What is a TCA chemical peel and how does it work?

The acronym “TCA” is for trichloracetic acid - a non-toxic, safe chemical used for facial skin peel treatments. It may sound strong, but the “acid” in TCA is very mild, similar to vinegar. When the TCA is applied to the skin’s epidermis, the top layers of cells dry and peel over a period of 5-7 days, resulting in smoother, rejuvenated, and younger-looking skin.

TCA chemical peels are ideal for treating the following skin conditions:

  • Freckles, blemishes, and uneven pigmentation
  • Wrinkles, fine lines, enlarged pores
  • Acne scarring and other scars
  • Sun damage and “sun spots”

Does a TCA peel exfolilate the skin?

TCA peels provide exfoliation that is deeper and more extensive than a typical aesthetic peel, facial or microdermabrasion. However, it is not as invasive as laser resurfacing so the recovery time is shorter. A TCA peel may also be done in conjunction with other facial treatments or surgical procedures such as a facelift or facial feminization surgery (FFS).

Is a TCA peel just for the face? Or can it be used on other parts of the body?

Though often used on facial skin, TCA peels also can be safely applied to other sensitive skin areas such as the décolletage (cleavage), neck, hands, or the back. Often it is used to improve the texture and tone and improve the appearance of sun damage on the arms and legs. .

What does the TCA chemical peel treatment feel like?

First, your skin is thoroughly cleansed. Your provider will then apply the TCA solution to your skin in several coats. You may feel a mild burning or stinging sensation but this will pass quickly. The actual treatment time is very short. A typical TCA facial peel takes no more than 20-25 minutes. Recovery time varies from patient to patient, but usually it takes anywhere from 5-7 days depending on the strength and depth of your peel.

Will one TCA chemical peel treatment be sufficient?

Typically, more than one TCA peel may be needed to obtain your desired result. These treatments are ideally spaced out over several months to allow your skin to heal and rejuvenate between sessions. Your provider will advise you as to a recommended treatment plan based on your skin’s condition and desired results.

Aftercare for your TCA peel is important for a successful result.

After your TCA chemical peel your skin will be rejuvenating and generating new cell growth so it will need extra protection from sun and wind. To protect your newly rejuvenated skin you are advised to avoid sun exposure for about 3-6 months after treatment -- even in winter or a cold climate.

Jennifer Fick, your aesthetic nurse practitioner, will recommend an aftercare program that includes recommended sun protection products and skincare tips.