What are TCA peels used for?
TCA peels are most commonly used to:
Reduce fine lines
Reduce mild scarring
Improve sun damaged skin
What is a TCA peel?
TCA is a relative of acetic acid (vinegar)
TCA peels have been used for over 20 years in the US
When applied to the skin, TCA peels cause the top layers of cells to peel
After the old skin is peeled off, the new layer of skin is usually smoother and has a more even color
What are the different depth peels?
We offer 10%, 12.5%, 15%, 17.5%, and 20% TCA peels
How does a TCA peel compare to laser therapy?
Laser treatments can often do a better job but are more expensive
When will I see results from my TCA peel?
As soon as you finish peeling you should see results. Your skin should continue to improve for 1-2 months as long as you are protected from the sun.
What does a TCA peel feel like? Is it painful?
The peel goes something like this. When you arrive, you will be put in a room and be asked to get comfortable on an exam table. Your skin will be cleansed several times with liquid cleanser, alcohol and possibly acetone. It’s important that all the oil be off the skin so the peel solution will penetrate evenly. Then the peel solution is applied and sometimes this is done in two stages. There is some stinging and a sensation of heat while the peel solution is active. Sometimes a small handheld fan is used for cooling in this stage. Then an ointment is applied to speed healing and post care instructions are given.
What will I look like right after the treatment, and what will the healing time be?
You will usually peel for about one week with a medium peel. The skin will be a light yellow after the procedure for 1-2 hours. This color will gradually fade. The skin will be slightly redder for 2-3 days after the peel and feel tight.
Avoid all sun exposure. You will begin to peel approximately 48-72 hours after the treatment and the peeling will last generally 2-5 days. There is no pain but the skin looks as if it has a severe sunburn. You will be more sensitive to sunlight for 4-8 weeks after so don’t plan any sunny vacations for at least a month.
What are the possible side effects and complications of TCA peels?
Your provider will give you specific instructions on pre-treatment and post-treatment care and expectations. And if you are going to take any pain medications, you will need someone to drive you to and from your appointment. Your provider will also give you a list of side effects, but here are some possible side effects or issues:
Pain. There is usually no discomfort after the peel, but, in case there is mild discomfort, pain medications can be provided.
Redness. A pink or red coloration of the skin may persist for 2-8 weeks after a TCA peel. In rare instances, redness may persist up to six months. This can occur all over or only in certain spots.
Wound Healing. TCA peels cause a superficial wound to the skin that takes approximately 5-7 days to heal. Once the surface is treated, it may be pink and may be sensitive to the sun for approximately 2-8 weeks.
Pigment Changes. The treated area may heal with increased or decreased pigmentation. This occurs most often in darker pigmented skin. The darker or lighter areas usually fade in three to six months, though pigment change can be permanent.
Swelling. Immediately after the TCA peel, there will be mild to moderate swelling of the skin. This is a temporary condition and will resolve over two to three days.
Scarring. There is a very small chance of scarring. This includes hypertrophic scars or, very rarely, keloid scars. Keloid scars are very heavy, raised scar formations. To minimize chances of scarring, it is important that you follow post-operative instructions carefully. It is important that any prior history of unfavorable healing be reported.
Eye Exposure. There is also a risk of harmful eye exposure with TCA peels. Your provider should give you protective eyewear. It is important that you keep your eyes closed and have protective eyewear at all times during the treatment.
Sun sensitivity. You will be sensitive to the sun for 6-8 weeks after the treatment and will need to protect your skin daily from the sun with sunscreen, hats and sunglasses.
Accutane. Generally, you should not have a medium depth peel if you have used Accutane in the last 12 months.
Cold Sores. If you are prone to herpes (cold sores, fever blisters), you may need a prescription for acyclovir or famvir prior to having medium depth Peel. You will need to avoid exfoliating treatments during a herpes breakout.
How should I care for my skin after TCA peels?
Your doctor will give you specific instructions but some general guidelines are as follows.
Wash nightly with a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil and remove any makeup very gently. Apply a thick, bland moisturizer like Cetaphil Cream, Vanicream, or Skinceuticals Epidermal Repair. Ask your doctor when makeup can be applied. You will need to increase your use of a moisturizer after the peel as your skin will be temporarily drier. Many doctors ask you to avoid all sun exposure for 2-8 weeks.