How to do an at-home TCA Chemical Peel

These are the steps I follow with my TCA chemical peels.

Preparing the skin:
Prepare the skin for a TCA chemical peel using Retin-A or a weekly glycolic acid peel for 2-4 weeks before the TCA peel.  I believe glycolic acid is better because I don’t have all the side effects that come with Retin-A (and I don’t need a prescription).  Please see my page How to do an at-home Glycolic Peel for step-by-step instructions.  After the skin has been prepared, I am ready for my TCA chemical peel.

Getting Ready
  1. I made sure I was a good candidate for an at-home TCA chemical peel: no open acne or other lesions; skin color that is not prone to hyperpigmentation, able to wear sunscreen; completed allergy test on a sensitive area, such as under the chin, with no reaction; skin is prepared (see above) have not used any peeling agents (Retin-A or any acids) within 7-10 days, have not shaved the area to be peeled in two days and can wait an addition two days (if using an electric razor) or 7-10 days (if using a blade razor) to shave.
  2. Gather all supplies and head to the bathroom or some place that has cool, running water available: hand towel, peel solution, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, swabs, petroleum jelly, glass dish, timer, hand-held fan, neutralizer, moisturizer, sunscreen
  3. Cleanse to remove oils and makeup; gently blot dry
  4. Moisten cotton ball(s) with rubbing alcohol and gently wipe the area to be peeled; this will remove all traces of oils, which can cause uneven peeling
  5. Apply a thin layer of the petroleum jelly around lips, nostrils, and eyes (don’t forget eyebrows); this will keep any running or dripping solution from accidentally getting into these areas
  6. Pore a small amount of the peel into a small glass dish
  7. Set the timer: start with 3 minutes – by the time I apply the peel to my entire face, it will have been on about 30 seconds since I started.  I NEVER LEAVE THE PEEL ON LONGER THAN FIVE MINUTES.

Applying the Peel
  1. Using the two swabs, I dip them into the dish and apply in this order: forehead, nose, above lip, cheeks, chin area.  While I use my fingers to apply glycolic acid, I don’t want to do this with TCA chemical peel or I'll peel the tips of my fingers.
  2. I want to let the areas frost before neutralizing.  Frosting is when the skin starts to turn white or looks a bit like a frosted glass.  NOTE: if the three-minute timer rings before frosting has occurred, I have to decide if I want to wait.  I know my reaction when it frosts versus not frosting.  I keep in mind that the longer I leave on the solution, the longer it will take to peel. I NEVER LEAVE THE PEEL ON LONGER THAN FIVE MINUTES.
  3. When the timer rings or when it frosts, I apply the neutralizer with cotton balls, then rinse with copious amounts of cool water for about 1-2 minutes and gently blot the face dry with a hand towel
  4. Apply a gentle moisturizer, such as shea butter - which does NOT clog me.
  5. Apply sunscreen if it is daytime.
  6. Do not use any peeling agents for at least one week.  If my skin tolerates the peel well, I can do another in 4-5 weeks.
  7. Visit my page Caring for your skin after Chemical Peel
These are the steps I follow.  I am not a physician or medical care professional, so you should seek medical advice before you decide to do your own at-home chemical peels.

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