I had a pixel facial 3 months ago and had such great results, I knew that peeling was what my skin needed to even out my skin tone from years of sun exposure. I also had slight "orange peel" skin on both sides of my nose and cheeks and wanted to refine my skin's surface.
I wanted to try a TCA peel to see if it produced the same results as the pixel and after much research decided I could do this safely at home. I have had lighter "lunch time peels" at skin care clinics so I kind of knew what to expect, but I still performed A LOT of research and decided to go with a 15% TCA for my 1st "at home" peel. I prepped my skin for 2 weeks with Differin gel (retinoid) and I also used a 10% benzoyl wash from my dermatologist (I have mild adult acne) but this was WAY too harsh and I had to stop using it on my face (still wash my back and chest with it, though). I stopped all products except a mild cleanser and witch hazel toner 2 days before my peel.
I followed all of the peel directions to the letter (purchased on eBay from a reputable seller), prepping my skin with rubbing alcohol to remove all oils and using a cotton pad to apply the 15% TCA. I only applied 1 pass with the TCA and left it on for 90 seconds (according to the directions, this is the max. time for a 1st-timer). By that time, I had some redness and a definite burning sensation, but nothing too intense. I didn't notice the "frosting" effect, but my bathroom lighting is bad and I didn't want to risk it, so I washed it off after 90 seconds, per the instructions. Afterwards, I had a look of having been out in the sun all day, tight skin and redness all over. I could have totally gone to work, though! I kept it moist with a Burt's Bees night cream with royal jelly (this is just what I had on hand) and the next day, I applied a thin layer of Aquaphor and kept that on for 2 days. Today is the 3rd day and I am peeling all over (actually started peeling on the 2nd day). I can see that the new skin under the peel is taut and looks clearer than the now brown and somewhat crusty looking surface skin. I am sure I will be completely healed within another 2-3 days.
Overall, the effect of this peel was very mild, especially when compared with the pixel facial. I have felt that I could go out (even go to work) throughout this peel, but I don't have a public-facing job. The peeling skin is a little gross, but nothing worse than I've had after too much sun exposure. I have since learned that with TCA peels, it's not so much about how long you leave the peel on. The amount of TCA solution you use is FAR more important with regards to how strong a peel you get. Next time I do this peel (and I plan to do another one next month, using my retinoid daily up until 2-3 days pre-peel) I will do 2 passes with the TCA solution, and I will apply it with a fan-style makeup brush. I think the cotton pad soaked up a lot of the solution, leaving less on my skin. Also, I was planning for down-time and would rather have a deeper peel next time.
Overall, I am very happy with my decision to do this peel, and I feel that the bad results that you read about (scarring, deep burns, etc.) are from people who do not do their homework and who start out using too strong/too much TCA solution and possibly from leaving it on too long. Have a few peels at a clinic first so that you know what to expect. Prep your skin with the right home products and start out with a "less is more" approach: a light layer of a weaker solution left on for 2 mins or less, and you should be just fine!