The Ultimate Guide to Doing Your Own TCA Chemical Peel at Home


If you’ve had bouts and major breakouts of acne, you’ll know that scarring is one of the problems it could leave behind. Deep acne scars can be disfiguring, but not necessarily irreparable. In professional spas and clinics, such as The Devonshire Clinic, dermatologists will usually recommend what’s called a TCA peel or trichloroacetic acid peel to deeply penetrate the damaged skin layers and bring out the regenerated skin underneath.

However, as most professional procedures go, a TCA peel is understandably expensive. But you don’t need to worry, as you can still do your own TCA chemical peel at home. So, if you think you need to remove that ugly cross-shaped scar on your cheek, or that telltale lightning-shaped scar on your forehead, read on!

Table of Contents

TCA Peel at Home Benefits

If you’ve spent years basking in the sun or living in an area where there’s a lot of pollution, you know it’s all taken its toll on your skin, especially the facial skin which can be very delicate and susceptible to harsh environmental elements.

Chemical face peels will not only rejuvenate and refresh tired looking skin; they are also being widely used for skin blemishes such as black heads, acne scars, age spots and sun damage.

But having your chemical peels done by a dermatologist can be expensive, but getting them done at home is not only much safer these days, but also a very cost effective way to have the beautiful skin you desire.

At home tca peel kits are easy to use and give you more radiant skin within one week. You decide when it’s convenient for you without having to make an appointment or sit in a waiting room.

If you feel that an acid peel is too extreme for you at this moment in time then perhaps using other acne treatments would benefit you more than this harsher treatment. One effective method is using hemp oil, which is sold at any hemp store, as this is an anti-inflammatory treatment that has proved effective for removing acne from the skin.

What is a Trichloroacetic Acid Peel?

More commonly referred to as TCA, trichloroacetic acid is a chemical created by combining acetic acid, chlorine, and a catalyst. It’s a potent form of acid, and can be used for a variety of uses. Among them is for the intermediate or moderately stronger form of chemical peeling to rejuvenate and renew damaged skin.

In the beauty industry, it’s collectively known as chemical peeling, and it is roughly the process of removing the damaged outer layers of the skin to reveal the younger-looking, healthier skin underneath. A variety of chemicals can be used in chemical peeling, ranging from mild to moderately strong. TCA peels are usually suggested for deep scars, keloids, or for the removal of tattoos.

TCA peels are usually done in clinics, as this stronger kind of chemical peel will require tightly-controlled solutions and more specific kinds of ingredients than the lesser, milder chemical peels. However, with careful consideration and preparation, you can still manage to do your own trichloroacetic acid peel at home.

Should You Use a TCA Skin Peel

It’s a fact, doing your own chemical peel at home is easy, convenient and super affordable but that does not mean that using a TCA peel is the best option for you. There are several categories of people who should not try this at all. If one of these criteria describes you, this is not the best option and you should look for an alternative:

Anyone who is affected with herpes.

Women who are pregnant or nursing.

People who currently using Accutane or those who have done so in the past two years.

Those who are currently undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatments.

Anyone who has skin that is irritated for any reason.

People who have the tendency to have keloid scarring.

People who are affected by HIV or AIDS.

In the event you are one of the aforementioned parties, it would be best to look for another way to achieve the skin you want. While this may seem extreme, it is important that you do so in order to ensure your safety.

Should You do Your Own Trichloroacetic Acid Peels?

While it is tempting to want to save money by doing your own peels, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of doing your own TCA peels since they can cause skin damage if not applied properly. If you’re a first time peeler, you should probably start off with a milder peel and work your way up to a TCA. On the other hand, if you’ve had these peels done by a dermatologist, then you are familiar with the routine and know what the peels should feel like as they penetrate and neutralize on your skin.

Related:  The Biggest DIY Chemical Acid Peels Mistakes

Preparing For Your TCA Acid Peel

In order to achieve the best possible results when doing a TCA peel at home, you need to make sure that you are very well prepared. Here are a couple of things you should do prior to getting started:

1) You should try using products that contain alpha hydroxy for 5-7 days before you attempt to do your peel. This will help prime your skin and make it ready for the process it is about to undergo. Keep in mind that you should stop priming the skin at least 24 hours before you do your peel. While this is not a step that is absolutely necessary, it will help you perform a procedure that has much better results.

2) In the event that you are doing a peel because you have some hyperpigmentation problems, you should use a combination of skin lightening cream and lactic acid a few weeks before you start. Make sure that you stop about a week before you begin peeling. Otherwise, there may be a negative chemical reaction that your skin will not be too pleased with.

3) When using these acids, keep in mind that using a high strength concentration is not recommended, especially if this is your first time. Always start with options that have a fairly low concentration level. Also, keep in mind that you should only do a TCA peel a couple of times and it should not be something that you try regularly. In Fact, if you notice that your skin has improved tremendously after just one application, you can stop there.

Patch Testing – Don’t Skip This Step

Before you go ahead and place any acid on your face, you need to do some testing on a small patch of skin to see how it responds. The best place to perform your test would be below the ear since this is not a place that is highly noticeable, which is important if you have a reaction that is not very favorable. In the event that you plan to do a peel on some other part of your body besides the face, you need to do a patch test on that particular area since all parts of your body will not respond the same to treatments.

After placing some of the peel on the area in question, you need to wait 24 hours to see if any redness, swelling, itchiness, or burning sensation occurs. If any of these symptoms occur, you shouldn’t go through with the TCA peel.

As always, you should talk to a professional or a dermatologist prior to having your own TCA peel at home. If there’s any chance that your problem could be corrected using lesser or milder peels, you could go ahead with those first as they are easier and safer to do.

The Peeling Process

The entire TCA peeling process takes a bit longer than other chemical peels because the preparation takes more time than what you would do for a milder chemical peel. As the trichloroacetic acid penetrates deeper into the skin, the area to be treated should be kept free of other chemicals for at least 3-4 weeks before the peeling.

This means no shaving creams or gels, exfoliant solutions, and the like. You should also switch to milder soaps, facial washes, and astringents 3-4 weeks before your TCA peeling. Lastly, you should apply the AHA-lotion to the area to be treated every night for 3-4 weeks.

The AHA is used for mild chemical peels, and applying the lotion every night will ensure that the outer layer of the skin will be routinely sloughed off even without using the harsher chemicals from shaving creams, exfoliants, and the like.

Once the skin is prepped and that you have checked that you’re not allergic to TCA via a test patch, you can start the actual TCA peeling process. The chemical peel typically has four steps, which are the priming, the peeling, the neutralizing, and the moisturizing or after care.

Step #1: The priming is the process where you will have to remove all traces of dirt and grease from the skin. You can do this by wiping pure acetone or Hand Sanitizer on the skin after washing it with mild soap and water. Wipe the area with a cotton square or ball dampened with acetone until it comes out clean.

Related:  Choosing the Best At-Home Facial Acid Peels for Your Skin Type

Step #2: After priming the skin, the peeling solution can be applied, carefully leaving out the eye and mouth areas. The solution is left for only 4-5 minutes after which it is then neutralized by a basic solution to stop the acid from working.

Step #3: Commercial peels will have fancier solutions for this, but a simple baking soda wash will do the trick. This will help to soothe your skin and also render the tca acid inactive.

Step #4: The last step requires the application of a topical triple antibiotic cream, which you will apply religiously for at least 2 weeks after the peel. Many layers of skin will have been removed, leaving the new skin prone to infection. Applying antibiotic cream will prevent that.

Supplies You Will Need

  • TCA solution or tca peel kit
  • Cotton pads or gauze pads for applying the solution to your skin
  • Baking soda and water or a pre-mixed neutralizer for after the peel
  • Petroleum jelly,
  • Anti-bacterial cream
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Latex gloves
  • A timer

TCA Peel Step By Step Instructions

Now that you are ready, here are some step by step instructions you can use if you want your at-home treatments to be successful. Make sure to follow this advice or the instructions that came with your tca peel kit as closely as possible to avoid any issues.

Here’s a really helpful video that shows how to do a DIY TCA Peel

Step 1: Clean your skin directly before you start your peel.

  • You should be very gentle so you don’t irritate your skin in the process. Use a cleanser that was made for sensitive skin and is not something that is filled with all kinds of harsh chemicals. An all-natural holistic cleanser may be your best bet.

Step 2: Make sure your skin is perfectly dry.

  • Dab your skin with a soft towel and allow any excess water to air dry. This may take a little time, but it is certainly worth it. If you attempt to apply a peel to skin that is still wet, the results will not be as successful as you had hoped for.

Step 3: Put some petroleum jelly around the eyes, mouth and nose.

  • This will act as a barrier between the peel and the internal parts of your body. It is crucial that this step is not forgotten. You should be very liberal with this so there are no problems.

Step 4: Place the latex gloves on your hands before you begin using the peel.

Step 5: Take the peel solution and apply some to the cotton gauze.

  • While you want them to be wet, you do not want to have this chemical dripping all over the place. Do everything in your power to make sure that none of the solution gets in your eyes.

Step 6: Apply a layer of the solution to your face, making sure that you do not miss any spots.

  • Leave this on for around five minutes, then you should use a neutralizer. In the event that this is not your first time applying this solution, you can proceed to a 2nd layer. Only one layer should be applied otherwise.

Step 7: When using the neutralizer, it should be wiped across the face gently using a very soft, lint-free washcloth.

  • Do not use a cloth that has any kind of ribbing or other textures since this can cause some damage to your face. After this, apply an all-natural, gentle cleanser to your face to make sure that all traces of the acid are removed.

Step 8: Towel dry your skin gently and allow it to dry.

  • Use anti-bacterial cream in order to give your face some much-needed moisture. For the next couple of days after your treatment, you should use antibiotic cream in order to ensure that you do not end up with some type of infection. This is another step that you should not eliminate since the results can be quite grim.

TCA Chemical Peel Recovery Process

After you are done with your procedure, it is time for you to begin the recovery process. Here are some tips you should pay close attention to if you do not want your experience to take a negative turn:

Related:  Complete Beginner Kit For DIY Acid Face Peels

You should probably have some anti-itch cream on hand. Once the skin starts to peel, it will begin to itch a great deal. The last thing you want to do is scratch the area and cause some damage. Applying liberal amounts of an anti-itch solution can work wonders.

When leaving the house, you need to use sunscreen at all times. Regardless of the number you usually use, it is crucial that you choose one that is SPF 30 or higher. Anything less will not provide as much protection as you need.

Drink a ton of water to make sure that your skin stays hydrated while you are recovering. You should also add some water directly to the face every now and then to make sure that you do not experience any excessive drying.

You will probably not see the full results of your peel until 10-14 days have passed. Make sure that you wait at least this long to try doing another peel. Again, you should only attempt this again if you did not get the results you were looking for.

You should not do any shaving or using any hair removal creams until at least two weeks after the treatment is complete. You do not want to do anything that will hinder your results.

TCA Peel Side Effects

Most people who try chemical peels have side effects, so you should not be alarmed if this happens to you. While everyone does not experience the same ones, it is quite rare for someone to have no effects at all. In case you were wondering, here are some of the most common side effects of performing a peel with TCA:

There is a side effect that is called frosting, This is when the skin begins to turn very white as a reaction to the chemicals. It may be tempting to try peeling this off with your hands, but avoid this at all costs. In order to remedy the situation, apply some neutralizer with a soft cloth and gently wipe the area. You should notice your skin return back to normal shortly after.

There may be some redness of the face, but this is not something that should alarm you. It generally lasts for 1-3 days after you have done the treatment. If it worsens over time or does not appear to be improving, you should go and get the area checked out.

You may experience some brown spots on the face after your peel. While this may be alarming at first glance, it is perfectly normal. Ignore this and it will go away sooner rather than later.

You may have some issues if you sleep on a pillowcase that is very hard and/or textured. Make sure that you have one available that is plush and will not bother your skin.

Don’t Make These TCA Peeling Mistakes

Do not apply these peels excessively believing that you will get better results than you would otherwise. This can cause severe damage to the skin and defeat the entire process. Ideally, you should only do this 2-3 times annually.

Do not pick at your skin when it starts to peel. This will cause the area to scar.

Never go outside without your sunscreen. This cannot be stressed enough. Your skin will be extremely sensitive to UV rays at this time, so it is important for you to take precautions.

If you notice that the acid is causing extreme burning while you are applying it, you may want to discontinue use. A little tingling is absolutely normal, but you should not ignore pain that feels severe.

Never use acne treatments right after you have had a peel. This can cause an adverse reaction since your skin will be particularly sensitive.

While there are probably more things you should avoid after a peel, these are certainly the most important. Whatever you do, make sure that this advice is not ignored.

This may seem like a lot of information to take in before you attempt to do a peel at home, but it is all necessary to ensure you do the treatment properly and you are completely safe. Make sure that you read all of this information several times and digest it before getting started since this is the best way to ensure a positive outcome.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully performed your own trichloroacetic acid tca peel. Remember to avoid wearing any makeup for 2-4 weeks after the procedure as well as to avoid exposure to the sun. Shaving the area should be avoided, as well.

5 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Doing Your Own TCA Chemical Peel at Home”

  1. Your dilution instructions are wrong.

    Except for the 100 percent solution.. If you’re using an 80 percent or 50 percent solution.. then simply doing a 1:1 ratio of solution and water is not correct, since it’s already diluted.

  2. If you are using 100% TCA, wouldn’t you use three parts water and one part 100% TCA to dilute the TCA to 25% strength? One tablespoon of TCA to every three tablespoons of water? That would be one quarter (25%) TCA to three quarters (75%) water. The instructions are for more than 33% strength TCA, or one third TCA, if two tablespoons of water mixed with one tablespoon of TCA. That is two thirds water and one third TCA. I am not promoting using any facial peel recipe. I am just pointing out what may be a mistake in your published recipe.

    • Judy, yes, you are correct with you math. If the result you are seeking is 25% TCA. TCA 100% to water would be a 1:3 ratio. 1:2 would result in a 33% solution of TCA.

      By the way, I’ve done TCA peels at home for years and I cannot stress enough, not over dosing on the TCA. Also, protecting your skin so as to not loosen the newly deadened skin layers. Keep that dead skin in place as long as possible, this is what will prevent hyper-pigmentation scaring. Even with my experience and a solution of 10%, I turned in bed a few nights after my peel and pulled a portion of the dead skin off my cheek near my ear. I have, now, an area there which is very light and will not tan.

  3. Hello
    Ivr used aqua glycolic for years and now contemplating a tca peel,and am doing some research on them,…so my question is this in the wake of the actual peel,you want to keep the burned or treated skin on as long as possible,allowing it to peel off at its own pace without doing anything to interfere with sloughing before it does it on its own? So if that’s the case taking into consideration that everyone is different how many days on average for fare skin doing a 10 or 15% tca peel should the treated skin remain on before peeling off and in retrospect what could you do when sleeping to ensure things stayed in tact+
    Thank you

  4. Andrea,
    It isn’t that tedious, however I commend your thinking so. Kudos for being so trough, I have recently used it and what they mean is not to FORCEFULLY remove it, like, peeling it off like people do with sunburn a lot. you can wash your face and allow the pillow to do it’s NORMAL rubs just don’t forcefully scrub during face wash or use and gritty like scrubs and washes, I suggest a milk based wash but that’s just me. I also MOSTURIZE LIKE NOBODYS BUSINESS (so to say lol) and that I can not stress enough, as soon as you thin youve got enough you’ll notice it has soaked it all up ad you need more lol. There;s never a too much in my eyes, hope this heped!!


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