A TCA chemical peel, also known as a Trichloroacetic Acid peel, is a non-toxic, fairly light procedure for the skin. It can improve the texture of the skin and smooth out the fine wrinkles that come with aging. Furthermore, TCA peels are also used with great success to eliminate acne scarring and uneven pigmentation. The new skin that emerges after the TCA peel, is firmer, smoother and more even-toned. Let’s find out more about the TCA chemical peel, its benefits, and the possible side effects that usually come with any skin treatment of this kind.
An in Depth Look at the TCA Chemical Peel
So what is a TCA peel? This chemical peel is also referred to as a medium peel for skin rejuvenation. TCA, or trichloroacetic acid, isn’t the only ingredient used in many TCA skin peels. TCA peel solutions often contain a blend of gentler acids used in mild skin peels. Glycolic acid is often used in TCA skin peels. Then there is Jessner’s solution – created by New York Dermatologist, Max Jessner. This is a medium strength chemical peel that combines Lactic Acid (AHA), Salicylic Acid (BHA), and Resorcinol to provide a peel with reduced toxicity but enhanced efficiency of each individual ingredient. Dermatologists might perform a mild peel with Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), salicylic acid, glycolic acid or pyruvic acid before performing a TCA peel.
What to Expect
Your TCA chemical peel is usually performed in a doctor’s office, and, in some cases, may require light sedation. Penetrating the skin more deeply than light peels, the TCA chemical peel and the Jessner solution peel, provides more dramatic results. However, these do require more recovery time.
When you arrive at the doctor’s office, the procedure will begin with cleansing the skin or areas to be treated with a liquid cleanser. That’s because the peel solution cannot penetrate through the natural oil of the skin evenly without proper cleaning. When administering a medium chemical peel, a physician will apply a solution containing trichloroacetic acid to the patient’s skin. This chemical formulation is custom blended to fit the particular needs of each patient depending on skin type, skin condition, and desired results.
The mixture works by removing the layers of skin the solution is targeting. The physician will determine how much time the chemical solution needs to be left on the skin. Once the TCA has penetrated to the right depth, your doctor will then neutralize the acids by washing away the mixture with water and applying a soothing ointment on the skin. This ointment is applied to speed up the healing process.
How long does a TCA Chemical Peel take?
A specialist can complete a TCA chemical peel in just 15 minutes, or it may take as much as 60 minutes. However, most treatments are completed in less than 30 minutes. It all depends on various factors, such as the condition of the skin and the depth of the peel. TCA peels can be done at different depths – medium depth peels can be done once or twice a year, depending on skin condition and desired results. For a light peel, your physician may advise performing a series of 2 or 3 treatments for best results, each spaced about two months apart. Whether you are considering a light or a medium TCA chemical peel, you will require some downtime – about a week – to recover and for the skin to heal.
Does the TCA peel hurt?
Pain is a subjective thing – but it is unlikely that the procedure will be a painful one. You may experience some slight discomfort – most patients report a mild stinging sensation during a TCA peel.
What areas can I treat?
A wide number of areas on the body can benefit from a medium TCA chemical peel. The skin on the face, back, chest, legs, and arms can be improved and smoothed with TCA peels.
When speaking of peels on areas other than the face, it’s important to know that these do not heal as well as the skin on the face. As a result, it is more difficult to predict the end result on areas other than the face and neck.
When considering treating an area of the body with a chemical peel, you should not have more than a small part of your body chemically peeled at one time. This is to avoid the risk of toxicity – after all, you are applying strong chemicals to the skin.
What can I use it for?
This type of chemical peel is commonly used to improve damage from overexposure to the sun, to treat certain types of acne and acne scarring, to reduce brown spots caused by aging, to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and to improve, and remove, the effects of melasma.
Am I a good candidate for a TCA peel?
A TCA chemical peel is ideal for individuals looking to smooth out fine wrinkles, improve mild to medium scars, and blemishes, or for those who wish to address hyperpigmentation.
Patients who suffer from, or have a family history of heart problems are not viewed as good candidates for deep medical peels. You may not be able to undergo a TCA peel either. Seek advice from a qualified physician before undergoing such treatments if you have a heart condition.
How much does a TCA peel cost?
At the writing of this, TCA peels can range between $300 and $1000 per session. The large gap in pricing depends on the city you live in, the depth of the peel, and the area you want treated.
Recovering After a Chemical Peel
After a medium TCA chemical peel, the skin will take on a light yellow shade for one to two hours after the procedure. Many patients experience redness of the skin for two to three days after the TCA chemical peel. Within a few days, the skin will form a superficial crust over the treated area. This will flake off within a week. Do not rush the peeling process – allow the skin to flake off naturally for best results.
After your treatment, you must avoid sun exposure as much as possible – this is critical as such exposure at this time will damage the skin. The skin will peel for two to five days after the crust has formed, which is why it will be more sensitive to sunlight. This sensitivity can last for up to eight weeks. If possible, avoid scheduling a peel during extremely sunny months.
Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions on how to take care of your skin after your peel. General guidelines include gentle cleaning your skin with light cleanser, applying a thick moisturizer, and using less makeup than usual.
Possible Side Effects of a TCA Chemical Peel
Your physician will most likely ask you not to smoke for a few weeks before and after the procedure. Possible side effects may also depend on whether you are taking, or have been recently taking, acne medication (Accutane), or there is the presence of a skin infection. However, the possibility of side effects may occur even if you are a perfect candidate.
You must be aware of the possible complications that may arise:
- Swelling. Your skin may swell a little after the peel. However, it is only a temporary condition. It should go away after a few days.
- Scarring. Although the risk is very slight, there is still some chance of scarring. These are usually hypertrophic and keloid scars. To minimize the risk of scarring, follow the instructions given by the physician carefully.
- Cold sores. Individuals prone to herpes should take medicine such as acyclovir prior to the peel. That’s because, following a chemical peel, there is a possibility of reactivation of the herpes virus.
A TCA peel is a great way to resurface and rejuvenate the skin. It is also viewed as a less invasive peel than a deep peel such as phenol peel – an effective treatment for severely sun damaged skin, coarse, deep wrinkles and scars, and pre-cancerous growths. However, check with your doctor to make sure you are a good candidate for a TCA chemical peel. Discuss with your doctor what is the best method for your specific needs. Do not perform a TCA chemical peel at home. It can be risky when performed by someone who is untrained in the procedure.