of a friend who gets them all the time. I have some really faint fine lines and uneven texture on my face that I wanted to clear up without spending a lot on laser treatment. I'm really happy with them.