Trichloroacetic Acid Uses, How It Works & Facts

Trichloroacetic Acid Uses, How It Works & Facts

Impressive Trichloroacetic Acid And It's Many Uses

According to Allure Magazine, chemical peels are the secret to better looking skin.  TCA peels are in our opinion one of the best, most effective options.

Peels can make your skin—and skin-care products—work better. In minutes, acids lift away dead cells and trigger a lovely chain reaction: "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—to act younger," says David Bank, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University/Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. A thorough sloughing also offers one very immediate upshot: smoother skin that's both more radiant and more receptive. "Your skin-care products perform better after a peel because there are no dead cells impeding their penetration," says New York City dermatologist Neal Schultz, who averages at least 50 peels a week in his Park Avenue office.


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.  

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 and irritation. These products are perfect for everyone of every skin type, including sensitive and dark pigmented skin. You can expect impressive gradual results with our product line. TCA is considered safe for use for this purpose during pregnancy.

If you’re pursuing an actual TCA peel or what to know how TCA product can help you, read through the following to learn more.


You might be surprised to know that many of today’s chemical peeling agents originated from household kitchen items. 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 synthetic chemical based on common vinegar, or acetic acid. However it’s a powerful solution that effectively desquamates the outer layers of the skin without posing serious risk for toxicity.

TCA 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. Since the frosting is visible, it serves as a good marker for the professional skin therapist to know when to end treatment with the acid. 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.

While similar to Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), TCA is a much stronger acid that causes a denaturing of skin proteins. The effect will produce a white “frost” on the skin or cause the tissue to turn white. This characteristic of TCA is a great tool for skin therapists as it helps us to monitor the progress of the peel. If frosting has occurred during the treatment, it is a signal that the peeling step of the treatment is done; progressing further will only inflict serious damage to the skin as frosting is a sign of cell death.

Achieving a frost on the skin will give great results, however frosting may not always occur and should not be forced. Remember: peeling is about controlled inflammation – triggering excess inflammation would encourage premature skin aging, and that defeats the whole purpose of a peel!


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 unfailing chemical agent for skin therapists to use and fool proof for home users.


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 on the neck or other body areas, and may require pre treatment with Retin-A or AHA creams. It is preferable for darker skinned patients.

The results of a TCA peel are usually less dramatic than, and not as long-lasting as, those of a phenol peel. More than one TCA peel may be needed to achieve the desired result.

TCA-peel patients are advised to avoid sun exposure for several months. It also may produce some unintended color changes in the skin.


What are TCA peels and products?

TCA is a non-toxic chemical (trichloracetic acid), which has been used to perform skin peels for over 20 years. It is a relative of 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.

Lighter TCA peel product results are considered the best approach. This is similar to other light peels that usually involve hydroxy acids such as glycolic, salicylic, or a mixture of other hydroxy acids. Medium depth TCA peels are usually done once or twice a year and do require some downtime – usually about a week – when the peeling is obvious.

What areas can be treated with TCA?

The face, neck, chest, back, 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 other procedure.

How long do the effects of TCA peels last?

This depends on the strength of the TCA product and the extent of your continuing sun exposure. 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 should 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 and are often done in a series. A full face, neck, and chest will cost more.

One of our TCA products will be a much more affordable option for you. One of the great benefits to using one of our products is that you can control the gradual effects over time.

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, and then you can go on about your day, apply cosmetics, etc.

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 peels?

Wash nightly with a gentle cleanser and remove any makeup very 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 photodamage 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. Look for concentrations under 20% as it is an excellent acid for use in superficial chemical peels. Note that higher concentrations lead to medium depth peeling, which will require some down time.

Have any questions regarding TCA peels or any other kind of chemical peel?  Reach out and let me know!

Jeanette |

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