Today I want to teach you all about TCA.
TCA stands for trichloro-acetic acid. It’s an acid used to chemically exfoliate the skin from the face or body. Not only does it cause flaking but it also stimulates collagen, elastin and even glycosaminoglycans in the skin. Truly amazing.
Besides the fact of it being such a superb antiaging acid, it is also excellent for treating hyperpigmentation, pre-cancerous lesions, acne, sun damage, freckling, scarring and more.
TCA is my favorite acid of them all. One of the biggest reasons is because it’s so versatile.
With the proper pre-treating, it is safe for use on all skin colors from very light to very dark.
It can be applied as a light, medium or even a deep peel – all with the same percentage. It just depends on the quantity of layers you want to apply or how much solution is on your gauze.
The reason I want to talk about TCA today, is because we want to make sure you are fully understanding the mechanics of the acid, which percentages you should be using and which you should be avoiding at all costs.
If you are not fully understanding everything, you may not be happy with your results.
First I am going to talk about how to prepare your skin for a TCA peel, and then what the percentages are good for, and finally how to apply the acid itself to get the best benefits.
It is so important to prepare your skin prior to applying an acid like TCA. The better prepared your skin is – the less likely you will run into any unintended consequences.
Dark skin: If you have skin that is not very fair, it is a good bet that you will need to prep your skin with a melanin inhibitor before your TCA peel.
Likewise, if you have light skin but are dealing with pigmentation issues, you too will need to prepare.
The reason we want to use a melanin inhibitor is because of PIH or Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. If you have ever had a pimple – you know exactly what this phenomenon is.
Your skin gets inflamed from a pimple… then once it heals you are left with a pink mark (if you have light skin) or a dark mark (if you have darker skin). This is post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
The words explain it perfectly. Basically, your inflammation caused a darkened spot to remain on your skin. Yes, it will go away one day … but for many “one day” is much too far away. Some spotting can take several weeks to several months to go away.
When you apply a strong acid to your skin – it too could potentially cause inflammation in the skin. We now know that this can cause the skin to darken, so we need to reduce the likeliness of that happening.
We can do that with a melanin inhibitor.
Our Fade Bright has alpha arbutin – which is an excellent melanin inhibitor. We want you to use this 2x per day for at least two weeks prior to performing a TCA peel. *If you are already dealing with PIH, we recommend you pretreat for even longer.
By pretreating with the Fade Bright we are turning down the production of melanin in the skin. When we do that – the skin cannot darken so easily or most times - not at all.
*Nothing is 100% though, but we must do what we can. We also recommend applying your Fade Bright immediately after rinsing your chemical peel off for the very best results.
The next key product to prepare your skin for a TCA peel is with a retinoid.
You never want to apply a chemical peel to uneven textured skin. There are many ways to prepare your skin, such as using a hydroxy acid serum, cleanser or toner daily – but the preferred method for TCA is always vitamin A. So use that if you can.
Retinol stimulates the skin to turn over more quickly. A hyper-regeneration as it were. This in turn will make your skin smoother and your pores clear.
Retinol is not a true exfoliator – but since it speeds up cellular turnover, you will find that the dead tissues stay at a minimum and your skin will be even and clear.
The smoother the surface of your skin before you peel – the better and more even your results will be.
Another bonus from retinol is that your skin will heal more quickly from your peel do to its regenerative properties. When you are flaking for several days in a row – even a couple days less is always a benefit!
What is a layer?
I am going to be talking about percentages and layers – so just a quick explanation here.
A layer is when you apply the acid to your face, then stop and wait for it to self-neutralize. That takes between 2-5 minutes. You applied it one time and that is Layer 1.
Since TCA is layer-able, you can add more layers if you want the acid to progress deeper into the skin to give you a stronger peel. This is that versatility I was referring to!
One layer will be very mild. Two layers is going to penetrate deeper and three even more so. The maximum amount of layers recommended is 5.
At this point you will want to decide if moving up to the next strength is your best bet – but if you like the percentage you are at – you could certainly apply more layers instead of moving up. That is entirely up to you.
No matter what – remember this rule –
It is ALWAYS safer to apply more layers of a lesser percentage.
Never rush to the next percentage.
When you are applying layers of TCA a phenomenon can happen called blanching – or more commonly - frosting.
This happens when the acid coagulates the proteins in your skin. Many times you can see this process happening if you notice a white haze or white speckling on the skin.
This is nothing to worry about at all. It is perfectly acceptable for the acid to cause your skin to behave in this nature.
You can use frosting as a gauge to stop applying the TCA. A light haze on layer 2 or 3 is fine, but if you are seeing a solid or mostly white – it’s time to stop applying the acid.
Likewise – if you do NOT see any frosting, this is perfectly acceptable as well. We are all different and our skin is in different states, so we may observe different things such as frosting, no frosting, redness, or nothing at all.
We manufacture four different percentages of TCA here at Platinum to fit all of your needs.
Let’s begin with our 7%:
This mild percentage was created for use on your most sensitive areas. This includes your eye area and also the rest of your face -IF you have extreme sensitivity.
If this is your skin type, then you will appreciate the option to gradually build up in strength.
The majority of people choosing this percentage do so for the eye area. TCA can help with collagen stimulation and tightening of the skin – so by performing a TCA Eye Peel one time per month, you can get amazing, long-term benefits with a safe percentage.
We have our TCA Eye Peel Kit for just this reason - so check that tutorial video out if you are interested in that possibility.
Most people would find the 7% is too mild for a face peel - no matter how many layers they apply – and that is why we always recommend starting with the 13% for your face, neck and decollate’ areas.
The very first time you apply the 13% we suggest to do only a single layer. See how your skin reacts with the acid and notate how long it takes for your skin to start and finish flaking. More layers equals more flaking so proceed slowly.
We find that most people are very comfortable with 1-3 layers. The flaking is manageable and doesn’t last too long to be a great bother.
If you want a deeper peel, add on an additional layer as you see fit until you reach 5 layers. At that point you can move up to the 20% if you want an even stronger peel.
Once you graduate to the 20%, begin again with only one or two layers. If you want to add more layers you can work your way forward slowly and with great caution.
Most people do NOT move past 2 or 3 layers of the 20%. It can be very irritating and cause too much downtime.
We also manufacture a 30% TCA. This is not intended for use as a face peel. Please do not attempt to use it in this manner.
The 30% is for you to use on your body *where the skin is much, much thicker* or on localized scarring. If you are dealing with acne ice pick scars, see our video tutorial on the TCA CROSS method to help fill those in.
What should I apply to heal my skin after a TCA peel?
After applying a peel you can simply apply your healing oils or….
You can apply your specialty treatments – as long as they are not irritating. I like to apply the Fade Bright first to help target my melasma – and if you have dark skin or are dealing with pigmentation – this is something that I highly, highly suggest.
If you have any great antiaging potions – such as our Regenerate EGF or Syn-TC, go ahead and apply those. Your skin is open and ready for absorption right at this minute and it’s a great time for super products.
Speaking of a super product – you can apply our Luminosity Method right now. This is our high percentage .50% retinol cream. This will give you a BOOST of vitamin A – and then, if you apply it for the next 3-5 days, it will help your skin to flake more quickly.
Then of course you can end with your healing oils. We recommend either the pure Certified emu oil or our Essentials Healing blend. *I like to mix both myself.
Here is what you can expect after you have applied a TCA peel.
Day 1 your skin will feel smooth and perfect with a bit of tightness. *Most people love how their skin feels here.
Days 2-3 skin starts to get dry and tighter. Sometimes the dead skin will darken a bit.
Days 3-4 you will start flaking where you move your face most. Generally around the nose and mouth.
Days 5-10 the flaking will radiate outwards until all areas are removed.
*You will speed up your flaking by using our Luminosity Method cream for the first few days after your peel application.
Later, when you just have some pesky areas you want to come off more quickly – you can use our Antioxidant Enzyme Mask to help dissolve dead tissues.
How often can I do a peel?
This is such a common question – and there is not one single answer. It depends on which percentage you are applying, how many layers you applied, and how sensitive your skin is.
You need to follow the schedule in your Peel Manual. It will tell you exactly when you can do your next peel by giving you a range.
For example: If you applied 2-3 layers of the TCA 13% you can do a peel 1x every 2-4 weeks. If you are sensitive, you will be looking at 4 weeks. If your skin is quite sturdy then you can probably do another peel in 2-3 weeks.
No matter what your sensitivity level, perform a complete Peel Series to get your final result. A series is performing your peel 6-8 times in a row. It doesn’t matter if you do a peel 1x every 2 weeks or 1x every 2 months. Make sure to complete between 6 and 8 peels for best results.
AT that point you can take a look at your skin’s issues and decide how you want to proceed. If you still have work to do, then do another peel series. If your skin is looking great, then consider just performing maintenance peels. You can do that one time per month or once every few months.
What TCA to avoid at all costs:
Now I want to address the dangers of too strong TCA percentages.
I just explained that the 30% we manufacture is for body or scarring only and never for the face. This is because a very high percentage of TCA can cause unintended problems in the skin such as hypo-pigmentation (which is a loss of skin color), hyper-pigmentation, scarring and more.
What do you think would happen to your skin if you applied a 50% or 70% or even a 100% TCA?
If you wanted to find out – you could – and you would not be happy with the results!
And that scares us terribly!
TCA strength takes a sharp turn quickly. The 13% to 20% is a huge leap and that is only a 7% difference.
Likewise the 20% to the 30% is an even bigger leap at a 10% increase.
Now, imagine applying a 50% that is 20% stronger than our 30%. OUCH and NO!
Then consider the strength of a 70% TCA that is even stronger. NEVER EVER do this at home.
For one minute, consider what a 100% TCA will do to your skin. …. What skin? … is the answer, because it will instantly create a hole.
I don’t want to scare you – but then again I do! Never purchase or apply TCA in these high percentages at home. Most physicians don’t apply it in that strength – so why would you feel its ok for you?
We want you to be safe. And since that’s the case – you need to begin with 1 or 2 layers of the 13% and gradually move forward from there.
If TCA sounds like something that is right for you, we have our CERTIFIED TCA Peel that you can purchase available on our website.
If TCA sounds like it is too strong, consider a hydroxy acid peel instead such as Lactic, Glycolic, Mandelic or Saliyclic.
Do you still have questions? We are here to help. Just reach out to us.