A trichloroacetic acid peel, or TCA peel, is a type of cosmetic chemical peel performed to treat a wide range of skin problems, such as visible signs of aging, sun damage, acne scarring, and hyperpigmentation. Achieve significant improvements in the appearance of skin with treatments from a Gainesville dermatologist at our clinic. We offer a wide range of cosmetic skin care treatments created to help our patients look and feel their best. Contact Gainesville Dermatology Aesthetic Center today to schedule a dermatologist appointment.
What Is A TCA Peel?
The primary ingredient in a TCA chemical peel is trichloroacetic acid, a derivative of vinegar, and it exists in concentrations of 15–70%. These peels can be applied in a variety of strengths (from light to medium) and may be customized by the use of pre-treatment agents prior to treatment as well as the number of layers applied during treatment. TCA peels are applied to remove the uppermost layer of skin (epidermis) from the face, neck, hands, and other parts of the body. TCA peels use chemical exfoliation to remove dead skin cells from the treatment area, reducing the appearance and visibility of acne scars, sun damage, melasma, and hyperpigmentation while exposing a brand-new, unblemished layer of skin underneath.
TCA Peel Benefits
There are multiple TCA peel benefits that can help patients improve the visible appearance of their skin. TCA peels are most commonly used to treat the skin on the face and neck, but they may also be used on the chest, back, arms, and legs, or other areas of the body frequently exposed to sunlight. Depending on the strength of the chemical peel, those containing TCA can help you achieve the following benefits with noticeable improvements to the skin.
- Reduced brown spots and age spots
- Improved texture of leathery, sun-damaged skin
- Reduced appearance of certain types of acne
- Fewer fine lines and wrinkles
- Improved appearance of skin with melasma
- Increased skin elasticity and hydration
How Do TCA Peels Work?
Trichloroacetic breaks down keratin, a protein found naturally in the skin, causing keratin to cease proper function and allowing the skin to lighten and peel away over the course of several days. As patients shed layers of damaged skin, healthier and smoother skin is revealed. Peels with lower strengths affect only the topmost layer of skin, but medium-strength peels can penetrate the papillary dermis to treat damage located in deeper layers of skin.
The concentration of TCA used determines the depth of the peel. Lower concentrations offer subtle improvements, while higher concentrations significantly improve overall skin tone and texture. TCA peels with 10–15% concentrations (light) can treat skin issues like hyperpigmentation, while peels with a 20% concentration can treat sun-damaged and aging skin or skin with minor scarring. A peel with a concentration of 30–35% treats deep wrinkles, more severe scars, and precancerous skin lesions.
How Long Does TCA Peel Last?
TCA peel for acne scars and other skin conditions work by removing a layer of sun-damaged skin. “Light” or superficial peels remove only the outermost layer of skin, while medium-deep peels remove greater layers of skin with each increase in strength of the peel solution. TCA peels may be performed at different depths, ranging from shallow to deep. The several strengths of TCA peels allow various formulations to work at different depths in the skin.
The specific formula and strength that work best for your needs depend on multiple factors, such as the type and severity of the condition you seek to treat. Depending on your unique needs, our dermatologists might recommend a specific type and strength of TCA peel, in order to best accommodate your skin-care goals. The lasting power of results from a TCA peel depends on the depth of the peel and the extent of a patient’s current sun exposure.
How Many TCA Peels Do I Need To See Results?
Improvements to the skin following a TCA peel will be visible after one peel. However, patients with greater degrees of damage, such as those with severe scarring, hyperpigmentation, or sun damage typically require a series of peels in order to obtain clear skin. Following your initial treatment, additional TCA peels may be scheduled for a few weeks or months after the first procedure. The number of peels required depends on multiple factors, such as your skin’s reaction to the procedure as well as the type and severity of damage on your skin. Once patients obtain their desired results, they may schedule maintenance TCA peels every 1–2 years, depending on their specific skin requirements.
What To Expect During A TCA Peel
While the TCA peel procedure lasts only a few minutes, this treatment generally requires more than one appointment. Both a pre-procedure and post-procedure skin care regimen are likewise required in order to achieve optimal results from treatment. In the time leading up to the procedure, patients are recommended a skin care regimen by our dermatologists. Patients who frequently experience cold sores will be prescribed an antiviral medication in order to help prevent a flare-up after the procedure. Those who regularly use retinoid creams or medications will be asked to discontinue their use, as they may cause the TCA to penetrate too deeply into the skin. A week before treatment, patients must stop using hair removal products, exfoliants. and skin-lightening medications on and around the intended treatment area.
During a TCA procedure, the peel is applied with a gauze or cotton-tipped applicator to the treatment area. The skin may begin to whiten, causing a slight burning sensation. After approximately 5 minutes, additional layers may be applied in order to increase the depth of the treatment. Once the desired number of layers have been applied, the TCA is removed from the skin and a cool compress is applied for several minutes, followed by a protective topical medication or ointment.
TCA Peels Aftercare
After a TCA peel, your skin will appear red and feel swollen for several days, transitioning into darkening, crusting, and peeling of the treated area. Over-the-counter pain medications may be used to ease any discomfort during the recovery process. TCA peel recovery time typically requires 7–14 days of healing, but some degree of redness may persist for several months following treatment. Patients schedule a follow-up appointment to ensure the healing process goes smoothly.
Your dermatologist provides you with specific instructions for chemical peel aftercare including the application of certain topical creams or prescriptions for medications. Use only mild skin cleansers and other skin care products and meticulously use broad-spectrum sun protection with a high SPF throughout the recovery period. Avoid picking and peeling the skin, as it may lead to scarring. Until the skin is fully healed, avoid using products containing vitamin C as well as retinoids and other exfoliation products.
TCA Peel Results
After a light TCA peel, your skin appears brighter, firmer, and more even with regard to texture and tone. Hyperpigmentation, fine lines, melasma, and shallow scars are lightened and less visible. Following a medium-strength peel, these imperfections are either further reduced or erased altogether. Wrinkles and skin laxity (looseness) are improved, while scarring and visible imperfections are minimized or eliminated. For patients who receive TCA treatment for individual scarring, several applications spaced out over a course of several weeks are necessary to see desired results. In this case, the treated skin continues to heal and reheal over time with gradual improvements seen up to 3 months following their final treatment.
Are TCA Peels Safe?
TCA is suitable for the treatment of many skin conditions across a variety of skin tones and types. Although chemical peels are widely considered safe, peels with medium-high strengths carry higher risks of complications than light-strength peels and they require downtime. Common side effects of TCA peels include swelling, itching, and burning. Redness and changes in skin color lasting several months may also occur. Patients with very light and dark skin tones may have a higher risk of post-peel skin discoloration than others. Contact us today to discuss the best treatment options for your skin.