Everything you need to know about TCA

Written By: Kelsie Matthews, L.E.


What is TCA?


TCA stands for trichloracetic acid, which is a non-toxic chemical commonly used in chemical peel treatments. This acid is very similar to acetic acid which is derived from vinegar. TCA is a very common acid used in medium depth chemical peels, but can also be found in many topical products as well in lighter concentrations. 


What is TCA used for?


When applied to the skin, TCA causes the top layers of cells to dry up and peel off over the course of a few days to weeks, depending on the concentration of the acid used. Some of the skin conditions TCA can treat are:


  • Fine lines/wrinkles
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Redness/rosacea
  • Skin laxity
  • Texture
  • Enlarges pores


Once the top layer of skin sloughs off, a new healthy layer of skin is revealed with a better overall appearance. 


How many treatments do I need?


When TCA is used in a treatment such as a chemical peel, typically 2-3 treatments are necessary to achieve desired results. These treatments can be done anywhere from 1-3 months apart. With stronger TCA peels, it is typically safe to do every 3 months, whereas lighter TCA peels can be done on a monthly basis. 


What happens after a TCA peel?


Like many other peels, there is a little bit of “downtime”. Immediately after receiving a TCA peel, you can expect some mild irritation, redness, and feeling of warmth. It typically feels like you have been laying in the sun for hours getting a sunburn. The following days your skin will get tighter and feel very dry. Around day 3-7 is when you can typically expect your skin to actually start peeling off. Depending on how deep of a peel you receive, the peeling can last anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks. 


As soon as the peeling process is over, results are seen immediately. New, healthy skin replaces the old layers which gives you a beautiful glow. Over several months following the treatment, the results will only get better. More collagen will be produced, and the skin will start to appear brighter, tighter, and more smooth.  


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