Trichloroacetic Acid | How to Use It, How it Works and Facts

tca chemical peel trichloroacetic acid uses

trichloroacetic acid uses

Impressive Trichloroacetic Acid Information, What it is, and How To Use It

According to top dermatologists, chemical exfoliation products and chemical peels are the secret to better looking skin, but the truth is you don't need an expensive, intimidating office visit to get the results you're looking for.

It's a well known fact that products and peels that contain trichloroacetic acid are one of the best options available.  Not many products contain this important ingredient, but if you can find them, they are definitely worth your time and consideration. 

There are many benefits to using chemical exfoliation products and incorporating them into your skin care plan.

While the term "chemical exfoliation" in itself can sound intimidating or not in line with the use of natural products or clean skin care, many of these ingredients are actually plant derived and can help fix a wide array of skin care issues you might be suffering from (see more below).

Chemical exfoliant products can make your skin care work better. Exfoliating the top layers of your skin can lift away dead cells, leaving fresher new layers to absorb your favorite skin care products, without the obstruction of dead skin cells impeding the effectiveness of those beloved products.

As that topmost layer is shed, signals are sent to the living cells below to multiply and move up, to increase collagen production, to make more hyaluronic acid.  All of that results in your skin acting younger, as it once did, bringing the regeneration process up a notch.

History and Facts

HISTORY: Trichloroacetic acid was discovered by Jean-Baptiste Dumas in 1839. Since it's discovery, it has been widely used in biochemistry. TCA is often used in cosmetic treatments such as chemical peels and tattoo removal, and as topical medication for chemoablation of warts and skin cancer.  

DOWN TIME: Our TCA products are carefully formulated to include just the right amount of TCA and blend of other acids, so that you have very little down time or irritation.

SENSITIVE SKIN: Our products are perfect for everyone of every skin type, including sensitive and dark pigmented skin. You can expect impressive, gradual results with our options.

Where it Comes From and How it Works

You might be surprised to know that many of today’s chemical peeling agents originated from plants and foods.

Take the hydroxy acids: Tartaric Acid comes from grapes, Malic Acid from apples, Glycolic Acid from sugar cane and Lactic Acid from sour milk, to name a few.

Similarly, the more potent peeling agent TCA (trichloroacetic acid), is a modified and derived from common vinegar, or acetic acid. It’s a powerful solution that effectively exfoliates the skin without any risk for toxicity.  TCA can reach slightly deeper layers, compared to glycolic acids.

Trichloroacetic acid is considered a keratocoagulant, meaning it coagulates the skin’s proteins together. This process is a lot like cooking egg whites – the raw egg white is slightly clear and goopy and cooking it turns it white and hardens it.

On the skin, once keratin proteins are coagulated, they too turn a whitish color. This whitening is called “frosting” on the skin. Once frosting occurs, the TCA chemical self-neutralizes and is no longer active.  You’ll find that it’s a fantastic peeling agent that can tackle concerns of pigmentation, aging and even acne.

TCA is a great acid that any skin enthusiast can incorporate into her or his treatment arsenal to focus on pigmentation and aging. If combined with other chemical agents (like Salicylic Acid), it can also show marked changes on acneic breakouts and the common side effects that acne leaves behind, such as post-inflammatory pigmentation.

This is an Interesting and Important Fact

Another unique characteristic of TCA is that it has the ability to self-neutralize. Therefore, TCA does not depend on timing to trigger a frost or change, unlike AHAs.

This feature makes the ingredient an especially safe and practical option for at home use. 

What It's Typically Used For

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) can be used in a variety of concentrations
and is used to accomplish the following:

  • Smooth fine surface wrinkles
  • Remove superficial blemishes
  • Correct pigment problems 
  • Reduce brown spots and age spots
  • Improve the texture of leathery, sun damaged skin and impart more
  • More glowing skin
  • Improve melasma
  • Treat some types of acne

It can be used at any place on the body but is often used for face, neck, backs of hands, or anywhere there is some sun damage, scarring, or visual imperfections.  

Common Questions

What are TCA peels and products?

TCA is a non-toxic plant derived ingredient (trichloroacetic acid), which has been used to perform skin peels for over 20 years. It is derived from vinegar (acetic acid.) When TCA is applied to the skin, it causes the top layers of cells to dry up and peel off over a period of several days to one week.

When the old skin is peeled off, it exposes a new layer of undamaged skin, which has a smoother texture and more even color.

Some dermatologists, in fact, still prefer TCA peels for treating sun damage or melasma, usually in combination with prescription creams. TCA peels may be a good option, particularly if you have melasma, Because many lasers are difficult to use when treating melasma.

How do TCA peels work and what are the different depth peels?

All peels work by removing a layer of sun damaged skin. Superficial or “light” peels remove only the top layer, mostly the layer of dead skin called the stratum corneum. Progressing from medium to deep peels, the layer of skin removed is greater with each increase in strength of the peel solution. The stronger the peel solution the greater the risk of complications like uneven pigment or even scarring.

TCA peels can be done at different depths from shallow to deep. Most dermatologists now are using laser technology instead of deep TCA peels, but light to medium depth peels are still in widespread use.

What areas can be treated with TCA?

The face, neck, chest, back, back of hands, arms, and legs. TCA products can be very cost effective on the body because larger areas can be done at less cost than a laser or office visit procedure.

How long do the effects of TCA peels last?

Once your skin is exfoliated, that damaged skin that has been removed is gone forever.   

When will I see results from use of my TCA product or peel?

As soon as you finish peeling you will see results. Your skin will then continue to improve for 30-60 days as long as you are protected from the sun.

How much do TCA treatments cost?

A TCA peel or treatment in a doctors office or spa can run from $300 to $1,000 for a full face peel but our product(s) that contain TCA are quite affordable and 100% safe for home use.  

What does it feel like to use one of our TCA products?

One you thoroughly cleanse your face, you can apply the cream or lotion to dry skin. In a few moments you will start to feel a tingling or prickling sensation. Fanning your face can sometimes offer more relieve to the feeling that you might have. It’s very subtle, and there’s no reason to be concerned. The tingling will subside and stop in a few minutes, and you can go on about your day as you normally would.  

Please remember to use sunscreen consistently and take precautions to avoid the sun.

You may notice your skin looking as if it has a slight sunburn. This should pass in a few days and it will rejuvenate naturally on it’s own.

How should I care for my skin after TCA product use?

Generally speaking, it's always best to use gentle products and rich moisturizers when caring for the skin after a trichloroacetic acid treatment.  Wash nightly with a gentle cleanser and remove any makeup gently. Apply a rich moisturizer and keep your skin hydrated 24/7. Your skin might temporarily feel dryer until it fully heals.

While our skin naturally sheds (desquamates) its outer layer on a regular basis, this process slows with age. Chemical products are a powerful tool to resurface and rejuvenate skin with instant results. Other skin issues like photo damage and acne can also greatly benefit from chemical peels.

While TCA is very effective when used alone, research has shown that when combined with other acids like ingredients like lactic or salicylic acid, it will enhance the effects of these ingredients and provide a more effective skin resurfacing result. 

Our Glycolic Acid Face Cream with TCA, Lactic and Malic Acid is your best all around option for a safe product to use in the comfort of your own home, made with organic plant based ingredients. 

Do you have some questions regarding peels and exfoliating products?  Contact me direct at

Jeanette @ | Owner, Formulator & Herbal Expert

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