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What is a TCA Chemical Peel?

What is a TCA chemical peel? What does the "TCA" stand for?

Doctor Answers (13)

TCA is trichloroacetic acid

+3

A Form of Resurfacing: The TCA (trichloroacetic acid) peel is one of the oldest forms of skin resurfacing. Skin resurfacing refers to use of an agent or device to remove layers of skin, thereby allowing newer, refreshed skin to grow in its place. Dermabrasion and lasers are also used for skin resurfacing. Chemical peels such as TCA and phenol have been around for many years and have a long track record of success.

A TCA peel can be used as a mild, medium, or deep chemical formulation; this relates to the depth of penetration of the acid. The depth of penetration correlates to the percentage of TCA in the solution. In my hands, a medium depth TCA peel (35%) is usually used. Prior to application of the TCA, I use a light chemical peel known as the Jessner's peel, which is salicylic acid based. This cleans epidermal cells down to the layer of the stratum corneum, allowing the TCA to penetrate more deeply and more evenly.

Safety: Is a TCA peel safe. The answer is yes if used by an experienced Physician; it is a serious treatment and requires a practitioner with superb training and experience. TCA penetrates the skin via a process known as coagulative necrosis; it can only penetrate to a specified depth based on its concentration. The key is to make sure the peel is formulated correctly. Most Facial Plastic Surgeons will have a Pharmacist who formulates the peel in a consistent, specified fashion.

Downtime: Much less downtime than a CO2 laser treatment, but more downtime than a Dermabrasion or a Portrait Plasma Skin Regeneration (PSR); there is a week of initial recovery followed by moderate redness for 4 weeks or so. However, since TCA is relatively inexpensive to formulate, it gives a great result for less patient cost than most of the other treatments mentioned.

Conclusion: TCA chemical peel is a treatment I have always used in my practice as part of the armementarium of skin resurfacing, and something I will probably continue to use based on the consistency of results, acceptable downtime, and cost factors involved.


Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

TCA is Trichloroacetic Acid and is great for peeling

+2

TCA stands for trichloroacetic acid and is a common agent used for chemical peeling, one type of facial resurfacing. It comes in varying concentrations, allowing for varying depths of peeling (depending on the concentration). TCA peels can help treat pigmentation, discoloration, fine lines and aging grooves. A TCA peel should be done by a well-trained physician (dermatologist, plastic surgeon) in their office. The downtime and recovery can range from a few days to several weeks, depending on the strength of the peel. A TCA peel is not appropriate for all skin types, nor is it the best treatment modality for certain types of facial rejuvenation. But a strong medium-depth TCA peel can give great results when done properly on the right patient.

Hope this helps.

Channing R. Barnett, MD
New York Dermatologist
4.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

TCA Peels

+2

TCA stands for trichloroacetic acid. It is a very common chemical used to perform medium depth chemical peels. The concentration of the chemical will vary, depending on the desired depth of skin penetration. In general, concentrations used for such peels vary between 20% and 35%. The procedure results in red, swollen, and crusted skin which peels over the weeks following the procedure. This will help improve the skin texture, tone, and reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles and superficial discoloration. However, it will not have a significant effect on acne scars or deep wrinkles.

Adam Schaffner, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

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Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) Peel

+1

Thank you for your question.

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is a commonly used agent for chemical peeling and has the potential to decrease the appearance of sunspots and fine lines. Chemical peeling removes the outer layer of skin generating new cell growth and collagen formation that results in younger looking skin.

Depending on the concentration and application, TCA peels can target superficial to deeper layers of skin.  Generally these concentrations range from 10-50%. In California, TCA peels greater than 20% should only be applied by board certified healthcare professionals specializing in plastic surgery or dermatology and who are experienced with deep chemical peels. These concentration requirements vary from state to state. The concentration Downtime for TCA peels is typically 5-7 days during which time treated skin appears to “slough” off.

Patients with darker skin may benefit from pre-treatment with topical retinoids (i.e. Retin-A or Renova) and/or hydroquinone to reduce the risk of post-treatment darkening of the skin, which is the most common side effect.  For all skin types extensive measures must be taken to avoid sun exposure after treatment, especially during the first two weeks.

I hope this helps.

Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

TCA chemical peel

+1

Trichloroacetic acid or TCA chemical peel is one of the most tried and true aesthetic procedure. The strength varies from 10% to 70% where 35% is most commonly used to bring out medium depth peel. The application of the TCA by a board-certified dermatologist can effectively minimize precancerous lesions, smooth out facial texture and fine lines. Some dermatologists may perform Jessner's peel prior to TCA peel to bring about medium-to-deep peel and augment the cosmetic benefit. Expect to have a week of downtime and commit to strict daily sun protection before, during and after chemical peel.

William Ting, MD
Bay Area Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

TCA stands for trichloroacetic acid

+1

TCA stands for trichloroacetic acid. This chemical peel is good in varying strengths to improve pigment and fine lines. Your skin needs to be evaluated for the peel before it is done. TCA does not work well for all skin types. It can also help decrease sun damage and remove some signs of aging.

Best Regards.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Chemical Peels, TCA

+1

TCA is Tri Chlor Acetic acid. It is one of the best established solutions used in chemical peeling. It comes in concentrations varying from 10% to 40% for mainstream usage in the office, allowing superficial & medium depth peels. It also can be used in higher concentrations 80-90% for acne scar treatment using the CROSS technique. The TCA results , when done by a well trained dermatologist or plastic surgeon , are excellent.

Khaled El-Hoshy, MD
Detroit Dermatologic Surgeon

TCA stands for Trichloracetic Acid

+1

Trichloracetic Acid is what TCA peel stands for. The TCA peel is an excellent peel to treat discolorations, pigmentation, superficial and fine lines. It is an excellent effective procedure that can be varied by the individual practitioner with a variety of methods to cause changes in depth of peel.

Steven Hacker, MD
West Palm Beach Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Trichloracetic acid

+1

TCA is a chemical peeling agent that smooths fine lines and removes some skin imperffections such as brown spots and sun damage. TCA may be combined with another peeling agent known as Jessner's solution. This allows a more uniform and thorough result. TCA is generally conisdered a"medium depth" peel and thus you should expect more than you would acheive with a glycolic peel, but less than with laser skin resurfacing. Healing time is usually 3-5 days.

Ross A. Clevens, MD
Melbourne Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

TCA and other chemical peels

+1

You know from experience that when you scrape you knee or elbow, the fresh pink skin which appears a few days later is smooth, healthy looking and glowing. This finding has NOT escaped the ancients and for centuries many people have tried to walk the very fine line of CAUSING a superficial injury which brought about fresh looking skin afterward.

In effect unlike sanding the skin (which WAS done to certain facial gun powder injuries in the trench warfare of WWI) - MECHANICAL (skin) Resurfacing (peels) using caustic chemicals to burn away a superficial layer of skin is a CHEMICAL Resurfacing or peeling (and using IPL or Laser to do it is Electromagnetic Resurfacing).

Various chemicals have been used through the years, including rancid milk (Cleopatra used to bath in it to smooth her skin), rancid apple juice (malic acid) and others. After the dust cleared, 3 chemicals were left standing Carbolic (Phenol) acid, Glycolic acid and Trichloroacetic acid.

Each acid required special application and skill in applying SPECIFIC CONCENTRATIONS which would be allowed to burn (IE "frost" the skin) before they were neutralized. Depending on your skin, the way it was "prepared", the concentration, the time of contact - results varied significantly.

In my opinion, chemical peels have been largely surpassed in relevance and become of historical interest only.

Better and safer results can be obtained with combination IPL (especially Sciton's BBL) and ProFractionated resurfacing than were ever possible from chemical peels.

Dr. P. Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 58 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.