If you’re aging prematurely from fine lines and sun damage on your face, you can help turn back the clocks of time with a TCA peel.
A trichloracetic acid (TCA) peel has been used by dermatologists for over 20 years. While “acid” is a scary word, TCA is related to vinegar, known chemically as acetic acid. When TCA is applied cautiously to the skin, the very top layers of skin cells dry and fall off over the next seven days. When the old skin is removed, it reveals a layer of undamaged skin that is smoother in texture, has even pigmentation, and is free of lines and sun damage. This peel will lift your epidermis and part of the dermis.
Most people who choose to have a TCA peel have melasma, brown spots, or age spots. Laser treatment is popular to remove minor skin flaws, but these lasers aren’t very effective at removing melasma or spots. Some kinds of acne are treatable with a TCA peel, as are acne scars. Finally, this kind of peel is an excellent non-surgical option for removing fine lines and wrinkles. If you want to get rid of these lines instead of filling them with dermal fillers, a chemical peel is a good option for you.
On the day of your procedure, you should come into the office with your face free of any makeup, sunscreen, and creams. The technician will apply a solution to remove any residual oils and ready your skin for the TCA. When the solution dries, petroleum jelly is smoothed around your eyes, nostrils, and lips to prevent any acid from getting onto these particularly sensitive areas.
Dr. Choe uses a Q-tip or a brush to apply the solution. During the procedure, your skin will begin to feel some sensation. Some patients say it tingles while others say it turns hot. These peels are uncomfortable, but they aren’t so painful that you’ll need an anesthetic. If you get a very strong TCA peel, Dr. Choe will give you light IV sedation to keep you comfortable.
It’s important to tell your doctor if there is any unbearable burning; if this occurs, he’ll neutralize the peel right away.
To minimize the burning feeling, a fan will be blowing cool air onto your skin. If your doctor is applying a peel with a concentration of 15 percent or higher, your skin will probably start to “frost”. This means your skin turns white, and these are the areas where you get the most peeling.
A light layer of TCA peel (30%-45%) is applied (multiple layers are needed) until light frosting of skin. The face, neck and chest can be treated all at once. The peel solution will be left to sit on your skin, but how long depends on how many peels you’ve had and the concentration of the solution. TCA self-neutralizes in five minutes, but when it’s time to remove the solution, Dr. Choe uses a neutralizing solution to fully stop its effects. Once the solution is fully neutralized, your face will be delicately and gently cleaned.
Your face will be red for the rest of the day, and it may swell. The swelling will disappear within 24 hours, but the redness will last for days. You’ll be sent home with an antibiotic cream to prevent infection. The first day, your skin is going to be slightly painful, so you’ll need to take it easy. The second day, your skin will be red and feel tight. It will look extremely wrinkled, too, but this means the skin is about to start peeling.
Your skin begins to peel on day three or four. The skin is going to be dry and itchy, and you can apply anti-itch creams to keep yourself from scratching at your face. Some patients experience minor peeling while others find their skin is peeling off in sheets. It’s important to keep your skin moisturized so the new skin stays moist.
Your face will continue to peel until day 10 after your procedure. By now, your face is going to look brighter and feel smoother. It’s important to remember one peel isn’t going to erase every imperfection from your face; it could take a few peels before you really notice a huge difference. Patients return home with post procedure instructions.
Lighter skinned patients are generally the best candidates for this type of peel. Darker skinned patients aren’t necessarily eliminated from getting a TCA peel, but the results may not be as pronounced. If you have sun damage, brown spots, or fine lines, a TCA peel is a good fit for you.
Chemical peels are one of the oldest and most reliable methods to help with sun damaged skin and fine lines. TCA peels performed by Dr. Choe are unlike the light chemical peels you may have heard about or have done before. It is truly a deep peel with excellent results. He has performed hundreds of deep chemical peels, and experience is key in getting the best results. Unlike some laser treatments or other cosmetic procedures, you may repeat this treatment many times in your lifetime.
TCA Peel FAQs
How long does the procedure last?
If you aren’t undergoing any type of IV sedation, the procedure should last between 45 minutes and an hour. This gives Dr. Choe time to prep your skin and neutralize the solution before sending you home.
What can I expect after the procedure?
After the procedure, you should expect your skin to be very red and sensitive to touch. Patient’s skin will be slightly pink/red for the first 1-2 days and then skin will turn darker. More damaged skin will turn darker. On day 5-7, skin will start to peel. It is important not to peel the skin, but let your body do it on its own.
Are there risks?
Risks associated with a TCA peel include scarring, pain, pigment changes, and infection.
How soon can I return to work?
A deep chemical peel requires taking some time off of work. Dr. Choe recommends going back to work within 7 – 10 days. This allows you to avoid sun exposure and regularly apply your antibiotic cream. As far as exercise and other strenuous activity, you should wait at least two weeks.