Dangers of a TCA Peel

By Laura Leiva

TCA stands for trichloroacetic acid, a solution used for chemical peels. Women who visit a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist for a chemical peel often want to reduce the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles, uneven skin tones or acne scarring. TCA is most often used for medium-strength peels to remove wrinkles and smooth the surface of the skin, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Serious woman
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Once the top layer of the skin is removed, the skin underneath will be red, but over the following week should fade to pink and then return to its normal color. The redness will also increase the skin's sensitivity to sunlight, so it is vital you avoid sunlight to prevent burning. Once the skin has become pink, sunscreen must be worn to keep skin tone even in color. Permanent discoloration of the skin is possible if protection is not used. Patients who have had the peel may also lose the ability to tan the skin, thus requiring them to use sunscreen long-term to prevent burning.


Stinging is prevalent during the application of the peel. This is caused by the acid working to shed the top layer of facial skin where skin tone is uneven or wrinkles are formed. To help you with dealing with any pain or discomfort, the cosmetic surgeon will prescribe a pain medication to lessen stinging or tingling where the peel occurred. Since the chemical peel removed the top layer of the skin, a scab will form over the face to form new skin. This period of healing may cause the facial skin to feel tight or itchy, so applying a healing cream designated by the physician will help with any discomfort. One major short-term complication is the occurrence of infection that may occur while the face is scabbing during the healing process. According to eMedicine, candidiasis can develop in a patient after a peel, which may then be treated with fluconazole. Any other infection must be tested through cultures and then be treated with an administered antibiotic.


According to an article by Gabriella Fabbrocini for eMedicine, scarring is one of the worst long-term dangers of a TCA peel. Since each patient has a different skin type, it is important for the cosmetic surgeon to select the ideal concentration of chemical solution to minimize scarring risk. Patients who are susceptible to keloid scarring are recommended only to do light peels to reduce risk of deep facial scaring. To avoid long-term effects of scarring, a patient must also refrain from picking at scabs on the face after a chemical peel.