TCA Peel Instructions

3 years after posting my first 25% TCA Peel Diary, I still get so many questions either through email or general comments. TCA Peel Instructions are the number 1 inquiry, especially regarding skin preparation weeks before the peel and immediately before a peel. So, this post is going to be a general composite of all those questions combined.

First thing to note is that I am not a doctor, esthetician, or skin professional. This is just general guidelines that I use when I prepare my skin for a chemical peel. It hasn’t failed me yet. The more you use them the more comfortable you will be with the routine. That goes for TCA, Glycolic, Salicylic, or Lactic Acid Peels. Each peel is different, but preparations are the same.

TCA Peel Instructions

What You Will Need

When planning for a peel, try to prepare weeks in advance. Make sure to get all your ducks in a row. The worst thing in the world is to apply a peel and a few days later you forgot to get toilet paper. No Bueno. So, to avoid the unexpected make a checklist with things you will need, want, etc. Pay your bills, rent some movies, get groceries for a week. Also, keep in mind that the internet can be your best friend.

If you don’t already use some sort of alpha hydroxy/retinol cream, invest in one and start using it 2 -3 weeks prior to the peel. The retinol helps the chemical penetrate deeper and more evenly. It also helps the skin to regenerate quicker, prevents clogged pores, and fine lines. This is the best advice I was ever given.

Another good (but cheap) investment is Nutiva coconut oil, preferably raw organic. I got mine from Amazon but Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and most large grocery stores sell it. If you’re allergic to Coconut oil, use your favorite, natural (fragrance free) moisturizer. You will thank me later.

The last thing you should have on hand is a chemical peel neutralizer. You don’t need to buy one if you have some *fresh* baking soda available. 20-year-old baking soda from the fridge is not your friend. Upgrade to a fresh one for $1 or less. You can mix 1 cup water with 1 tablespoon baking soda in a cup just before your peel. Have it available when you’re ready to neutralize your peel. If you don’t want to make one, buy one on Amazon.

Skin Preparations 

Prior to applying the peel you want to remove all cosmetics. Your face and neck should have zero moisturizer, makeup, pimple cream, toner, etc. You don’t want a barrier between the peel and your skin. This allows an even peel without complications.

Use at least 70% rubbing alcohol to strip your facial oils. Avoid your lips and eyeballs. That wouldn’t be pleasant.

Ready to Peel

Once you’ve prepped your skin, it’s time to peel. I usually apply the chemical peel to a cotton ball. You don’t want it dripping but you want it generously coated. Apply it evenly to your skin first in “up and down – vertical” strokes, then “side to side – horizontal” strokes. Again, avoid your lips and eyeballs.

You can apply 1 or more coats if needed. Generally 2 -3 coats is preferred. Each coating should be evenly applied.

Using a Q-tip, you can target problem areas or specific lines on the forehead, around the mouth, under your eyes, crow’s-feet, etc.

Depending on your chemical peel type, you may have some frosting. That’s great! However, not everyone will frost and that’s ok. If you’ve applied 3 coats and still haven’t seen a frost, it’s a safe bet you won’t. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have a good result.

TCA Peel InstructionsTCA Peel Instructions

The Peel

Ok, you’ve got the peel on, now what? The general rule of thumb for a TCA Peel is 3 – 5 minutes from the last coating. If you applied 2 coats, your timer should start when you have finished applying.

Glycolic, Lactic, Salicylic Acid peels are more gentle so 4 – 8 minutes should be ok. Your skin will tell you when it’s time to remove it. If your skin feels like its melting off – by all means remove the peel.

TCA peels are different. These are deeper peels meant for removing several layers of scarred, damaged skin. It will burn because that’s what its meant to do. If your skin doesn’t burn with a TCA, something is wrong with the peel.

The burning can be extremely intense for those 3-5 minutes. You may feel like Richard Prior temporarily. If you need to, put your head in the freezer, in front of a fan, or over an AC vent. Whatever helps – do it!

Time to Neutralize

After the allotted time frame it’s time to neutralize your skin. Using a clean cotton ball, *pat* your face with the neutralizer all over. Face, neck, around your nose, hairline. Make sure to cover every area. Wait a minute or 2, then rinse with cold water and pat dry with a clean towel. Don’t drag your skin or scrub. If you still have burning, apply more neutralizer.

Apply your coconut oil liberally.

You’re done! You will be fairly normal looking for a day then your skin with develop a scab. Do not pick! Keep applying the moisture to keep you comfortable. I learned this the hard way and started peeling early. It then itched and burned. Misery!

Your skin may also develop white dots. That clogged pores previously under the skin, also called skin purging. It’s getting rid of all the junk. Eventually, after a week or 2, you will have amazing looking skin. If you still have acne scarring and need another peel, wait at least 4-6 weeks before applying another peel. It takes time for your skin to fully regenerate. If you interrupt the heeling process, you may have complications that would require a physician.

Wear sunscreen everyday no matter what.

Thanks so much for reading my TCA peel Instructions. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me down below or in the comments. If you haven’t already, please subscribe and visit my Facebook page where I post reviews  and hauls you won’t see here.


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