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Side Effects of TCA Peels

By Kimberly Johnson ; Updated July 18, 2017

For those with acne scars, skin discoloration or sun damage, a chemical peel can reveal fresh, undamaged skin. Chemical peels involve the application of an acid, which removes the damaged outer layer of skin. TCA peels gets their name from the main ingredient: trichloracetic acid. Like other cosmetic procedures, TCA peels have short-term and long-term side effects.

Short-Term Side Effects

Immediately following the procedure, side effects include a very red complexion that can last up to eight weeks as the skin heals. During this period the skin is hypersensitive to sun exposure and requires complete protection. Other short-term side effects include skin peeling, which can last up to five days, and itching.

Long-Term Side Effects

Those who don’t protect their skin from sun can develop brown spots called hyperpigmentation. The dark pigmentation often affects those with darker complexions and typically fades within three to six months. In rare cases, the dark pigmentation is permanent. Women of darker complexions sometimes experience uneven skin tone following a TCA peel, where the skin develops areas of varying pigment levels; this condition can last for up to six months. Likewise, in rare cases, some women of color develop keloid scars which are thick, slightly raised scars at the application site.

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