Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My TCA Facial Peel Experience

Photo Credit: Juvemedspa.com
I mentioned in my skincare routine post here that I regularly treat my face with chemical peels as a way to improve the texture of my skin and minimize the signs of aging and sun damage. For a little over a year, I've been doing in home TCA treatments every 60 to 90 days.

TCA, or trichloroacetic acid is used on the facial skin to provide a medium depth peel that is useful for several reasons. This type of peel can smooth out fine wrinkles, remove blemishes and help correct pigmentation issues including sun damage. People who get mild TCA peels notice improvements over time, rather than a dramatic improvement after one treatment. You will notice that your skin is smoother and refreshed after one peel but treatments are somewhat cumulative. After 3 or 4 peels, you should begin to notice more dramatic changes to your skin.

A chemical peel takes off the top layers of skin over a period of time. With TCA, you can expect the peel to take about a week with a couple of days where your skin looks the worst. Depending on the strength of the peel, some people will stay out of public for a day or two (or more) if they are self conscious about how their skin looks. I'm not particularly self conscious about it and I will show you what my skin looks like, below, over the course of the week. Many of my friends have seen my face while it's peeling and I don't think I've scared anyone to death yet! :)

Note: I am not recommending that anyone take on a chemical peel themselves but, rather, am describing my experiences with TCA. Should you decide that chemical peeling is of interest, please consult your dermatologist (mine knows all about my at home use of TCA) to see if it is right for you. Your dermatologist may suggest that he/she should perform the procedure in his/her office rather than recommending at home use.

I also mentioned in my skin routine post that I am a regular user of both lactic acid peels (a mild peel based on milk sugar) and Retin A (a vitamin A derivative). Before using TCA for the first time, I prepped my skin for several weeks with both substances. This allows the TCA to penetrate the skin more efficiently. I also started out with an 8% mixture of TCA, which is a very low concentration. At that concentration, I noticed very little peeling, but everyone is different (some people cannot tolerate TCA at all!).  In the next few paragraphs, I've provided pictures and descriptions of my last peel.

The picture above shows my skin, without makeup, right before I applied the TCA. Keep in mind that I've been using TCA for over a year and have been working on pigmentation issues for a lot longer than that. I do have darker pigmentation right under my eyes (on my cheeks near my nose), on either side of my chin as well as some dark spots on the left hand side of my face. Before the peel, I have applied Vaseline under my eyes, at the corners of the lips and at the edges of my nostrils. This protects the sensitive skin in those areas from the acid.

During the peel (above) my skin feels a "cold" burn for a couple of minutes before the burning subsides. In this session, I am using a 15% TCA solution and apply 3 layers over the course of the session. I have had to build up to this level over time; it is definitely not something I started doing from Day 1! If you look closely, there are sections of my skin that are red and some that look white. The white areas have "frosted" and this is an indication that the peel is working in the areas where I need it most. These are also the areas that will peel first. Where my skin frosts, I apply a solution made of baking soda and water to neutralize the acid. When time is up, I then wash my face with a mild cleanser and pat it dry. I also apply a triple antibiotic ointment to make sure that the skin is protected. At this point, areas of my face are sensitive to the touch and red, but I am not in any pain.

Next day: My skin has a tight, shiny top layer, which is slightly wrinkled looking. It doesn't show up in pictures, but it looks like I have either a layer of waxed paper on my face or maybe cling wrap. I continue to apply the triple antibiotic ointment to keep my skin protected. My skin has not begun to peel.

Day 2:

The picture above was taken the morning of the second day after my peel. You can see discoloration under my eyes (top of cheeks) and on either side of my chin. These brown areas are where my skin "frosted" during the peel. 

You can see the dark areas on my chin and the side of my face, where the frosting first occurred during the peel. The rest of my skin feels tight, it's wrinkly and is a little bit itchy. I apply hydro cortisone cream to control the itching. While I have no makeup on in these pictures, I would feel comfortable going outside with a covering of tinted moisturizer. Later that evening, some of the brown areas, near the corners of my mouth, begin to peel.

Day 3:

On the third day, you can see there is peeling on my chin mostly and more discoloration on the rest of my face, including my forehead. In these pictures, I am not wearing any makeup.

Day 4:

The Fourth Day (I'm wearing tinted moisturizer in these pictures) is the worst peeling day so far. Skin is peeling all over my face and my skin looks very wrinkled, especially on my cheeks, which are slightly red. There is some "new" skin showing through on my chin near my mouth (the first area that started peeling). My face does not itch.

The Fifth Day: My chin and nose are almost finished peeling. Now it's my cheeks and forehead's turn.

The Sixth Day:  There is more peeling. My forehead and the tops of my cheeks are covered in large, scaly flakes. I wear tinted moisturizer and eye makeup and go out and about with my business. That evening I use apricot scrub to help slough off the large flakes. My skin looks and feels so much better!

The Seventh Day: I use the apricot scrub one more time.

The Eighth Day (see picture below): There are just a few rough patches left on my face. My skin is glowing and soft.

As you can see, my peeling process is fairly straight forward and I continue to be satisfied with the results.

Have you ever had a TCA peel? How was your experience? If you've never had a peel, are you considering it?