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TCA Peel At Home: How I did It Safely + Before & After Photos!

In ANTI-AGING, EXFOLIANTS/ PEELINGS, USEFUL GUIDES by Clelia Mattana8 Comments


The TCA Peel ( trichloroacetic acid ) is a chemical peel, excellent for the face and body, regenerating the skin superficially and medium-deep, depending on how it is used.

In this article, I will talk in detail about my experience with the TCA peel at home, 13% and 25% with before and after photos, but there will be a lot more to discover about this amazing peel!

Main Chapters:

The article will be long and, at times, repetitive. But if you are serious about wanting to do a TCA peel, you need to be clear about everything, from the skin’s structure to how the TCA works and more.

In the meantime, this is a preview of the before and after of 17 years of TCA Peels + tretinoin. LOVE THE RESULTS!!

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TCA peel and tretinoin use for 17 years, the before and after photos: Consistency, using the right products, and following the instructions religiously are key!

Up close View Of the Before at age 30 (and after) TCA And Tretinoin Photos

Sorry for the quality of the photos, almost 20 years ago I didn’t have fancy mobile cameras, and little did I know that I would use these horrible photos:)

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Age 30, uneven, sun-damaged skin (with foundation and makeup). My nasolabial folds are pronounced and the overall skin is pitiful before I started taking care of it with TCA Peels and Tretinoin. Together they are truly a Godsend for your skin!
Even using natural light and my head in an upward position, you can see the 2 forehead wrinkles, nasolabial folds, uneven texture and hyperpigmentation before the TCA peels and tretinoin usage at 30 years old (makeup and foundation used in this old photo)

The After TCA Peelings and Tretinoin Usage, age 46

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Age 46, I have no makeup, no filters, and I didn’t even dye my eyebrows πŸ™‚ no fillers and no botox. I’ve aged (mainly loss of volume and dark circles easily covered by concealer) but my skin is better than ever!!
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Here is a fancier photo of me at age 46 with some makeup on (I almost never use makeup, my skin, set aside for the dark circles due to hormonal causes, is mostly flawless so I only add some sunscreen and blush and I’m good to go πŸ™‚

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER

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This article reports my PERSONAL experience with TCA. I am not a doctor, and the article’s information is provided for description purposes only. If you have questions about this procedure, your doctor will decide what is best for your skin.

The information here comes from in-depth research, advice from dermatologists I relied on for the first TCA applications, and the results on my skin.

IN NO WAY IS THIS ARTICLE INTENDED TO INCENTIVE THE USE OF THE TCA AT HOME.

I simply report my experience so that people intending to undergo the peeling, whether in a doctor’s office or at home, know what they can expect and see, through my photos, the day-to-day skin peeling process.

I always advise you to contact qualified personnel for this type of chemical peel, but I know that in the real world, there will always be people who, for various reasons, will try this procedure at home.

The article aims to help those who decide to do it by themselves to avoid damage due to poor information about the TCA and on pre and post-treatment mistakes.

I will explain in detail the risks you face if you choose to do the TCA at home and what I did to avoid them (no procedure is risk-free, even if done correctly at the doctor’s office).

I am a firm believer in information, not censorship. Not talking in detail about how this procedure takes place does nothing but increase the cases of people who, not knowing the necessary steps, will still try and ruin themselves with their own hands.

I would feel more responsible NOT to share my experience. I have tested the TCA peel on my skin several times over more than eight years (at my own risk), have sought advice from several aesthetic doctors, and spent days studying the procedure in detail in scientific publications.

Since it is my face, I see fit to get info from authoritative and reliable sources, and I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

TCA must not be taken lightly because of its risks if done wrong. But I don’t want to terrify anyone. If you follow precise protocols, the issues are minimal, and the benefits are remarkable.


Thank you for reading this disclaimer carefully. If you have questions I have not answered in this article, do not hesitate to leave a message at the end; I will be happy to answer!

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1| What is TCA peel, and How Does it work?

So How does a TCA peel works on your skin, and what are the benefits?

TCA or Trichloroacetic Acid is a very low PH substance (about 1.3 / 1.5) that creates a “controlled chemical burn.”

In a nutshell, TCA creates damage to the skin that reacts by repairing it producting collagen and elastin, very important molecules to give the skin a young and healthy appearance, reducing wrinkles and giving firmness to the face.

TCA peeling is considered “medium,” but depending on the percentage used and the layers applied, it can fall into both the category of medium-light and medium-deep peeling (for more info, see the next chapter on the percentages and concentrations of TCA)


“Before & After” my TCA peel 25% – Photo preview

Before boring you with the anatomy and physiology of the skin, I leave you with a brief visual preview of my TCA peel process!

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The photo was taken on December 8, 2021, at 45 years old. There is no botox, fillers, or filters.

The photo on the left was taken immediately after applying the 25% TCA peel, a single layer, held on the skin for 3 (infinite) minutes. As you’ll see below, this is the maximum recommended concentration for the face. It is a medium-deep peeling that reaches the papillary and (partially) reticular dermis.

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The white skin you see on my face is called ” frosting“: the result of the coagulation of the keratin proteins attacked by the acid. Totally normal in a medium / deep peel, as well as is wrinkled skin immediately after the procedure.

The after photo was taken on day 4 post peeling and, in my case, there is no more peeling so the procedure is completed.

The skin in the photo is greasy because I apply Aquaphor or Vaseline, both great ointments to protect the new skin from external agents (as well as the mandatory use of sunscreen).

I’ll post the photos of the peeling days later on. If you want to take a pick go directly to that chapter by clicking here (but come back to get informed first! πŸ™‚

This is why, unlike superficial acids (such as glycolic, lactic and mandelic), which can be done at home without issues, TCA is best performed by a dermatologist with a lot of practice with this type of procedure.

The doctor should also inform you about the protocol to follow post-peeling, but above all, reassure you that your face will return to normal after days of semi-panic in which you will get an “oh my, I’ve ruined my face.” Don’t worry; it almost always happens to TCA veterans, too!

To understand how a TCA peel (or any type of peel) works, you need to understand how our skin is composed and works.


The layers of the skin and where the types of acids penetrate:

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Let’s take a closer look at the various layers and their main functions (so when I mention them, you will know exactly what I mean).

Short recap: The TCA peeling reaches the dermis (superficial or medium, depending on the concentration) while the other lighter acids stop at the epidermis/stratum corneum.

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Below I add a short, very simple illustrative video to visualize the various layers that make up the skin.


Benefits of TCA Peel:

TCA peel offers many benefits to the skin. Several scientific studies have confirmed that collagen and elastin production continues for weeks and sometimes months after a TCA peel.

  • It revives the skin with a dull complexion
  • It gradually reduces scars and acne marks
  • Decreases the depth of marked wrinkles
  • Eliminate superficial fine lines
  • It helps fight photo-aging hyperpigmentation
  • Even out the complexion
  • It makes the skin more compact, and elastic and gives it a healthy appearance.

The first time I did it, at about 30, I was blown away. My skin was smooth, pink and firm like that of a newborn and I finally had a healthy complexion.

Even my friends noticed the difference and complimented me (without knowing about the TCA).

For more mature skin with deeper wrinkles or deep scars, it is ideal to perform a series of at least 4/6 TCA peels. For remarkable results, space them at least one month from each other.

These time frames are part of well-studied medical protocols, necessary to allow the new skin time to recover and complete its life cycle. Commonly called “cell turnover”, which in young skin is about 28/30 days and in the more mature ones go beyond 30/40 + days.

Suppose you force this timeline in the hope of getting better results. In that case, you do nothing but stress the skin that doesn’t have time to heal, with possible side effects such as scars, spots, and other problems requiring medical attention.

So rule number one of TCA peel: NEVER do them too close together!

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2| Different Concentrations of TCA Peel and Specific Benefits

I tried them all: TCA peel 13, 15, 20, and 25 %. Here you’ll discover the main differences

Trichloroacetic acid is applied at different concentrations to obtain different results or for applications in different body areas.

  • Low concentrations of TCA are used for peeling in areas of the face with thinner skin and therefore do not normally get past the epidermis.
  • They are considered medium and medium deep at higher concentrations because they penetrate the dermis.

The fact that trichloracetic acid penetrates deeply is essential for the success of the TCA peel, as there is a dense network of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid fibers in the dermis that support the skin like a real “scaffold” (collagen ), make it elastic (elastin) and give it turgor (hyaluronic acid).

Over the years, the production of these substances, especially collagen, decreases significantly, and the peeling that reaches the dermis better stimulates its production, helping to keep the skin younger.

Here are the concentrations of TCA most commonly used and their specific uses (click on the + to read the details:

The lowest concentration I have found (to date) on the market is used for sensitive areas such as lips, eye contour, and eyelids, or for those suffering from rosacea and/or very sensitive skin.

The results are still excellent despite the low concentration, the skin is more compact in the long term, and the fine lines around the eyes are less visible.

Remember:

At first, it’s best to not overdo it. One pass, a maximum of two is more than enough. You get to layer the product only if the skin allows it.

When treating the eye contour area, it is extremely important to have perfect dexterity and a protocol of execution in the application to prevent acid from entering the eye.

For this reason, I suggest you rely on a doctor, and if you want to try it at home (at your own risk as always), you have to put in place very important precautions, which I will talk about in the chapter on how to apply TCA peeling correctly. If acid enters the eye, you risk very heavy damage, so read it carefully!

Important note on the results of the TCA peeling around the eye area: THE TCA has an exfoliating effect and promotes the production of collagen.

It does NOT correct dark circles, bags due to fat deposits, and other imperfections that have nothing to do with skin texture, laxity, spots, or wrinkles.

There are also TCA peels at 10, 13, and 15% on the market, and these concentrations, with no layering, are considered medium superficial peelings. They do not involve major risks because they only penetrate the superficial part of the dermis.

Despite this, those who have never performed a peeling should contact qualified personnel. Every skin is different. If a 10% TCA does not lead to peeling or redness for some, it may still not be suitable for sensitive skin.

The TCA peel from 10 to 15% is recommended for the face and for those who have never used this acid. Start from the lowest concentration to see how the skin reacts. As you get used to it, there are 2 options:

  1. Layer the TCA at 10/13% until you reach the maximum of 5 layers in one session.
  2. Switch to the TCA at 13 / 15% without stratifying (not recommended).

Going slow is a must when it comes to TCA. I did my first peel using 10% TCA. Although the skin preparation was optimal, and my skin was accustomed to using acids, I still felt the difference compared to superficial acids. Even at low percentages, the TCA is a peel in its own right, and the results are visible.

The 10 to 15% percentages are excellent for layering before moving on to higher ones (which involve more risks).

However, they are not always suitable for the delicate areas around the eyes if the skin has not first gotten used to lower percentages. They can only be used with extreme caution on very resistant skin and without layering for the first few peels.

My next peeling involves applying a single 13% layer around the eyes and a 25% layer over the rest of the face. I can proceed with 13% because I am preparing the skin around the eyes with tretinoin I use as an anti-wrinkle and my skin is resistant.

The TCA peel 20, 25 % should only be used if:

  • The skin has been accustomed to trichloroacetic acid with lower percentages
  • The skin is very resistant
  • You do not suffer from rosacea (this also applies to peelings over 7%)
  • There is no tendency to heal with keloids (hypertrophic scars)
  • The skin is intact before treatment.

This concentration is considered a medium/deep peel even if not layered and reaches the dermis more deeply. If the skin tolerates it, layering can be performed, always gradually and respecting the recovery times of the skin between the peels.

TCA peeling at 20/25% It is excellent for mature skins with marked wrinkles, for acne scarring , hyperpigmentation, skin laxity and loss of skin tone and as a weapon of prevention against skin aging in general.

The risks are always those associated with TCA peels (scars, hyperpigmentation, sensitivity, redness, allergic reactions), but clearly, the stronger the acid, the more the risks increase; therefore, it is very important to prepare the skin in the best possible way and gradually accustom it to acids.

I didn’t see a huge difference between the TCA peel 20 and the TCA peel 25, but my skin is resistant and used to these treatments. Some skins do not hold a 20% acid well, so perform a patch test 24 hours before treatment.

Pros and Cons of TCA peel at 20/25%:

PROS: Such an aggressive peeling penetrates the deeper dermis with consequent stimulation of more marked collagen production, with visible results after the first application.

CONS: The actual peeling (i.e., the desquamation in the following days) is also very marked, with longer recovery times, from 4 to 10 days. Furthermore, the adverse effects increase (photosensitivity, risk of spots with inadequate sun protection, and scarring).

The 30 TCA peel is usually highly discouraged for full-face application. Its indications are mainly:

  • Treatment of small parts of the face to reduce very deep acne scars (TCA Cross method).
  • Treatment of parts of the body with resistant and thicker skin such as legs, shoulders, and back with signs of hyperpigmentation, stretch marks, and other issues.

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3| How To Apply The TCA Peel The Right Way

Applying the TCA peeling correctly and following the protocol is essential to avoid the side effects. Here is what I recommend, in my experience, before performing a TCA peeling:

  • Read up as much as possible on forums, videos, and articles like this one with instructions.
  • Get detailed information on how to apply the TCA peel: Better if accompanied by explanatory images/videos.
  • Test and perfect your manual skills but replace the TCA with water until you are sure of the movements and the amount of acid to use.
  • Perfectly prepare the skin for at least two weeks before peeling.
  • Buy EVERYTHING you need in advance for both peeling and post-peeling.
  • Take track of the time with a stopwatch. Never go random. Timing accuracy is essential.

That said, here’s how I prepare myself on the day of the peel and how I do it, step by step!

Step 1: Prepare Everything You Need for the TCA Peel

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Being organized is the first step toward a successful TCA peeling at home. As in a doctor’s office, where the professional prepares what is needed, we must do the same.

Having a clear view of everything we need helps you to have everything at hand immediately and evaluate if something is missing.

I generally prepare the bathroom as follows:

In addition, I also prepare a solution of water and baking soda to neutralize the acid if necessary.

TCA neutralizes by itself, so there should be no need for this step, but sometimes I get TCA peel frosting earlier than expected, or I can’t bear the burning sensation. In this case, I wash my face with the baking soda solution to neutralize the acid.


Step 2: I wash my face and degrease my skin with alcohol

A very important step for the success of the TCA peel. If you don’t have disposable wipes, use cotton with denatured alcohol at 70/90%.

It is essential to eliminate any trace of fat from the face. The better this step is performed, the better and evenly the acid will penetrate the skin resulting in a more uniform peeling.

I pass the wipes at least 3 to 4 times, insisting on areas where oil production is greater. I need to feel that my skin is completely “dry.”


Step 3: Vaseline Application

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Another fundamental step for your safety. With a Q tip, I apply a layer of petroleum jelly to the areas where I don’t want the acid to reach.

So I protect the under-eye area (if I don’t have to apply the peel), the lips, the sides of the nose, and the eyebrows.

If I apply the TCA around the eyes, I still protect them in the tear through area and at the lashline.

I prefer to use a thick layer on the eyebrows even though they are not treated with tattoos.

In case you have tattoos it is important to apply petroleum jelly to prevent it from fading or getting damaged.

I use Vaseline in a tube, or a q tip to spread it, so I don’t touch it with my fingers to avoid contamination.


Step 4: Application of the TCA Peel on the face

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This operation may seem trivial, but it is not. Putting enough acid, so the entire face area is covered is important.

Once you start the application, do everything at once to have a uniform result and start counting the minutes correctly.

Put enough acid to fill two gauzes folded as in the photo above. And follow the next steps: it’s very intuitive.

How To Apply The TCA Peel on Your Face: Step by Step

  • Soak the gauze and fill it with acid.
  • Squeeze it so that it does not run but is sufficiently soaked in liquid.
  • Begin the application from the forehead.
  • Pass the gauze across the forehead from the hairline, horizontally, up to the eyebrows. Avoid passing the acid on the same spot twice.
  • Pass the gauze over the temples from top to bottom (forehead to ear sides).
  • Start again to pass it horizontally on one cheek: start from the bridge of the nose outwards. Avoid the eye area for now!
  • Pass the gauze to the other cheek in the same way.
  • Focus on the jaw starting from the earlobe and ending at the chin. Do the same movement from the other ear.
  • Go under the chin with the gauze, vertically towards the neck (but DO NOT pass it over the neck).
  • Swipe the gauze over the upper lip from the bridge of the nose down.
  • Run the gauze over the nose from the middle lash line to the tip.

These steps must be done in a decisive, fluid, but controlled way. All in all, you shouldn’t take more than 30/40 seconds. The application is not difficult if you first practice with the gauze soaked with water, as suggested earlier.


Step 5: Activate the Stopwatch for 5 minutes and use the hairdryer/fan.

I use the same stopwatch I have for the gym, my Gymboss, and set it at 5 minutes. A cell phone is fine, too, as long as there is an alarm at the end of the allotted time.

Once the 5 minutes start, the torture begins. You will feel a mild to strong burning sensation. Use the hair dryer in a cold setting or a portable fan to mitigate discomfort.


Step 6: Check The 25 TCA Peel Frosting During the 5 Min Wait

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Always check the level of TCA peel frosting during the 5 minutes (after applying the 25 TCA peel)

Very important: Don’t just let the acid take effect as you try to cope with the burning. Check your skin very well in the mirror. If you notice that it slowly becomes white (the frosting effect), you can decide to neutralize the acid before the 5 minutes with the baking soda.

The ideal would be to obtain a uniform TCA peel frosting, but this does not always happen, and it depends on several factors:

  • Manual ability to distribute the acid
  • Preparation of the skin in the previous weeks
  • How the skin was degreased before the procedure
  • Quality of the acid used

Not having a uniform frosting does not mean the acid didn’t work. There will always be areas where frosting is more marked than others. It happens to me with the forehead and sides of the face, while sometimes I have to wait longer on the cheeks and chin or do some layering.

IMPORTANT: Frosting is the point beyond which you must never go. Do you want to stop before a complete frosting is achieved? No Problem. Adding more TCA after frosting? NEVER! Frosted skin is a clear sign of controlled chemical burning. It indicates it is time to neutralize the acid and end the procedure.

If you have just started using the TCA from a low%, it is also possible that after 5 minutes, you will not see frosting. It’s normal. You will probably have less marked peeling, but gradually getting used to acid is better than risking damaging the skin. The TCA is still working its magic!


Step 7: Layering the TCA peel. When and How to do it.

Layering is a procedure that consists of applying several layers of TCA peel at intervals of about 5 minutes.

Why use layering?

If you are new to TCA and using very low concentrations, this method will allow you to safely understand if and how much acid your skin can take without damage.

Better to use a single layer of 7/10% TCA, for example, and see an immediate frosting than risking it with higher percentages.

If you are using a 10% and can take the burning sensation but do not see frosting, you can wait 5 minutes (NEVER BEFORE), and if nothing changes, you can pass the TCA one more time.

If you notice some frosting, you can either stop there and neutralize it immediately or wait to see if more frosting happens within 5 minutes and then rinse.

In short:

When to use Layering

  • If you use VERY low percentages of TCA peel (7% -10% maximum) with no frosting or visible peeling in the following days.
  • If you are already an expert and your skin needs a higher TCA%, but you don’t want to switch to the higher concentration yet.

How to Use Layering:

  • Always allow 5 minutes to pass between 2 applications, NEVER layer before.
  • The maximum number of layers per TCA application is 5, but if you are new to this, it is best to avoid it and stop first.
  • Layering is not always necessary! If you use a concentration higher than 10%, check the skin. IF YOU HAVE FROSTING, STOP LAYERING. The acid has completed its action.
  • The first time with TCA, never layer the acid.

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4| 25 TCA Peel Day By Day: What To Expect:

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TCA Peel Day By Day preview: from day zero (TCA peel frosting) to the peeling phase and end of the process. Photos in more detail below.

Even if you are doing your TCA peel in a doctor’s office for the first time, there is always that anxiety about what kind of reactions your skin will have, what is normal and what should worry you, and most importantly: What your face will look like in the following days? How much peeling will you have?

Here’s what to expect after a 25 TCA peel:

Important Note: Everyone has different skin types and sensitivity, so the days following the peel are not the same for everyone. I report below my personal experience, but the duration and amount of exfoliation may vary. Use the data and images below only as a guideline/reference.

Immediately after the application of the 25 TCA peel

A stinging sensation can be normal with touch-sensitive skin, and (if you have had frosting) this will persist and go away slowly in about half an hour / 45 min, leaving the skin quite red. This redness will go away within a few hours.

How many hours exactly? It depends. From an hour to more than 5 hours at times. It depends on the skin’s sensitivity and how deeply the peeling has penetrated.

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DAY 0: Fairly even frosting immediately after application (no layering)
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About 10/15 minutes after neutralizing the TCA, the frosting begins to diminish, and the redness becomes visible.
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30/40 minutes after acid neutralization, very little frosting, redness, and swelling. Here the sensation is one of burning and extreme sensitivity to the touch. I have already put on the first layer of protective and soothing ointment.

You may also feel a tingling / needling sensation. Very similar to sunburnt skin. It’s normal, after all the skin has suffered a considerable trauma! In some cases you may also notice some swelling but it shouldn’t be extreme.

All of this should pass within 12 hours at the most. If you notice that your symptoms increase instead of diminishing, call the doctor who performed the peel immediately and let him see you. But if done right, you shouldn’t have these problems.


Day 1 Post 25 TCA Peel:

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Day 1- evening: skin with ointment to decrease the feeling of tension. My skin has a dark complexion with patches and some residual swelling.
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Here is the skin in the afternoon of day one before applying the ointment. You can see that the skin is tight, rough, and wrinkly.
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Day 1 morning: darker skin detail with ointment, still no signs of peeling. Note how the TCA darkens the areas where there is more photo-aging (sides of the face, chin, and forehead for me)

The skin might first return to its natural color and darkens over the following hours, giving it a”tanned” look. If you had spots on your face, these will darken even more. The skin may begin to “pull,” but all this is normal πŸ™‚


Day 2 Post 25 TCA Peel:

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The skin begins to wrinkle more and more.
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In detail, on the sides of the mouth, you can see how “cracks” are starting to form.
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Here’s what happens if you move your face! Grandma mode. Don’t be scared; it’s perfectly normal. You haven’t ruined your face, I promise!

On day two, after a TCA peel, the skin begins to dry out, and the “grandmother effect” begins! The first few times you see your face like this, you might begin to doubt everything and panic.

This state, in which the skin is not yet peeling, can last several days. Usually the first cracks come form around the mouth where there is more movement in the face. If you still don’t see them on day two, this is also normal.

Take care of your skin with the products recommended by your doctor or with the ones I use, and the skin underneath will be regenerated perfectly. These are the days when you need to be patient.


Days 3-4 Post 25 TCA Peel: The Real Peel Begins!

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I begin to peel very quickly, and this phase, for some, comes a few days later.
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Closer detail of my peeling process, the skin underneath is healthy but still slightly red. The redness will disappear in the following days.
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Never be tempted to remove dead skin with your hands by pulling it. Use the scissors with caution!

Real peeling should begin to show on day 3/4; if the TCA% was high, you should see a noticeable peel. In some cases, the peeling may be less evident (especially with low%), but this does not mean there are no profound effects on the dermis.

A recommendation for these days is to take care of the skin with products that act as a barrier against external agents and ALWAYS use sunscreen even if exposed to indirect light.

New skin is much more sensitive to sun damage so it must be protected very well. Immediately after, and in the months following the peeling.

IMPORTANT: The old skin might accidentally be removed prematurely (washing the face or sleeping), and the new skin will be redder, but this should settle in the following days. If it was too early, there could be a second peeling wave in that area. No need to panic: protect the skin with healing ointments or creams, and you’ll be good in no time!


Days 4-7 post 25 TCA Peeling:

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My allied creams for a better result after a TCA peel: I spread Connettivina Plus with healing properties all over my face.
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On day 6, the skin is completely peeled, soft, firm, and healthy. I am still applying Aquaphor as a protective barrier (when I rub it, the skin turns red momentarily, but it goes away after a few minutes).
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My other ally during and after TCA peeling: Weleda Calendula Ointment. Soothes and moisturizes the skin. Advice on how and when to use these products in the dedicated chapter on post-TCA Peeling aftercare.

On days 4-7 post peel, the exfoliation ends. These days your TCA peel aftercare becomes more important. Never leave the skin dehydrated or poorly protected from external agents. The next chapter is dedicated to my favorite after-peeling products. To protect and hydrate the newborn skin πŸ™‚ The more you take care of it, the more the results will be evident.

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5| TCA Peel Aftercare At Home + Products I Recommend

25-tca-peel-at-home-aftercare-products
Here is my collection of Post TCA Peel aftercare at-home products!

After all the sacrifices and patience to have beautiful skin with a TCA peel at home, let’s see how to care for your skin during all stages.

The TCA peel aftercare begins immediately after neutralizing the acid. I dab my face with a towel and apply a thick layer of Weleda Calendula ointment (see the photo in the chapter above!). The skin at this moment is burned and needs products with a moisturizing and soothing action.

Even if this burned skin is gonna peel soon, on the first day, we still have to take care of it to prevent it from having adverse reactions to the acid.

From now on, my skin will be dry in the morning when I wake up. For the rest of the day, I treat it as follows:


TCA Peel Aftercare Routine – Day By Day:

  • MORNING: I remove any flaps of dead skin when it’s still dry and gently wash my face with an oil-based cleanser. I use IUNIK Calendula cleanser.

  • FACE WASH: Never rub; massage the product gently, rinse and dry your skin, placing the hand towel on the face. The skin can stay slightly wet; it doesn’t matter. Rubbing can cause it to come off sooner than expected.

  • POST WASH: I spread a layer of Connettivina plus and massage gently until completely absorbed. Then I apply all my serums (see below for details) and a layer of Aquaphor repair treatment. This step is very important! Not only does it help to close the hydration given by the connettivina and the serums, but when the exfoliation process begins, it prevents the flaps of skin from dangling and cancels the tight skin sensation, creating a layer of protection from external agents.

  • WHEN SHOULD YOU APPLY SUNSCREEN? During the TCA peel aftercare phase, sunscreen is the most important step. On the days after peeling, I do not use sunscreen because I stay home with blackout curtains, like a vampire! For those who cannot, the sunscreen must be applied AFTER the Connettivina and BEFORE the Aquaphor. If you put it on later, it will not be absorbed by the skin. When the peeling is completed, I use Anthelios from La Roche Posay, ISDIN Mineral Sunscreen, or one of the mineral sunscreens I list in a separate article.
  • DURING THE DAY: On days of major peeling, I recommend staying at home to take care of the skin. I add Aquaphor when I see it is reabsorbing; the skin must be left alone to regenerate.
  • BEFORE SLEEPING: I wash my face with the same cleanser. If I have dead skin flaps, I cut them with scissors. I apply the connettivina cream and let it absorb. For the evening, once the exfoliation has started, I also add Weleda calendula ointment in areas where the skin is new. I let it act (it has a heavy consistency and takes a long time to absorb) and then seal everything with Aquaphor.
  • AFTER PEELING IS COMPLETED: This phase is extremely important for TCA peeling aftercare. Once the peeling is done, the new skin must be treated with delicate care and targeted products. Here are the ones that I use and are part of my daily routine (see photo above). I put them in order of application for convenience:
tca-peel-at-home-aftercare-products-and-serums
My Timeless Skin serums collection! One is missing here (Synthe 6). They are so important for my TCA peel aftercare routine.
  • 100% pure Hyaluronic Acid from Timeless Skin an excellent brand that leaves my skin hydrated and soft. I have tried several brands and am happy only with this Hyaluronic Acid Serum, especially used as a TCA peel aftercare. The others tend to stick, while the Timeless skin absorbs quickly without leaving residues. And three drops are enough.
  • Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Serum from Florence: A serum discovered by chance, bought because it was cheap, won me over immediately. It contains vitamin C, a precious ally for the skin, and hyaluronic acid. It helps the skin protect and regenerate before and after sun exposure. I talk about vitamin C and its benefits in a specific article (which I will finish shortly!).

  • Coenzyme Q10 Serum from Timeless Skin: This awesome serum has never been replaced in my routine. Once tried, you can’t go back! It’s perfect as TCA peel aftercare. It contains CoQ10, an antioxidant that fights free radicals, premature skin aging, and peptides. In particular, Matryxyl 3000 is a patented molecule that fights aging and the skin’s loss of elasticity. Result? A protected, regenerated, and above all, SILKY skin. I never had softer and more compact skin. Also, three drops are enough, therefore unbeatable value for money.

  • Cera Ve Moisturizing cream: Unmissable, always convenient, effective, fragrance-free, and with ceramides, it is the perfect moisturizing and regenerating cream for the TCA peel aftercare. It seals the hydration the serums give, and you should apply it as the last step before bed. I always have more than one bottle in my house, and my husband steals it from me, too (he has sensitive skin problems and is fine).

The products mentioned above are the ones I consider ESSENTIAL for post-TCA peel aftercare. While here, I indicate those to keep at home which is occasionally needed:

  • Antibiotic/antiseptic cream in case of minor infections or to prevent them if the skin comes off too soon. I use Bepanthen Plus.
  • Aloe Vera Gel Omia (if I run out of Weleda Calendula Ointment); otherwise, I use it for the body after a day at the beach.

IMPORTANT NOTE: During the post-TCA peel aftercare days, NEVER use products with perfume, essential oils of any kind (unless specifically prescribed by your doctor) irritating, or exfoliating products.

NO to creams with Glycolic, Salicylic, or other acids. Do not use creams containing retinol. Never use tretinoin ( Retin A or other brands ) during this phase. Tretinoin MUST be used only in the two weeks of preparation for the peeling and must be stopped at least 2/3 days before the peeling.

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6| How To Prep Your Skin Before a TCA Peel At Home

The success of a TCA peel at home depends on the initial preparation that begins at least two weeks in advance. As already explained, the skin must be exfoliated perfectly to obtain a uniform and deep penetration of the acid.

Doctors recommend tretinoin (retinoic acid / Retin A) for perfect exfoliation. However, if you are not used to this cream, which can also give unwanted side effects, you can use Alpha Hydroxy Acids or retinol which are gentler on the skin.

Avoid using “mechanical” exfoliation mechanisms, so no scrubs or exfoliation devices on the face.

Mechanical exfoliation can be aggressive on the skin prepped for a TCA peel, creating micro lesions to the skin. In addition, exfoliation with chemical agents such as acids is always preferable for a more uniform result.

The last recommendation is to treat the skin gently; if you use products that irritate, avoid them for at least two weeks, and if you are already using tretinoin, stop 2/3 days before the peeling.

In short, the skin must be without obvious irritation and be well-hydrated and exfoliated. If you have any pimples or blemishes, don’t worry. Unless it’s a diffuse infected lesion or cut. In that case, it is better to wait.

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7| Common Mistakes When Applying The TCA Peel At Home

I’ll be honest as always. Even if you rely on a professional, mistakes can happen at the doctor’s and at home. With DIY, usually, there are more mistakes. Here are the ones to avoid. It’s a long list but better to memorize it than to have problems later, right? πŸ™‚

  • Take the TCA peeling lightly. It is the most frequent mistake.
  • Not doing trial tests for application with water, as I suggest.
  • Not waiting for skin recovery times and therefore do them too frequently.
  • Not choosing a reliable and certified product. Never buy on sites of dubious origin. NEVER!
  • Not asking about the procedure. If you are at the doctor, ask to see which TCA he’s using and at what concentration, and ask for pre- and post-peel information. It is not a good sign if the doctor is in a hurry. You are entitled to understand how it works and how the doctor will proceed.

  • Using high percentages when you are starting to use chemical peels. Go slow and be patient.
  • Not protecting your eyes. ALWAYS put a good amount of Vaseline
  • Putting too much product in the gauze with the risk of it dripping. Always squeeze it gently.
  • Not respecting the time between one layering and the next (for the more advanced ones)
  • Continue the application if you have had frosting. Never do that.
  • Apply the TCA around the eyes and neck / decollete if you have never done it before and are new to acids.

  • Not doing a patch test before using the product. Always do this to avoid unpleasant side effects.
  • Remove dead skin with your hands. It takes patience, but the face has to peel by itself (at most, you cut the flaps of skin with scissors, being careful not to touch the skin that has not yet detached).
  • Use irritating products during and after peeling (see essential oils, other acids, retinoids, etc.)
  • Not using sunscreen: It must become your best friend, and remember to reapply it frequently.
  • Perform a TCA peel in the summer (on top of it, neglect to apply or reapply the sunscreen).
  • Not using use a barrier product such as Aquaphor during the peeling phase. Important for shielding the skin from external agents and avoiding infections and dry skin that cracks prematurely.

These are the mistakes you absolutely must not make to avoid skin damage such as discoloration, scars, hyperpigmentation, and irritation/infections. If you follow the instructions or rely on a competent professional, you will not have to worry.

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8| Where To Buy TCA Peel Online and Which One To Choose

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Tray with my 13% TCA Peel and a booklet with all the instructions. A serious brand that I highly recommend.

If you want to perform the TCA peel at home, buying it online can be challenging, yet it is one of the most important things. There are several sites of dubious reliability, so it is important to buy high-quality certified products.

In Italy and the EU, you can’t buy the TCA peel online, but it is not illegal to buy it abroad. It is important to declare during customs clearance that it is for personal use and, alas, to pay for shipping and customs duties.

I only buy from one certified American company: Platinum SkinCare. I have used their products more than once and can vouch for their safety and effectiveness.

If you don’t know which one to trust, keep reading because I’ll give you more info and the pros and cons. But before continuing, I remind you that any product like TCA, with low prices in Europe sold on sites like eBay, has no guarantees, so for your safety, spend more but buy a good product.


Platinum Skin Care TCA Peels:

10-tca-peel-where-to-buy-online
Here it is my favorite TCA peel!

Delighted to have discovered this brand a year ago; it has already become my favorite for purchases of both TCA peels and other lighter peels.

ATTENTION: I have compared the TCA peel by Platinum with other companies I’ve tried over time, and those by the Platinum, at the same percentage/concentration, feel stronger.

I first performed a 25% TCA Peel (a very high percentage), and the results/burning/frosting were comparable to only two layers of 13% TCA by Platinum.

You should buy the lowest percentage from this brand if you are a beginner. You can always layer it if you feel it’s not strong enough.

To try their products, here is the link to their site: Platinum Skin Care, for the peelings go to the top bar and click on TCA peel to choose the desired concentration. I have a 10% discount code for you if you use the “pscclelia” coupon at checkout you will get a 10% discount on all orders!

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Here are my orders (and cancellation) to show that I NEVER recommend anything I haven’t personally tested. They are not free products, I paid for everything out of my pocket, and you can also see how much I spent πŸ™‚

Below are the pros and cons I encountered with this brand:


PROS

CONS

  • Fast shipping from America
  • HIGHEST quality products
  • Great customer service
  • Dedicated Facebook group
  • Reasonable prices for the quality offered
  • Wide range of TCA concentrations
  • Sample gift with every order.
  • Company founder Jen often answers doubts and questions personally! I love her knowledge and passion!
  • High customs duties for the EU (depends on how many products you buy, avoid more than 2-3 at a time)
  • Shipping costs (I ask for fast shipping, and I pay more, but they use reliable couriers)
  • To have a 360-degree experience, you need to know some English (tutorials, Facebook groups, etc.) or use an automatic translator.

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9| List Of All The Products to Apply a TCA peel At Home

Given the length of the post, I understand that not everyone wants to read every single sentence, so I thought it would be useful to collect the links of all the products I use for the TCA peeling here.

Platinum skincare Professional TCA Peel 7/13/20/30%

Pre TCA Peeling Products

Post TCA Peeling Products

  • Disposable gloves
  • Sterile gauze
  • Wipes with denatured alcohol
  • Bicarbonate
  • Vaseline in a tube
  • Gymboss
  • Weleda Calendula Ointment
  • IUNIK cleanser with calendula
  • Connettivina plus
  • Aquaphor repairing treatment
  • Anthelios from Roche Posay
  • ISDIN Age repair
  • Mineral sunscreens
  • Pure Hyaluronic Acid – Timeless Skin
  • Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Serum – Florence
  • Coenzyme Q10 Serum – Timeless Skin
  • Cera Ve Moisturizing cream
  • Bepanthen Plus
  • Aloe Vera Gel Omia

Have you ever tried a TCA peel at home or at the doctor’s? Share your experience or your questions in the comments below! Thanks for reading! Clelia

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Comments

  1. Hi Clelia, how often do you do this TCA Peel? Does it mean the more you do TCA peel, the better the result it? thanks

    1. Author

      Hey Jess! Sorry for the late reply, super busy days! I do TCA around once per month during autumn and winter so around 4 to 6 times per year. And yes you are correct, the more you do them especially in sequence with all the precautions and respecting the times for your skin to be 100% healed from the previous one and the more result you will see. They are cumulative for sure πŸ™‚
      Hope it helps!

      Cheers
      Clelia

  2. Hi Clelia,

    I see you have Bepanthen cream on your picture. Do you use it at all?
    Many blogs recommend antibiotic ointment (e.g. Bacitracin). Do you get same effect with calendula cream?
    Thank you in advance! Your directions are super useful!

    1. Author

      Hey Toma, thanks for your comment! Fortunately, I never had to use the Bepanthen cream because I’m diligent in applying the TCA and treating my skin very well in my post-peeling period, so I never had any issues. My dermatologist didn’t suggest using it as a precaution, but only if I truly needed it in case of infections.

      So I use Aquaphor like there is no tomorrow for the first couple of days after the TCA πŸ™‚ and then calendula when the peeling is completed after a few days. My skin regenerates pretty well by doing this! I’m for “less is more.” As long as you hydrate the day of the peeling and then slug Vaseline or Aquaphor (anything non-allergenic and occlusive is perfectly fine, petrolatum/pure Vaseline being the least prone to create any allergy or reaction), you are totally fine.

      This is still not me saying it, but the derm who performed many TCA peels on me. The skin during and after the peeling needs to be 1) protected from external agents and 2) stay hydrated (don’t lose water). The only way to achieve this perfectly is by using an occlusive. No antibiotic, nothing more than that. ( I add connettivina only on the first day of the peel and calendula after I wash my face in the morning before reapplying the Aquaphor, but the most important thing to use here is Aquaphor for sure πŸ™‚

  3. Hi Clelia. Can you confirm that you should stop using Tretinoin 2/3 days before starting a TCA peel session. Also, how many days after the TCA peel is it safe to start back using Tretinoin and other actives like Vitamin C? Does stopping Tretinoin cause the tretinoin effects to reverse? Thanks ..Juliet

    1. Author

      Hey Juliet! I stop tretinoin 2/3 days before a TCA peel, sometimes even 4 days before, I feel my skin and decide accordingly. The same happens for when to resume tret and Vit C or other possible irritants for the skin, it’s a feeling for me. I KNOW exactly when my skin is ready. But to be on the safe side I would wait at least one week to give the skin some time to reconstruct its defense barrier properly. Otherwise, you might over-exfoliate. Cheers!

    2. Hi Clelia,
      Thanks for the very informative and thorough step by step post. What is your experience with TCA peels in neck and dΓ©colletΓ© areas? which concentration you recommend and any visible effects in tightening the neck?
      Thanks

      1. Author

        Hi Noemi! It depends on your sensitivity. Usually the neck and chest are more sensitive than the face. In my specific case my neck is the most sensitive area and my chest is not. But I know people with very sensitive chests. I would start very carefully with one layer at 10/13% and see how it goes.No more than one layer the first time. The results are cumulative but if you burn badly these areas not only you’ll ruin your skin but you can’t use it again so better go slow there.

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