What is TCA Peel and How Are They Used In Dermatology?

TCA peel is a non-toxic chemical substance that has been in use for decades. The main component of TCA, Trichloroacetic acid, belongs in the same group of non-harmful acidic substances with vinegar (acetic acid).

Skin peels serve to rid us of the topmost layers of our skin. When applied topically, TCA peel will cause the top layer of the skin to dry up and begin peeling off. The peeling process stretches out over several days after which you are left with a smoother, less blemished and more evenly toned skin.

TCA peel is largely preferred over other kinds of skin peels, thanks to its effectiveness even in small amounts. It is useful in the treatment of skin disorders such as melasma, which causes discolored patches to appear on the face, and severe cases of sunburn. A dermatologist who has specialized in using the TCA skin peel will stand a better chance of treating your melasma than laser surgery will. TCA can be very useful when used by experienced practitioners.

What is TCA Peel and How Are They Used In Dermatology?

Primary Uses of TCA Skin Peel

The most common uses of TCA peel are:

  • Treatment of skin conditions such as melasma and some forms of acne.
  • It is used to even out the skin tone by getting rid of discolored skin.
  • Removing wrinkled, sun burnt and leathery skin.
  • Improving the youthful appeal and enhancing the glow of the skin.

How TCA Peel Works

Skin peels vary in intensity depending on their strength. The strength of TCA will determine the extent of peeling. The mildest form of TCA peel works best on the stratum corneum, which is the most superficial layer of our skin.

As the strength of the TCA peel determines the depth of the peeling, it also increases the risk of complications arising from excessive exposure to the substance. As such, dermatologists prefer to perform deeper skin peels using laser surgery to minimize these risks. However, using TCA peel is still recommended for light to medium depth peels.

The average light depth TCA peel treatment is carried out over 2 to 3 sessions depending on the patient’s skin type, response to the treatment and other patient-specific factors. These sessions are closely scheduled and it is a one-off treatment. For skin peels that are of medium depth, the treatment might be repeated twice within the same year although for some cases it is still a one-off affair. TCA peel treatments require a recovery period of about a week when the peeling of the skin is visible.

TCA Peel Treatments on the Body

Although TCA peel works best on the face, using it on larger portions of the skin such as on the back or limbs is significantly cheaper than laser treatment. Working with an experienced dermatologist will also help you to reduce the risk of some of the severe side effects of TCA peel.

The reason why TCA peel might not be as effective on other areas of the skin is that the face heals faster better than other parts of the body. The skin on the face is less susceptible to scarring and discolorations brought about by a failed TCA treatment. As such, your dermatologist might recommend taking a step-by-step approach when dealing with other parts of the body by applying TCA peel on a small portion of the skin at a time.

Is TCA Peel More Effective Than Laser Treatment?

When it comes to performing light to medium depth skin peels over small portions of skin, TCA peel is more effective and will cost you less. However, TCA peel still carries a degree of unpredictability due to the large number of variables that cannot be controlled by your dermatologist no matter how experienced they are. In order to restrict the risk to a bare minimal, one should only trust board-certified practitioners with years of experience.

Laser treatment also carries an edge that no skin peel possesses. Despite being significantly more expensive, it is the safest way to conduct deep skin peels because it offers almost no risk. Furthermore, laser treatment is also useful in the treatment of red patches that result from dilated blood vessels and deeply ingrained patches of sun burnt skin. To cap it all off, laser treatment requires no downtime at all. The two methods can be combined for better results.

FAQs

Q: How long do the effects of TCA peel last?

A: Your dermatologist will avail all this information to you. However, this depends on the extent of your skin peel, how your body responds to it and the amount of sun exposure you subject yourself to.

Q:What does a treatment of TCA peel cost?

A: The cost of TCA peel treatment ranges from $300 to $1,000 depending on the depth of the peel.

Q: Will I experience pain?

A: It is highly unlikely that you will experience acute pain unless complications arise. However, you will experience slight discomfort when the TCA peel chemical is applied onto your skin. The feeling can be described as a stinging feeling or a strong sensation of heat.

Q: Will the peeling be visible enough to impact on my appearance? How long will it last?

A: Yes. The skin takes on a pale yellow complexion immediately after the treatment. This skin tone lasts for about two hours after which it will gradually begin to fade. The skin might take on a reddish complexion with a feeling of tightness for the following two or three days but this will eventually subside as well. For patients who undergo the medium peel, the peeling will remain visible for about a week or so.

Q: Is it true that I should avoid exposure to sunlight?

A: Yes, it is imperative that you do so. During the entire peeling process, your skin will experience increased sensitivity and as such, you will be more likely to get sun burnt if you expose yourself to the direct rays of the sun. As such, avoid prolonged exposure for the next two months or so.

Side Effects of TCA Peel

The treatment is not necessarily painful but you might require to be chauffeured to and from the hospital due to the levels of discomfort involved. A few side effects you may experience are:

  • Discoloration and pigment changes.
  • Prolonged healing of superficial wounds.
  • Mild swelling.
  • Scarring.
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun.
  • Cold sores.

How to Care for Your Skin after a TCA Peel Treatment

Depending on how your body responds to the treatment, your dermatologist will advise you on how you should care for your skin. Daily care with cleansers and ointments such as Cetaphil is recommended. Application of chemicals such as makeup should be as per the doctor’s instructions. Keep your skin moisturized at all times and avoid exposure to sunlight during the entire healing period.