Medium chemical peels are an effective way to correct acne scars, address uneven pigmentation, improve the texture and tone of the skin, smooth out fine lines, and more. Medium chemical peels, also known as TCA (trichloroacetic acid) chemical peels, provide more dramatic results than light chemical peels, and they don't require the extended recovery time of deep (phenol) peels. A medium chemical peel can be used to treat any area of the body and take only minutes to complete.
What is a Medium Chemical Peel?
Medium (TCA) chemical peels penetrate the skin more deeply than light chemical peels. In administering a medium chemical peel, the doctor applies a solution containing trichloroacetic acid to the skin. This chemical solution, which is custom formulated for each patient, works by removing the dull, damaged outer layers of skin — those affected by acne, fine lines, sun exposure, and other factors. In the week or so after treatment, these dead layers of skin slough off, revealing a new, smooth layer of skin.
TCA chemical peels are popular because they are an excellent “spot” treatment that can be used on any area of the body and can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. For best results, patients typically complete a prescribed series of treatments, with each treatment spaced two to three months apart.
Candidates for Medium Chemical Peels
Medium (TCA) chemical peels are known for delivering long-lasting results after a brief healing process. TCA chemical peels are ideally suited to patients wishing to address wrinkles, superficial blemishes and scars, uneven pigmentation (including sunspots), and dark undereye circles. Because TCA peels deliver results beyond those achieved by a light chemical peel, and don’t have the long healing time of a deep (phenol) peel, they are an excellent middle-of-the-road approach to common skin conditions and imperfections. Read more about who is a candidate for chemical peel.
Medium Chemical Peel Application
TCA peels are performed on an outpatient basis, usually in the setting of a doctor’s office. Depending on the concentration of trichloroacetic acid used and the patient’s preferences, light sedation might be utilized, though no local anesthesia is needed.
Medium chemical peels are applied in the same way as light chemical peels or deep (phenol) peels. The skin is first cleansed in preparation for treatment. Then the chemical solution is applied. As with any chemical peel, the specific chemical formulation depends on the patient. This chemical solution is left on the skin for an appropriate amount of time; then the physician washes it away with water and applies a soothing ointment.
Depending on the size of the area being treated, a medium chemical peel may take from 15 to 60 minutes to complete, though most treatments can be completed within 30 minutes.
TCA Chemical Peels
Trichloroacetic acid ( TCA) is the active ingredient in a medium chemical peel. The degree and depth to which the TCA penetrates the skin can be adjusted for each patient, as can the concentration of TCA in the chemical peel solution. A 15 percent concentration may be suitable in some cases; for a slightly deeper penetration, the physician may use a concentration as high as 50 percent.
Medium Chemical Peel Recovery
After TCA chemical peels, a superficial crust forms over the treated area, then flakes off in three to seven days. The newly revealed skin may initially appear reddish, but the discoloration will fully fade within a week to reveal skin with dramatically improved texture, color, and overall appearance. Healing time takes approximately two weeks.
Medium chemical peel is not without possible side effects. Some mild swelling is common after this type of skin peel. Patients do not typically experience much pain, and any discomfort can be controlled by prescription pain reliever. Though patients can return to their regular activities immediately after a chemical peel, redness takes about a week to fully fade. For this reason, many patients who undergo a medium chemical peel choose to avoid public activities for about a week.
During recovery, it is important for the patient to follow the instructions given by the physician who applied the TCA peel. The physician will provide instructions for limiting sun exposure and taking other precautions after a medium chemical peel.
Are Multiple Medium Peels Required to Achieve Desired Results?
Though individual treatment plans vary, patients typically undergo multiple medium chemical peel treatments before achieving optimal results. The number of treatments, as well as their spacing, depends on the patient’s goals, the condition of the patient's skin, and other factors. For individualized advice, consult a dermatologist experienced in administering TCA chemical peels.
Find a Dermatologist in Your Region
If you would like to learn more about medium ( TCA) chemical peels or find out whether a medium chemical peel is right for you, use our directory to connect with a cosmetic dermatologist in your area.