Everyone has heard of skin peels and there are many - lactic, glycolic, salicylic, TCA (trichloroacetic acid), and phenol. Of these there are basically 3 levels:

Minor, superficial peels - lactic, glycolic, salicylic.
Medium depth peels - TCA, Jessner's
Deep peels - phenol.

We will only deal with medium strength TCA peels here as they are the easiest to apply (Jessner's can require multiple concurrent applications and taping to aide in skin penetration), safest, and, by far, the most effective against numerous skin ailments/conditions. They are also one of the most effective treatments for acne currently known to the medical community.

The most common treated area is the face. TCA is applied usually in a cream. Doctors will mix Obagi, Apeel, or other previously prepared cream with TCA and then apply this mixture to the face or body area to be treated. The creams tend to have a skin dye of green or blue so the doctor can easily see what areas have and or have not been treated. It is usually applied with a cotton or foam applicator. This is then left on for 10-20 minutes. Some doctors prefer to use a straight (non-cream) solution of TCA. This works much faster and penetrates deeper and is used for deeper peels.

After application and proper time for the desired depth is achieved, the doctor will apply a neutralizer. This is usually just a mixture of baking soda and water made into a paste. Some doctors will add chipped ice to further cool the skin. The skin will now be inflammed and if no dye was used will look like a bad sunburn. This will last 2-4 days until it starts to peel off and reveal new, clean, younger looking skin. Depending on the skin problems treated it may take several treatments, but a major difference will be seen immediately.

The results from a TCA peel are far more reaching than with a regular, superficial peel. Results can last 6 months to a year and it has been known to keep acne at bay, shrink and lessen acne scars, reduce and tighten up wrinkles, improve color, pigmentation, etc... A TCA peel cannot be applied as often as a more superficial peel. Generally speaking, a superficial peel can be applied every 2-5 weeks. A Stronger, medium depth peel needs more time batween peels for the skin to properly heal and regenerate. Doctors like to wait 2-6 months or more between these peels.

This process of chemically exfoliating the skin is more rapid and deeper in a TCA peel than in most peels. Many skin peels, like lactic, glycolic and salicylic are good at reducing oily buildup (overactive sebaceous glands), and very minor skin imperfections. but they cannot effectively treat acne, wrinkles, fine lines, etc... TCA has been proven to treat these deeper skin conditions and is offered at almost every dermatologist and plastic surgeon office. The improvement in skin color, tone, etc... is so drastic that women, even men are lining up in droves to have this done all over the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. QUESTION:
    Do chemical peels really help acne scars?
    I've done a lot of research on this and can find many before and after pics that look like they are working. I have been doing a 20% TCA peel at home for a bit (three to be exact) and I think the reason that the after pics looks so good is because you are slathering on so much lotion after the peel that your face plumps up. It's hard to find long term photos on the net, so I'm wondering if anyone has a true success story and if so, how long it really takes to see results.

    • ANSWER:
      I don't think you're doing this right. A TCA 20% will have downtime. My skin turned red, looked like a bad sunburn. Then, after 4-5 days, it started peeling. It was like a crust that came off then. The skin looked bad, you don't want to be seen like this. Doesn't sound like that's what you went through. If that's the case, you might have gotten a totally diluted TCA. Start with something weaker... not TCA. AHA or sycolic acid, for instance.


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