TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) Peel – Procedure, Cost & Benefits

TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) Peel – Procedure, Cost & Benefits

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From acne scars to pigmentation and everything in between, skin issues such as these can be hampering to an individual’s look. While laser treatment is effective, TCA peels are a widely done and time-tested method of treatment. However, this is an extremely intricate treatment that should be done carefully and ideally by an experienced dermatologist.

What Is TCA Peel?

TCA or Trichloroacetic Acid is a non-toxic chemical agent used for skin exfoliation, which not only results in a renewed and refreshed look on the surface but also tackles skin issues deep within the various layers.

Peels work on the principle of drying the upper layer of skin, which makes it peel over a period of time. In a week or more, the more regular and exposed skin peels off revealing undamaged skin, which possesses a smoother texture and in some cases, better tone and color.

Skin peels, like the TCA peel, are preferred by dermatologists in general, due to the ability to adjust the strength and intensity of the treatment to fit the skin issue. Stronger concentrations of the mix will result in deeper treatments. This happens as the mix attempts to neutralize itself by finding protein strains and hence tackles only the affected areas.

Due to the ability to vary its strength, TCA peels are safe for a wide variety of skin types. While normal to oily or sun damaged skin show results faster, even sensitive skin has shown results to TCA peel treatments over time.

Skin Conditions Treated With TCA Peels

A dermatologist will recommend chemical peels mainly when pigmentation issues occur. Sun damaged skin, discoloration from pregnancy, wrinkles, acne, acne scars, and large pores are quite commonly treated via peels.

Ice-pick scars (a type of acne scars), peri-oral (around the mouth) or peri-orbital (around the eye) pigmentation, freckles, cases of melasma, acanthosis nigricans which is a velvety texture seen on the skin due to obesity, can also be treated effectively through TCA peels. Characteristics of an individual’s skin, like thickness or texture, may influence the effect of the treatment.

Also Read: Chemical Peel Types

Trichloroacetic Acid Peel – Things To Know

Candidate for TCA Peels

Candidates for TCA peels usually exhibit some or any of the following –

  • Acne and scars
  • Skin damaged due to prolonged exposure to the sun
  • Wrinkles around the mouth or upper eyelids
  • Crow’s feet
  • Spotting or blotches

What To Expect

Dermatologists will begin by carefully examining the affected areas and will determine what treatments or combination of treatments will be the most effective. Skin types, the severity of the skin issue, and depth of the skin issue are the major factors under review.

Being forthright with your medical history will help avoid complications during the treatment.

Preparatory Steps

Post consultation and discussion, treatments usually begin with the affected areas being cleansed several times. This helps remove the oil content in the skin, which could potentially interfere with the peel from penetrating the skin layers evenly.

Using the appropriate applicator, the TCA peel is applied evenly. In some cases, it is done in several stages due to target strength.

Different Depth Levels And Peels

When peels are applied, they remove a layer or more of skin depending on the “depth level”. Superficial or lighter intensity peels remove only the top layer of skin. This is usually the most exposed to damage. As the mix becomes more concentrated, it allows for more layers to be removed. This is helpful in areas affected by pigmentation and acne scars.

Lighter TCA peel treatments are performed over two to three sessions in shorter intervals than more concentrated treatments. Medium depth TCA peels are performed over larger spans of time due to the resulting downtime, usually about a week, when the peeling is obvious.

Remember to always consult an experienced dermatologist as the stronger the peel solution the greater the risk of complications, which can even result in scarring and other agitated reactions.


For TCA peel, good priming is needed to get even penetration of the peel and desired results. Necessary priming agents are advised by the dermatologist once a proper skin analysis is done.

As TCA peels penetrate more than the surface layer of skin, the treated areas should not be subjected to other chemicals for at least a few weeks prior to the treatment. Milder cleaning agents will be recommended combined with other lotions and creams to help prepare the skin for the peeling process.

  • First, the skin is primed by cleaning the skin from dirt, oils, and grease buildup with pure acetone on a cotton ball.
  • The TCA peeling solution is then applied while carefully avoiding the mouth and eye areas and left for a few minutes. It is then neutralized to stop the acidic reaction.
  • After the peel is removed, soothing cream and sunscreen are applied to the treated areas to ensure adequate protection.

Maintenance & Post Care Instructions

Dermatologists will provide specific instructions depending on the intensity of the TCA peel treatment.

General post care involves diligent cleaning of the treated areas with a cleaning agent (especially if makeup is used). Extra use of moisturizing creams will be required as the skin becomes drier for a period of time after the peeling treatment. Direct sun exposure is not recommended for at least three weeks.

Body Areas It Is Done For

TCA peels are commonly applied to the face, neck, neckline, hands, and legs. Also, these peels are effective against specific areas of pigmentation.

However, if areas other than the face are being treated, results may vary due to the healing factor. Also, small areas of the body should be subjected to TCA peel treatments to avoid the rare case of toxicity.

Benefits Of TCA Peels

Apart from improving the texture and color of skin by revealing undamaged layers, TCA peels are extremely effective against a wide variety of skin issues.  Pigmentation, acne, scars, and wrinkles can easily be treated with the same, thereby improving the overall look of your complexion.

Post the peel treatment, skin care products work more effectively as collagen production has been increased giving the skin a younger look of radiance due to all the dead cells being cleared.

Complications & Side Effects Of TCA Peel

Under the supervision of an experienced dermatologist, TCA peels are extremely safe when following the right protocols. The procedure itself leads to easily treatable –

  • Mild transient redness for 1-2 days
  • Mild flaking
  • Dryness
  • Breakouts during first two peels

With the correct pre-care and post-care instructions being followed, TCA peels can be extremely effective without compromising your safety. However, due to variety of reactions to various skin types, some side effects may include –

  1. Discomfort– While there is usually none, in some cases there is a feeling of mild discomfort, for which pain medications can be provided.
  2. Healing– TCA peels work by removing the top layer of skin that takes approximately five to seven days to heal. Once the surface is treated, it may be sensitive to the sun. Hence, religious usage of sunscreen is mandatory.
  3. Inflammation– Immediately after the treatment, mild swelling may be experienced. However, this is temporary and will subside over a couple of hours.
  4. Scarring– Individuals will lower levels of healing should report this to the dermatologist prior to the treatment. Depending on skin sensitivity, the dermatologist will decide the concentration of the peel and the post care required. it is important to follow post-care instructions carefully to minimize any untoward events.
  5. Sun Sensitivity– The treated areas will be sensitive to the sun and will require protection with sunscreen lotions. If possible, these areas should be covered completely in the interim, at least for the initial 3-4 days.

Also Read: Glycolic Acid Peel For Treating Acne Scars

TCA Peel Cost In India

TCA peels are popular for their low cost and low time investment. A basic session of 30 minutes can cost anywhere between Rs. 800 to Rs. 2,000 per session. The factors that determine this is the depth level of the peel and the area of treatment. 

Is TCA Peel Safe?

Under the guidance of an experienced dermatologist, TCA peels are extremely effective and safe. TCA is non-toxic chemical treatment. Dermatologists prefer TCA peels as opposed to lasers for some treatments (for example – ice-pick acne scars) due to the effectiveness of the procedure.

TCA Peel – Before And After

Cases affected with extreme acne, scars, wrinkles, etc. see a significant improvement in time with the treatment with relatively no pain (medium and deep peels might require a local or topical anesthetic). Procedures can usually take up to 45 minutes depending on the area in question. Results can be seen within 3-7 days, especially in skin texture and tone, depending on the skin type and condition. With proper (and strict) post care, TCA peels are extremely safe and effective.

Also Read: Salicylic Acid Peels – Benefits, Cost, Before & After Results

FAQs Of TCA Peel

Will The Redness After TCA Peel Go Away?

Yes. The redness will subside between 1-2 days depending on the skin sensitivity and the efficiency of post care treatment.

Any Way To Speed Up Healing After TCA Peel?

The healing process needs to happen naturally. Keeping the skin clean and moisturized is imperative. Avoid picking at the treated area as this could lead to further scarring. Some makeup can be used, but it is important that you consult your dermatologist.

Is It Normal To Have Swelling After TCA Peel?

Swelling is a normal side effect after a TCA peel treatment. Depending on the intensity of the peel used, this can be minimal to intense but should subside in a few days. Medication can be taken to aid the healing process.

Is TCA Peel Painful?

Due to the individualized nature of TCA peels, you can feel a slight stinging or burning sensation. Depending on the depth of the peel, cold compresses and fans are used to cool the skin. In the case of deep chemical peels, the treatment takes place in intervals.

Is TCA Peel Good For Acne Scars?

Yes. As TCA peels remove layers of skin, acne scars can be reduced drastically by resurfacing newer, undamaged skin.

Is TCA Peel Safe For Dark Skin?

Most chemical peel treatments are safe to use on brown or dark skin. Some deep chemical treatments may cause hyperpigmentation and should be used with extreme caution. Always consult your dermatologist for the right advice.

Is TCA Peel Self-Neutralizing?

When the treatment is done correctly, TCA peels are self-neutralizing. However, this is highly dependent on the mix and technique applied and can be a major cause of problems if done incorrectly.

Can You Do TCA Peels At Home?

No. Special attention needs to be paid to the quality of chemicals, reactions to the skin, pre-existing conditions, duration of the peel on the target areas, pre and post care. It is always highly recommended to have a dermatologist perform the treatments.

TCA peel is an extremely safe treatment when done in a controlled and monitored environment. This chemical peel also provides an excellent alternative to laser treatment for certain types of acne scars and pigmentation, potentially saving you financially depending on the severity of the case. Visit a dermatologist and see your trouble with pigmentation disappear.


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About The Author

Kushneet Kukreja

Kushneet Kukreja

A postgraduate in Biotechnology from Kingston University and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition, Kushneet Kukreja is a passionate writer who works in close association with the dermatologists at our head office to generate valuable and scientifically accurate content for our blog.

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