A TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) peel can do wonders for damaged or aging skin. They have been used for decades to help beautify and renew skin. By chemically exfoliating and removing a layer of skin, TCA peels address common concerns such as fine lines and wrinkles, skin laxity, discoloration, uneven texture, and acne scarring.
Getting the best results from your TCA chemical peel requires careful preparation. That preparation requires some dedication and time, and isn’t your skin worth it?
1. First Steps
The first step you can take before your resurfacing TCA peel is to have a consultation with a doctor or medical aesthetician. By examining your skin, they can assess what level of peel would benefit you most. He or she can also discuss your expectations with you and answer any questions you may have.
You need to provide a medical history and a list of your prescriptions, medications, and supplements. Again, it’s imperative to be accurate and thorough. Certain medications may need to be discontinued before your TCA peel to ensure your health and a good result.
Be sure to share any history you have of medical or skin conditions. Also, even if you’re not experiencing an outbreak, tell your doctor if you have a history of cold sores (herpes simplex 1/HSV-1). The peel may cause an outbreak, but your doctor can give you medication to reduce the chance of that if he or she is aware of your medical history.
2. Moving Forward
Once it’s determined that you’re a good candidate for a TCA peel, your doctor or a skin care specialist will design a plan to prepare your skin for the upcoming peel. Your doctor should be kept informed of any changes to your health or skin during this preparation period.
You’re responsible for taking excellent care of your skin in the weeks leading up to your TCA peel. The prep period generally requires four to six weeks of care and caution to ensure a good result after the peel. You must follow the directions provided by your doctor’s office regarding skincare. In addition to your specific instructions, there are general pre-peel instructions that apply to everyone.
3. Follow Doctor’s Orders
Your doctor will direct you on how best to care for your skin in the weeks before your TCA peel. These directions will be specific to you and your peel, and it is crucial that you follow them. For example, your instructions may include the cessation of certain medications or supplements, the use of certain medications, and the end or introduction of topical skin products. All of these instructions are designed to help you achieve an excellent result.
4. Stop Smoking
If you’re a smoker, now is a great time to stop. When you quit smoking, you’re doing a favor to your skin, as well as your general health. Smoking damages every organ, and your skin is an organ. Smoking causes premature aging of the skin by depriving it of nutrients and encouraging wrinkles.
As you prepare for your TCA peel, it’s even more essential to cease smoking. Smoking reduces the oxygen your skin receives, which will lead to an extended healing time. Smoking also increases the risk of adverse side effects from your peel.
5. Avoid the Sun
We all know the sun damages skin. However, you must be extra vigilant leading up to your TCA peel. Although life dictates that we must go outside, take care to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Most plastic surgeons recommend using a quality sunscreen with a high SPF (a minimum of SPF 30) and wearing a wide-brimmed hat. In addition, stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
There aren’t any loopholes regarding limiting sun exposure as you prepare for your peel. You must avoid tanning of all kinds. Do not use tanning beds or tanning products in the weeks leading up to your peel. Failing to avoid the sun and other tanning procedures may cause pigment shifts in your skin, resulting in an unsatisfactory result.
6. Hair Removal Procedures
Facial hair removal will be interrupted by your TCA peel. Therefore, those who shave should refrain from shaving for a minimum of 24 hours before your procedure. If possible, it’s best to avoid shaving for three days before your peel.
Chemical hair removal treatments such as depilatory creams, hair waxing, electrolysis, and tweezing must be discontinued at least a week before your TCA procedure. These treatments, even if you have used them frequently in the past, can cause skin irritation. The possible resulting skin issues are undesirable for the day of your TCA peel.
7. The Importance of Hydration
Your skin and body should be kept well hydrated, especially for your peel. Drink plenty of water and use a good moisturizer after cleansing your face as directed by your doctor. Use moisturizers and other facial products with gentle ingredients. The goal is to enter the procedure with well-hydrated and irritation-free skin.
8. Arrange Your Personal Schedule
TCA peels treat your skin by using chemicals to damage it carefully. This damage encourages your skin to repair and improve itself. Remember: it’s called a peel for a reason. You will probably experience discomfort along with redness, swelling, and peeling. These side effects can last a couple of weeks, after which your skin will remain tender and pinkish.
Do not schedule your TCA peel for a time when you have a significant event such as a wedding or reunion in the near future. You want to give yourself several weeks to heal completely before you feel photo-ready.
You will probably also want to take some time off of work. For a medium peel, you may be able to resume work in a few days. There will still be evidence of the peel, but the most obvious symptoms will be improving. For a deep peel, you may want to schedule as many as two weeks off from work. If you’re comfortable sharing your experience, you may wish to return sooner. If you’d prefer to heal more discreetly, you’ll want the extra time away from the office.
9. The Day of the Peel
When the big day arrives, you may want to make sure you have someone available to drive you home. Depending on the level of peel and what you and your doctor decide is best for you, you may be too sedated to drive safely. It also may be nice to have someone else worry about driving while you focus on caring for yourself.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser, and arrive at your appointment with a clean face. Do not wear makeup, aftershave, cologne, moisturizer, mascara, or any other types of facial products on the day of your TCA peel. If you wear contacts, today is a day to wear your glasses instead.
- Dress comfortably. Your shirt is of particular consideration. To avoid having to pull something up over your face, a shirt with buttons is most desirable. Otherwise, a loose-fitting shirt with a low or wide neckline is a good option.
- A headband may come in handy to help keep your hair off of your face. You also might want to bring a wide-brimmed sun hat or an umbrella to the appointment so you can avoid sun exposure after your peel. These items will be helpful in the weeks after your procedure as well. You must acquire any products your doctor recommends for your aftercare.
- Your doctor will likely take pre-op photos so you can compare before and after images once you’ve healed. Your doctor will then prepare you for the peel and make you comfortable. Then the peel is underway.
10. Caring for Healthy Skin
Preparing for a TCA peel seems like a lot of work, but it’s not. Instead, it’s all about finding a trustworthy, board-certified plastic surgeon and forming good habits for maintaining excellent skin health.
Once your healing is complete, you’ll be able to resume your regular medications and routines, but stick to your new and improved skincare regime. By putting your best effort into skincare, you can always put your best face forward to the world!