What is Trichloroacetic Acid? Find out how it can benefit your skin.

trichloloracetic acid what is trichloroacetic acid

what is trichloroacetic acid

What is Trichloroacetic Acid and How Should it Be Used?

Below we've outlined all the amazing benefits of trichloroacetic acid and how it works, and how it compares to other topical acids so you can make the best choice for your skin care needs.

If there’s one acid ingredient that I could recommend, to someone who is hoping to make significant changes to their skin, it would be trichloroacetic acid, also known as TCA.  Glycolic acid is a close second, based on it’s versatility and because like TCA, it’s so easy to use with the right plan in place.

TCA can help with a myriad of issues – ranging from acne, acne scarring, dull skin, wrinkled skin, sagging skin, sun spots, discoloration, patched of dark skin, and large pores.  Importantly, it has also been used to treat and remove precancerous growth, which is a great option for you and your medical provider to discuss.

Trichloroacetic acid is easily accessible to everyone now, and quite affordable.  Many people do find it intimidating because if the acid is too strong, it can easily burn your skin, and it can take some practice determining the signs of when it should be rinsed off or neutralized. 

We have made it extremely easy, by formulating a couple of products that are easy to handle.  They will not spill or splash because they are in easy to use consistencies (a cream and a serum).  They are specially formulated to either be applied and left on or rinsed off, so there is no worry or guess work on how long to keep it on your skin. 

All around, TCA is a great way to look better and have skin that just feels better – brighter, firmer, and smoother.


When TCA is applied to the skin, to some degree (depending on the strength) there will be a burn that will heal and result in the sloughing off or removal of the outer layers of the skin (epidermis), allowing new skin to grow.

Our products are formulated to offer a fairly mild effect and can be used in “layers” to intensive the effect.  Once you achieve the level of burn that you’re hoping for, you can then begin the healing process. 

Typically the description of the burn result is much like the way your skin would look or feel if you had a mild sunburn or wind burn to the skin.  Not the kind of effect that would require a long “down time” for the healing process.

The healing process would most likely include very gentle cleansers, some very emollient moisturizer, and / or some antibacterial ointment at night to speed the recovery time.

After healing the skin will be tighter, thicker (due to increased collagen production - an added benefit of the stronger peels). Upon healing the skin may appear fuller, smoother with smaller pores and with less wrinkles and fine lines. Basically ones skin will look rejuvenated and more youthful following a chemical peel.


There are many types and varieties of these topical acids.  They are usually grouped and defined by their relative strength and depth reached into the skin layers. 

Some chemical peels may go deeper into the dermis (next layer of skin).  Some of the most common purposes of this process is to remove damaged, blemished, sun-damaged, freckled skin and replace it with younger, healthier skin.

There are basically six kinds of commonly used topical acids for skin: the light acids (AHA), light oil-based acids (BHA), lactic acid, malic acid, medium acids (TCA), and deep acids (Phenol).  

AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) - These are the mildest of the topical acids. They are usually sugar derived hence their names, glycolic, malic, lactic and other fruit acids. These peels are usually performed by a dermatologist or esthetician and have minimal healing or downtime. Downtime is referred to as the time when the skin is healing and may be uncomfortable to be viewed in public due to peeling and possibly discolored dead skin that is usually associated with a deeper peel.

Malic Acids - Typically derived from apples, this acid considered milder than glycolic acid, and if added to a product or a chemical peel, can add a nice multi-level effect to the process.  Malic acids contain antioxidants that are great for your skin. 

Lactic Acids - Lactic acid is usuall derived from milk.  It can do everything glycolic acid does, but just a bit slower because it’s a little bit larger, which slightly reduces its ability to penetrate skin’s outermost layer. Topical lactic acid in concentrations of 2% and up can hydrate skin; when used alone or with other AHAs, it begins working as an exfoliant at a 5% concentration, with amounts between 5% and 10% considered ideal for skincare products meant to exfoliate.  

BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acids) - The main difference between these acids and alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) is that BHA's are only oil soluble. There is basically only one BHA, salicylic acid. This unique feature of being oil soluble makes this acid very effective in cleaning and removing bacteria, dead skin cells and sebum oil from deep inside the pores. Because of this solubility difference, salicylic acid is better suited for use on oily, irritated skin with postules, blackheads and whiteheads. It is available in numerous forms, cream, gel, lotions, shampoo and topical solutions. The latter two forms are primarily for treating the scalp as salicylic acid has also been found effective in the treatment of dandruff, psoriasis, and dermatitis of the skin and scalp. Same as with AHA peels, occlusive dressings and/or layering may be used to drive the acid in farther.

TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) - TCA or trichloroacetic acid is considered a deeper medium depth acid. TCA is a more effective and longer lasting than the sugar and citric acids as it goes deeper into the dermis and can therefore treat more skin ailments, conditions and problems. A TCA peel does not require layering or occlusive dressings (methods used to drive AHA and BHA peels deeper). TCA, being a deeper reaching acid, is effective on more skin conditions and problems. Basically a TCA peel has the benefits of both AHA and BHA peels along with deeper penetration and longer lasting effects. Healing or downtime tends to be longer as much as several weeks or more depending on the depth achieved. Peeling is more severe and the results more dramatic. TCA peels are routinely used by dermatologist and plastic surgeons in office as recommended treatments for all stages of acne including acne vulgaris.

TCA is derived from a modified version of acetic acid, which can be commonly found in vinegar.  Its benefits are extensive, which makes it a worthwhile option for even those who prefer all natural or consider themselves to be “crunchy”.  Rarely will you find an ingredient that can help so effectively treat the progression of skin cancer, chronic inflammation acne and other skin issues.  TCA have been used for years to treat severe actinic damage and prevent the progression of skin cancer. 

TCA has also been proven to remove and treat freckles, years of sun damage, bad pigmentation, scars, loose skin and wrinkles and fine lines. TCA has recently even been used by doctors to treat, remove and lighten tattoos.

Phenol Acid - Phenol peels are the deepest type of chemical peel. It will penetrate the skin deeper than AHA peels or TCA peels to address more serious imperfections such as blotchiness, coarse wrinkles, and acne scars. Compared to light chemical peels and medium chemical peels, deep chemical peels have more dramatic results, and only a single treatment is required. However, deep (phenol) chemical peel recovery is lengthy and considered extremely uncomfortable compared to milder chemical peels.  It’s highly unadvisable for anyone to try to attempt a phenol peel at home, so please stick with acid options that are less potent.


Clinical studies published in the Annals of Plastic Surgery and elsewhere show the TCA acid are the most effective for most skin conditions and problems. With all peels, make sure you use the maximum sun protection available to protect the new skin from harmful UV rays that can cause cancer in unprotected skin. A high SPF (sun protection factor) sun block and protective attire (hats) are recommended. 


If you use our products, you can enjoy the benefits at any time, with very little maintenance afterwards, unless you layer the product to the extent that you can visibly see the “burn” effect on the skin – which will simply look slightly red.  If that is your plan, follow up by keeping skin hydrated and use some antibacterial ointment at night.  Light cosmetics are fine, and mineral cosmetics are even better, as they can help the healing process and offer some sun protection.

If you prefer instead – you can apply our cream or serum in the evening, and do so a few times a week to maintain a consistent level of cell turnover.  You’ll know when your skin needs a break or time to heal.  In that case, treat it as if you would a sunburn and give it a few days to resume a normal state.

In time, you are guaranteed to see an improvement in sun spots, discoloration, tone and firmness, and a reduction in wrinkles.  You’ll look much better and feel more confident.


While there was some debate years ago, the most recent studies show that it is very safe and regularly used to help treat Melasma and precancerous skin.

Per the US National Library of Medicine:

Chemical peeling is now an established weapon in the therapeutic armamentarium for melasma. Today a plethora of superficial chemical peeling agents are being used in melasma like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) and Jessner’s peel. TCA is a versatile peeling agent, since the peel depth can be varied according to the concentration of TCA solution used. It is commonly used as a superficial to medium depth peel with advantages of being stable, inexpensive, self-neutralizing and without any systemic toxicity.

Rest assured, you can safely enjoy the benefits of TCA in the comfort of your own home, affordably when it’s convenient for you.  Our peel serum is designed to be user friendly and beat the high cost of a doctor’s office visit or the time consuming inconvenience of a spa or salon.

Have any questions? Contact me direct at info@claribelskincare.com.

Jeanette | Owner & Herbal Chemist

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  • Jeanette @ Claribelskincare.com on

    Hi Emma: Yes this product would definitely help with your condition. If for some reason it doesn’t, we do offer a full refund guarantee. Let me know if you have any other questions! Thanks.

  • Emma Doyle on

    Hi, have the starting of xanthelasma under my eyes and a little on lids. It’s only just appeared this month and only
    Slight raised but yellow in colour. Would this serum help it?

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