A chemical peel is an anti-aging cosmetic procedure intended to yield more youthful, radiant skin. Chemical peels differ in solution and results, however, and there are differences between a standard glycolic acid peel and a TCA peel.
A TCA peel’s active chemical ingredient is a trichloroacetic acid, a strong acetic acid. Glycolic acid is one type of alpha hydroxy acid (the other type being lactic acid), a simple fruit acid found in nature or synthesized.
A glycolic acid peel is considered a “light” chemical peel, hence glycolic acid’s safe and widespread use in many over-the-counter (OTC) skincare products. A TCA peel is a deeper peel in the spectrum of chemical peels, it is considered a “medium” peel with more dramatic results than a glycolic peel.
A glycolic acid peel improves the look and feel of the superficial skin layer ( the outermost layer) and used regularly to gradually reduce fine lines and skin discoloration. A TCA peel works deeper to repair visible sun damage and fine wrinkles.
Both peels treat mild to moderately aging skin of all skin types, though TCA peels are preferred for olive- or dark-skinned patients.
The skin adjusts to glycolic acid with possible slight irritation at first, while TCA peel side effects include redness, swelling, mild discomfort and flaking skin. Deeper TCA peels might require two to three days of restricted activity after treatment, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Sun block is crucial after any type of chemical peel, especially after a TCA treatment. The skin might not tan evenly after a peel, and the pores might be visibly larger.
References and ResourcesAmerican Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
American Society of Plastic Surgeons
ResourcesConsumer Guide to Plastic Surgery
Chemical Peel Before & After Photos