I know firsthand the struggle of finding an effective treatment for acne scars, especially one that won't break your bank account (like $1,000+ laser treatments!!).

Fortunately, chemical peels like trichloroacetic acid (TCA) are one of the best options to improve your scar appearance and promote a healthy-looking complexion. (1)

RELATED:

In this post, I'll explain what a TCA peel is (including TCA CROSS), the key benefits, the evidence from 27+ medical studies, potential side effects, and aftercare instructions.

But first, let's find out if a TCA peel is suitable for you.

Should You Get A TCA Peel For Acne Scars?

Should You Get A TCA Peel For Acne Scars

In my opinion, this depends on 3 factors:

1. What Type(s) of Acne Scars Do You Have?

If you have atrophic acne scars (such as rolling, boxcar, or ice pick scars), a TCA peel is an excellent way to remove the damaged scar tissue and stimulate collagen growth.

Over time, this allows healthy skin to grow back and fill in the "gaps" of these scars.

Types of Atrophic Acne Scars
Source: Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology

If, however, you have raised acne scars (such as hypertrophic scars and keloids), TCA might not be as effective since your main problem here is actually excess collagen.

A better option would be corticosteroid injections paired with silicone gels or sheets. (2)

RELATED:

2. What's Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type?

You may have heard of "Fitzpatrick skin type" at your dermatologist's office before.

Created by Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick in 1975, the Fitzpatrick scale (1-6) reflects the level of melanin pigment in your skin (darker skin types have more melanin).

Here's an easy (and fun) way to identify your skin type from Game of Thrones:

Fitzpatrick Skin Types
Source: Dr. Naphi

If you have darker skin (III-VI), research shows that you're more likely to experience some side effects including hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, demarcation lines, and even further scarring (yes, unfortunately ????). (3, 4)

The most common complication is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), but you can reduce your risk of getting it by taking adequate precautions, such as:

RELATED:

3. Do If You Have Any of These Contraindications?

Finally, it's a good idea to check if you have any of the following conditions:

as these may increase your risk of potential complications. (3)

Speak to your dermatologist to understand the risks before proceeding with a TCA peel. For at-home peels, always start with a low concentration (10-15%) and work your way up.

What Is A TCA Peel?

What Is A TCA Peel

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) is a popular, effective, and highly versatile chemical peel.

TCA was discovered as early as the 1880s (5) and was first documented by Monash (1945) as a potential treatment for acne scars, eczema, and other skin conditions. (6)

In the following decades, TCA has become widely used by dermatologists and patients for a variety of common skin problems, including:

The TCA peel is best described as a Swiss army knife.

It is highly versatile and can be adjusted by concentration and technique or combined with adjacent therapies to reach almost any part of the skin.

Consider the following chemical peel classification table by Gozali et al. (2015) (7):

Gozali (2015) - Table 1 Tall

Depending on the concentration and number of coats, TCA can be classified as a:

In addition, as we'll see later in the medial literature, TCA is increasingly being combined with adjacent therapies (most notably, microneedling) to produce a deeper peel than what would normally be achieved by TCA alone.

What Is TCA CROSS?

What Is TCA CROSS

Chemical Reconstruction of Skin Scars (CROSS) is a popular and extremely effective technique that involves applying high concentration TCA (50-100%) directly to the base of atrophic acne scars using a wooden applicator (usually a toothpick). (8)

The CROSS technique was originally developed by South Korean doctors in 2002 and has been widely proven in the medical literature as an effective and inexpensive method of removing ice pick scars (narrow and deep puncture marks).

The advantage of TCA CROSS is that, unlike a full face peel, only the problematic areas are treated while the surrounding skin remains intact. This helps reduce the downtime as healthy skin cells can migrate to the new wound to speed up the recovery process. (9)

What Are The Benefits Of A TCA Peel?

TCA Peel Benefits

There are many reasons to consider a TCA peel:

1. TCA Can Penetrate Deeper Than Superficial Peels

Unlike superficial peels like glycolic acid, TCA can penetrate beyond the epidermis into the papillary (upper) dermis to correct deeper acne scars (as well as wrinkles and fine lines) by stimulating new collagen growth and tissue regeneration in the dermis.

Consider this diagram of chemical peel penetration from Soleymani et al. (2018) (1)

Soleymani 2018 Figure 2

I know the text is probably too small to read, so here's a summary of what each line represents (from left to right):

As you can see, a 35% TCA peel (with or without pretreatment primer) is going to remove more layers of skin tissue (and address deeper skin problems) than any superficial peel.

The only peel that penetrates deeper is Baker-Gordon Phenol, which has fallen out of favor due to longer recovery times and a higher risk of complications. (1)

For beginners and at-home usage, however, I recommend starting with a 10-15% TCA peel which will provide a similar level of exfoliation as 50-70% glycolic acid. (7)

RELATED:

2. TCA CROSS Is Extremely Effective For Ice Pick Scars

Since the CROSS technique was developed in 2002, researchers have confirmed its effectiveness in multiple clinical trials around the world. (8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)

The pilot study by Lee et al. (2002) in South Korea showed that the targeted application of high concentration TCA (65% or 100%) led to good or excellent results in 27 of 33 patients in the 65% group (82%) and 30 of 32 patients in the 100% group (94%). (8)

Those are some very impressive numbers!

TCA CROSS Example
Source: Dr. Ben Behnam

Further studies by Yug et al. (2006) and Fabbrocini et al. (2008) in the U.S. and Italy, respectively, showed that TCA CROSS produced long-term decreases in acne scar depth and increases in collagen fibers, as seen in skin biopsies and clinical examinations. (10, 11)

Fabbrocini also found that 50% TCA was effective for scar revision (instead of 90-100%).

Finally, 3 Indian studies conducted clinical trials with 12, 30, and 53 patients, respectively, using 70-100% TCA on atrophic acne scars (predominantly ice pick scars). Good or excellent results were recorded in 100%, 93%, and 66% of patients, respectively. (12, 13, 14)

Overall, TCA CROSS is an exceptional treatment for ice pick scars, and results in significant scar improvement and high patient satisfaction.

3. TCA Is More Affordable Than Other Scar Treatments

I know I definitely don't want to pay $1,000+ per session for laser treatments when there are more cost-effective options available (source: PlasticSurgery.org).

According to RealSelf, the average cost of a full face TCA peel is about $200 a session (source: RealSelf). The actual cost depends on your area, clinic, and practitioner.

The average cost of TCA CROSS is roughly $200 a session as well (source: LA Skin MD).

For comparison's sake, the average cost of microneedling is $100-$200 a session, microdermabrasion is $175 a session, and intense pulsed light (IPL) is $600 a session.

Average Cost of Various Scar Treatments

While microneedling can also stimulate collagen growth, it may not be as effective for deeper atrophic scars as the needles must penetrate into the papillary (upper) dermis in order to promote wound healing and collagen remodeling. (also, needles scare me!)

Microdermabrasion only provides surface-level exfoliation while IPL is about as expensive as most laser treatments (almost $2,000 after 3 sessions!).

Now, if you're comfortable with doing a TCA peel or CROSS at-home, you can save a lot on expensive dermatologist visits (because you're really paying for their time and expertise, not the actual material cost of the chemical peel).

For a 10-15% TCA peel for beginners, it costs under $30 for a 1.0 oz bottle which should last (conservatively) at least 10 treatments:

For a 20-30% TCA peel for CROSS, it costs less than $60 for 1.0 oz (6 bottles of 0.17 oz) which could last a while depending on how many scars you're treating:

Is There Any Evidence From Medical Studies?

TCA Peel Medical Studies

I wouldn't be called The Derm Detective ???? if I didn't have any actual evidence.

That's why I've summarized 27 medical studies on TCA and TCA CROSS. You're welcome!

TCA Peel (20-35%) with or without Jessner's Solution

The following studies have found that TCA, with or without Jessner's solution, is a very effective treatment for atrophic acne scars, as shown by increased collagen formation and significant improvements in scar severity scores:

TCA Before and After by Laser and Skin Clinic Ireland
Example of Easy TCA peel before and after. Source: The Laser and Skin Clinic

TCA CROSS (50-100%)

Next up, the following studies on TCA CROSS highlight the effectiveness of this technique for pitted and ice pick scars:

TCA CROSS by Dr. Jason Emer
Example of TCA CROSS before and after. Source: Dr. Jason Emer
TCA CROSS by Bella Med Spa
Another example of TCA CROSS. Source: Bella Med Spa

TCA Peel: Comparison & Combination Studies

In addition to stand-alone studies on TCA, there's growing evidence that a combination approach with microneedling, subcision, and/or laser therapy yields the best results:

TCA Peel by Garg et al. (2014)
Example of combination therapy (subcision, microneedling, and 15% TCA). Source: Garg et al. (2014)
Example of "double anterior chemabrasion" technique. Source: Deprez (2019)

TCA CROSS: Comparison & Combination Studies

Similarly, TCA CROSS has been used in combination therapy:

TCA CROSS and Laser Therapy
Example of TCA CROSS plus 4 rounds of laser therapy (CO2, Erbium). Source: Reddit

Are There Any Side Effects Or Complications?

TCA Peel Side Effects and Complications

You should be aware of the following potential side effects and complications. (3)

Immediate

Delayed

Prevention Tips

With proper precautions, research shows that the risk of complications can be minimized, even in darker skin types. (12, 13, 17, 26, 31, 32)

TCA Aftercare Instructions

Here's my personal post-peel aftercare routine:

  1. After using a chemical peel neutralizer and/or thoroughly washing with cold water, apply a sheet mask like this one by Dermal Korea (super cheap and great quality!). After a peel is the best time for your skin to soak in some extra hydration and the sheet mask helps reduce redness and irritation as well.
  2. In the following 5-7 days, use your regular moisturizer or cream while your skin peels and new skin cells are pushed up (this is called "re-epithelialization"). I like to use Clinique Dramatically Different Gel+ and La-Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5.
  3. Avoid sun exposure and apply adequate sunscreen during the day (SPF 30+).
  4. If you are concerned about hyperpigmentation, continue using a melanin inhibitor like 2-4% hydroquinone or a vitamin C serum following the peel.

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TCA Peel for Acne Scars - Pinterest

Sources

(1) Soleymani T, et al. A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels: A Review of Fundamentals and Step-by-Step Algorithmic Protocol for Treatment. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(8):21-28. PubMed
(2) Gold MH, et al. Updated International Clinical Recommendations On Scar Management: Part 2 - Algorithms For Scar Prevention And Treatment. Dermatol Surg. 2014;40(8):825-831. PubMed
(3) Anitha B. Prevention Of Complications In Chemical Peeling. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2010;3(3):186-188. PubMed
(4) Nikalji N, et al. Complications Of Medium Depth And Deep Chemical Peels. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2012;5(4):254-260. PubMed
(5) Krueger N, et al. The History Of Aesthetic Medicine And Surgery. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013;12(7):737-42. PubMed
(6) Monash, S. The Uses Of Diluted Trichloroacetic Acid In Dermatology. Urol Cutan. 1945;49;119-120. Google Scholar
(7) Gozali MV, et al. Effective Treatments Of Atrophic Acne Scars. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2015;8(5):33-40. PubMed
(8) Lee JB, et al. Focal Treatment Of Acne Scars With Trichloroacetic Acid: Chemical Reconstruction Of Skin Scars Method. Dermatol Surg. 2002;28(11):1017-1021. PubMed
(9) Pastar I, et al. Epithelialization in Wound Healing: A Comprehensive Review. Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2014;3(7):445-464. PubMed
(10) Yug A, et al. Histologic Study Of Depressed Acne Scars Treated With Serial High-Concentration (95%) Trichloroacetic Acid. Dermatol Surg. 2006;32(8):985-990. PubMed
(11) Fabbrocini G, et al. Cross Technique: Chemical Reconstruction Of Skin Scars Method. Dermatol Ther. 2008;21 Suppl 3:S29-S32. PubMed
(12) Bhardwaj D, et al. An Assessment of the Efficacy and Safety of CROSS Technique with 100% TCA in the Management of Ice Pick Acne Scars. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2010;3(2):93-96. PubMed
(13) Khunger N, et al. Evaluation Of CROSS Technique With 100% TCA In The Management Of Ice Pick Acne Scars In Darker Skin Types. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2011;10(1):51-57. PubMed
(14) Agarwal N, et al. Therapeutic Response Of 70% Trichloroacetic Acid Cross In Atrophic Acne Scars. Dermatol Surg. 2015;41(5):597-604. PubMed
(15) Nelson BR, et al. Pilot Histologic And Ultrastructural Study Of The Effects Of Medium-depth Chemical Facial Peels On Dermal Collagen In Patients With Actinically Damaged Skin. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1995;32(3):472-478. PubMed
(16) Kang, et al. The Effect Of TCA Chemical Peel On Acne Scars. Korean J Dermatol. 1996;34(6):919-923. Elsevier
(17) Al-Waiz MM, et al. Medium-depth Chemical Peels In The Treatment Of Acne Scars In Dark-skinned Individuals. Dermatol Surg. 2002;28(5):383-387. PubMed
(18) Carniol PJ, et al. Evaluation Of Acne Scar Treatment With A 1450-nm Midinfrared Laser And 30% Trichloroacetic Acid Peels. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2005;7(4):251-255. PubMed
(19) Puri N. Efficacy of Modified Jessner's Peel and 20% TCA Versus 20% TCA Peel Alone for the Treatment of Acne Scars. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(1):42-45. PubMed
(20) Leheta TM, et al. Deep Peeling Using Phenol Versus Percutaneous Collagen Induction Combined With Trichloroacetic Acid 20% In Atrophic Post-acne Scars; A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Dermatolog Treat. 2014;25(2):130-136. PubMed
(21) Leheta TM, et al. Do Combined Alternating Sessions Of 1540 Nm Nonablative Fractional Laser And Percutaneous Collagen Induction With Trichloroacetic Acid 20% Show Better Results Than Each Individual Modality In The Treatment Of Atrophic Acne Scars? A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Dermatolog Treat. 2014;25(2):137-141. PubMed
(22) Garg S, et al. Combination Therapy In The Management Of Atrophic Acne Scars. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2014;7(1):18-23. PubMed
(23) El-Domyati M, et al. Microneedling Combined With Platelet-rich Plasma Or Trichloroacetic Acid Peeling For Management Of Acne Scarring: A Split-face Clinical And Histologic Comparison. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018;17(1):73-83. PubMed
(24) Taylor MB, et al. Single Session Treatment of Rolling Acne Scars Using Tumescent Anesthesia, 20% Trichloracetic Acid Extensive Subcision, and Fractional CO2 Laser. Dermatol Surg. 2017;43 Suppl 1:S70-S74. PubMed
(25) Deprez P. "Anterior" Chemabrasion For Acne Scars Treatment. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2019;12:141-149. PubMed
(26) Al-Hamamy HR, et al. Evaluation Of Treatment of Acne Scars with 25% Trichloroacetic Acid Chemical Peel Followed By Manual Dermasanding. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020;10.1111/jocd.13754. PubMed
(27) Kang WH, et al. Atrophic Acne Scar Treatment Using Triple Combination Therapy: Dot Peeling, Subcision And Fractional Laser. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2009;11(4):212-215. PubMed
(28) Ramadan SA, et al. Subcision Versus 100% Trichloroacetic Acid In The Treatment Of Rolling Acne Scars. Dermatol Surg. 2011;37(5):626-633. PubMed
(29) Leheta T, et al. Percutaneous Collagen Induction Versus Full-concentration Trichloroacetic Acid In The Treatment Of Atrophic Acne Scars. Dermatol Surg. 2011;37(2):207-216. PubMed
(30) Nofal E, et al. Platelet-rich Plasma Versus Cross Technique With 100% Trichloroacetic Acid Versus Combined Skin Needling And Platelet Rich Plasma In The Treatment Of Atrophic Acne Scars: A Comparative Study. Dermatol Surg. 2014;40(8):864-873. PubMed
(31) Kaur J, et al. Subcision Plus 50% Trichloroacetic Acid Chemical Reconstruction Of Skin Scars In The Management Of Atrophic Acne Scars: A Cost-effective Therapy. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2014;5(1):95-97. PubMed
(32) Chae WS, et al. A Comparative Study Of The Efficacy And Safety Of 100% TCA Cross And Phenol Cross For Atrophic Acne Scarring. Korean J Dermatol. 2014;52(5):293-301. Korean Dermatological Association
(33) Ahmed R, et al. Randomized Clinical Trial Of CO₂ Laser Pinpoint Irradiation Technique Versus Chemical Reconstruction Of Skin Scars (CROSS) In Treating Ice Pick Acne Scars. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2014;16(1):8-13. PubMed
(34) Dalpizzol M, et al. Comparative Study of the Use of Trichloroacetic Acid and Phenolic Acid in the Treatment of Atrophic-Type Acne Scars. Dermatol Surg. 2016;42(3):377-383. PubMed
(35) Bahl A, et al. Treatment Of Atrophic Acne Scars With Combination Therapy Of Chemical Reconstruction Of Skin Scars Method And Fractionated Nonablative Laser: A Retrospective Analysis. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020;10.1111/jocd.13514. PubMed

Summary: The Multi-Acid Peel uses multiple forms of exfoliation to promote brighter, tighter, and glowing skin with fewer wrinkles.

Best For: Wrinkles & Fine Lines

Key Ingredients:
AHA Blend (Glycolic, Lactic, Malic)
BHA (Salicylic Acid)
TXA (Tranexamic Acid)
Holy Basil (Antioxidant)

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Sephora

Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel

The age-old question in skincare (pun intended) is, "how can I look younger than my real age?"

While aging is an inevitable process, it is possible to "age gracefully" like a fine wine. ????

That's where Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel comes in. It's a powerful chemical peel designed to target common signs of aging like dullness, wrinkles & fine lines, and age spots.

It uses multiple acids to promote a wide range of exfoliation in the epidermis and upper dermis to remove dead skin cells and increase cell turnover, resulting in brighter and tighter skin.

It also softens rough skin texture and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel Ad

The key ingredients include:

Antioxidants such as Holy Basil, Chamomile Extract, Vitamin E, and Turmeric are also included to prevent free radical damage (a process that causes cell damage over time).

Finally, customer reviews have been quite positive, with some saying it helped reduce pore sizes and acne scars, and saw brighter and smoother skin. Others said it left behind an oily film and may even block pores due to the third ingredient on the list (C13-16 Isoparaffin).

My Verdict: Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel combines AHAs, BHA, and TXA to fight signs of aging, like wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damage, so you can "age gracefully" with confidence.

Platinum Skin Care TCA Peel 7-13-20-30

Summary: Platinum Skin Care offers varying levels of TCA for dramatic anti-aging benefits at very reasonable prices.

Best For: Wrinkles and Fine Lines, Hyperpigmentation, Sun Damage, Inflammatory Acne, Acne Scars

TCA Concentration Guide:
7% - Eyes
13% - Face
20% - Advanced
30% - Body or TCA CROSS

Get It @ Platinum Skin Care

Platinum Skin Care TCA Peel 7-13-20-30

Platinum Skin Care is my top pick for an effective and affordable TCA peel. With over 800+ reviews, their TCA peel is one of the bestsellers on the market and offers 4 different concentrations:

Now, TCA is normally considered a medium peel, when using a low concentration (13% or 20%) in multiple layers or when using a high concentrations (30%) in single layers.

Beginners should start by using 13-15% TCA in monolayer which is considered a superficial peel.

In terms of skin penetration, a medium TCA peel can reach the upper layers of the dermis before it self-neutralizes (that's right - you don't need a separate neutralizing solution!).

To help illustrate this, the diagram below shows the depth of TCA penetration:

Depth of Chemical Peel Penetration - Annotated

Now, let's talk about safety for a minute. The first step is to make sure you're getting the right TCA peel for your concern and experience level (when in doubt, start with the lower concentration).

If you are considering a high concentration TCA peel (50-100%), you should be aware of the risks: studies have shown that higher TCA percentages have a greater risk of side effects, including discoloration, scarring, and infections (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018).

In fact, it is actually safer to perform a low concentration TCA peel (15-30%) using multiple passes (layers) to achieve similar results to that of a higher concentration TCA peel.

In most cases, you should expect to see flaking and redness in the following days, with complete exfoliation in 10 to 14 days (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018).

In terms of peel application, here is a great tutorial video by dermatologist Dr. Davin Lim:

Platinum Skin Care also has a wealth of information on TCA here and here.

Finally, if you have a darker skin tone, there's the concern of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) as a possible side effect of using a TCA peel. There are ways to reduce this risk, such as:

My Verdict: Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) is an excellent, but often misunderstood, chemical peel for wrinkles and fine lines, pigmentation disorders like melasma, acne and acne scarring, and the general maintenance of healthy, smooth, and glowing skin. Platinum Skin Care offers a variety of TCA peels for different concerns and experience levels in 1.0 oz (set of 6 vials) and 2.0 oz bottles.

Platinum Skin Care Mandelic Peel 22-40+

Summary: Platinum Skin Care is my #1 pick for an effective and affordable mandelic acid peel.

Best For: Dark Spots, Uneven Tone, Hyperpigmentation, Sensitive Skin, Inflammatory Acne, and Rosacea

Key Ingredients:
Your Choice of Mandelic Acid
(20% or 40%+)

Get It @ Platinum Skin Care

Platinum Skin Care Mandelic Peel 22-40+

Platinum Skin Care is my top pick and offers two high-quality mandelic acid peels:

The first peel is actually 20% mandelic acid plus 2% azelaic acid (a helpful skin brightening agent) and is best suited for sensitive skin, but also for teens and pre-teens to control acne breakouts.

If you've had a glycolic acid peel in the past, you should have no problems with 40% mandelic acid as the depth of overall skin penetration is very limited in comparison.

To help illustrate this difference, the diagram below shows the depth of mandelic acid penetration on the left (in yellow arrows) while glycolic acid penetration is shown on the right (in purple arrows):

A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels - Figure 2

(image courtesy: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018)

As you can see, mandelic acid penetrates only the epidermis (the topmost layer of your skin) while glycolic acid penetrates through the epidermis and into the upper dermis layers.

Finally, if you're a busy person, or need to look your best all the time, mandelic acid is a great option as there's hardly any peeling, flaking, or redness, to speak of at all.

My Verdict: Platinum Skin Care offers two high-quality mandelic acid peels. Start with the 22% if you have sensitive skin or you're struggling with rosacea or teenage acne. Otherwise, you should be fine with 40% mandelic acid, especially if you're had glycolic peels in the past.

Platinum Skin Care Salicylic Peel 3-15-25

Summary: Platinum Skin Care has put everything you need for a salicylic acid peel in this starter kit.

Best For: Beginners, Convenience (also makes a great gift idea ????)

Each Set Contains:
-Your Choice of Salicylic Acid
(3%, 15% or 25%)
-Peel Prep Solution
-Post-Peel Neutralizer
-Fan Brush or Gauze Pads

Get It @ Platinum Skin Care

Platinum Skin Care Salicylic Acid Boxed Kit

If you’re looking for a starter kit, Platinum Skin Care has you covered with their Salicylic Acid Kit.

This convenient set includes everything you need to get started:

This salicylic acid kit is perfect for beginners and should last you about 4-6 months. The only thing that’s missing is a post-peel recovery cream, and for that, I’d recommend two products:

In this video, Jen from Platinum Skin Care explains how salicylic acid works (it's an oil-soluble BHA), which acid concentration you should use (3% - mini, 15% - beginners, 25% - advanced), and what you can expect in terms of results and side effects (e.g. flaking, dryness, redness).

With regular use, the 15% salicylic acid peel can help clear up inflammatory acne, flatten pimples, prevent breakouts, and also reduce the appearance of post-acne marks and pigmentation.

My Verdict: For the ultimate convenience, Platinum Skin Care's Salicylic Acid Kit has everything you need to start peeling at home for healthier, smoother, and clearer-looking skin. ????

Platinum Skin Care Lactic Acid 50

Summary: Platinum Skin Care has put everything you need for a lactic acid peel in this starter kit.

Best For: Beginners, Convenience (also makes a great gift idea ????)

Each Set Contains:
-Lactic Acid 50% Peel
-Peel Prep Solution
-Post-Peel Neutralizer
-Fan Brush or Gauze Strips

Get It @ Platinum Skin Care

Platinum Skin Care Lactic Acid Boxed Kit

If you're looking for a starter kit, Platinum Skin Care has you covered with their Lactic Acid 50 Kit.

This convenient set includes everything you need to get started:

This lactic acid kit is perfect for beginners and should last you about 4-6 months. The only thing that’s missing is a post-peel recovery cream, and for that, I’d recommend two products:

In this video, Jen from Platinum Skin Care explains that lactic acid penetrates very superficially into your epidermis due to its large molecule size, making it a great option for dry or sensitive skin.

With regular use, lactic acid peels help improve many skin conditions, including hyperpigmentation, uneven tone, inflammatory acne, chronic dry skin, wrinkles and fine lines, and much more.

My Verdict: For the ultimate convenience, Platinum Skin Care's Lactic Acid 50 Kit has everything you need to start peeling at home for healthier, smoother, and more radiant-looking skin. ????

Platinum Skin Care Glycolic Acid 30-50-70

Summary: Platinum Skin Care has put everything you need for a glycolic acid peel in this starter kit.

Best For: Beginners, Convenience (also makes a great gift idea ????)

Each Set Contains:
-Your Choice of Glycolic Acid
(30%, 50% or 70%)
-Peel Prep Solution
-Post-Peel Neutralizer
-Fan Brush or Gauze Pads

Get It @ Platinum Skin Care

Platinum Skin Care Glycolic Acid Boxed Kit

If you're looking for a more traditional liquid chemical peel (that offers amazing value for money), I'd highly recommend this glycolic acid starter kit by Platinum Skin Care.

Each starter kit includes:

When used regularly (~1x a week), a glycolic acid peel can help with many skin conditions, including hyperpigmentation, dark spots, melasma, inflammatory acne, chronic dry skin, and much more.

Chemical peels also help restore normal skin texture by promoting collagen and elastin growth, which can reduce the appearance of old acne scars as well as wrinkles and fine lines (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018).

This glycolic acid kit is perfect for beginners and should last you about 4-6 months. The only thing that's missing is a post-peel recovery cream, and for that, I'd recommend two products:

Also, I should mention this starter kit includes a 2.0 oz bottle of glycolic acid, which is double the usual amount for a chemical peel. For a smaller size (1.0 oz), I recommend this one by Planet Eden which I recently bought for myself and found to be excellent quality as well.

Finally, customer reviews for Platinum Skin Care have been positive, with users commenting about brighter, smoother, and softer skin, with fewer blemishes and dark spots, after multiple sessions.

My Verdict: For beginners to chemical peels, I recommend Platinum Skin Care's Glycolic Acid Kit which includes a glycolic acid peel (choose 30%), peel prep solution, and post-peel neutralizer.

Today, I'm going to discuss my experience with the Planet Eden Glycolic Acid Peel Kit, including:

Does this product live up to its claims? Let’s find out. ⭐

RELATED:

ⓘ In today's post, I'll share my 2¢ on the Planet Eden Glycolic Acid Peel Kit!

Planet Eden Glycolic Acid Peel Kit

Summary: This 4-Piece Set by Planet Eden has almost everything you need for a chemical peel. ????

Best For: Dark Spots, Uneven Tone

Key Ingredients:
30% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ Amazon

Planet Eden Glycolic Acid Peel Kit

For beginners to chemical peels, I highly recommend the Planet Eden 30% Glycolic Acid 4-Piece Set.

This starter kit includes:

Overall, this set provides you almost everything you need to get started. You'll still want to pick up a neutralizing solution (Planet Eden makes one as well) or mix your own with baking soda and water.

Planet Eden Chemical Peel Starter Kit

I bought this starter set recently and have been using it once a week for my acne scars, dark spots, and uneven skin tone. Here are my thoughts so far:

My Verdict: The Planet Eden 30% Glycolic Acid 4-Piece Set is the perfect way to get started with regular, affordable at-home chemical peels for smoother, brighter, and more even-looking skin.

Up Next:
The Best Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation

Best Chemical Peel for Hyperpigmentation

Today, I'm going to discuss a classic cult-favorite: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution.

Does this product live up to its claims? Let’s find out. ⭐

RELATED:

ⓘ In today's post, I'll share my 2¢ on The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution!

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Summary: The Ordinary's AHA 30% plus BHA 2% Peeling Solution has quietly amassed a cult following of peel enthusiasts. ????

Best For: Uneven Tone, Aging Skin

Key Ingredients:
30% AHA, 2% BHA

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Sephora

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

If you're looking for a powerful chemical peel (that's also super affordable), I highly recommend The Ordinary's AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution.

A word of caution, though: this product contains a high concentration of free acids and should only be used by more experienced peelers.

According to The Ordinary's website, the AHAs and BHAs in this formula include:

The AHAs help increase cell turnover for brighter and smoother skin while the BHA penetrates deep into oily skin to remove excess oils and open up clogged pores.

The Ordinary AHA 30% BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Panthenol (Vitamin B5) and Hyaluronic Acid are both included to restore skin hydration while Tasmanian Pepperberry (the source of the red color) reduces skin irritation.

The Ordinary has a reputation for well-formulated skincare products and this one is no exception. The pH of 3.6 matches the pKa of glycolic acid, ensuring "ideal balance between salt and acidity" to maximize the formula's effectiveness while minimizing any side effects. ????

My Verdict: The AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is an outstanding alternative to expensive professional treatments and has amassed a cult following of peel enthusiasts. Use this advanced peel 1-2x weekly to fade brown spots, even out skin tone, and reduce premature signs of aging.

Up Next:
The Best Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation

Best Chemical Peel for Hyperpigmentation

Today, I'm going to discuss the popular Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads.

Does this product live up to its claims? Let’s find out. ⭐

RELATED:

ⓘ In today's post, I'll share my 2¢ on Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads!

Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads

Summary: That's Incredi-Peel is an incredibly gentle peel with soothing botanical extracts. ????

Best For: Sensitive Skin

Key Ingredients:
10% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Bliss World

Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads

Bliss, a spa-powered skin wellness brand, takes their knowledge and experience from the spa to your home with their individually wrapped That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads.

If you have sensitive skin, you'll be glad to know that all Bliss products are free of parabens, phthalates, SLS, SLES, petrolatum, and mineral oil and are 100% cruelty-free.

This 10% glycolic acid peel targets discolorations and imperfections by breaking down the cellular glue that holds dead skin cells together and releasing trapped oils and pollutants in your skin.

Over time, it helps improve your skin's natural cell turnover and repair cycle to reveal smoother, healthier, and more even-looking skin. It may also reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Bliss also added soothing botanical ingredients to reduce skin irritation and inflammation, including Witch Hazel, Licorice Root Extract, and Calendula Flower Extract. Meanwhile, Vitamin E and Glycerin help prevent environmental damage and increase skin hydration, respectively.

With 500+ reviews, many users commented that these peel pads kept their pores squeaky clean, lightened sun damage, and improved their overall complexion.

The most common complaints include: some experienced skin sensitivity or irritation while others didn't experience any noticeable improvements in their scars or dark spots.

My Verdict: Featuring 10% glycolic acid, Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Peel Pads (try saying that again!) are an affordable way to experience soothing spa-quality formulas that fight hyperpigmentation.

Up Next:
The Best Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation

Best Chemical Peel for Hyperpigmentation

Today, I'm going to discuss the bestselling chemical peels from QRxLabs:

Do these products live up to their claims? Let’s find out. ⭐

Special Coupon: Save more when you shop more at QRxLabs. Use promo code COMBO3 to save 10% on purchases of 3 products and promo code COMBO4 to save 15% on 4 products. ????

RELATED:

ⓘ In today's post, I'll share my 2¢ on the best QRxLabs chemical peels!

1. QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads

Summary: The QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads offer incredible value for money. ????

Best For: Dark Spots, Uneven Tone

Key Ingredients:
20% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ QRxLabs

QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads

If you want the best value for money, I recommend the QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads which are suitable for dark spots, acne marks, dull skin, uneven tone, and wrinkles & fine lines.

What's nice is that these peel pads come super saturated with a 20% glycolic acid solution so you'll get a lot of value out of them before the pads dry out. This product also features a texturized surface for physical exfoliation and a convenient finger notch to hold the pads.

In terms of ingredients, Glycolic Acid is the main (and only) chemical agent in this product to help your skin cells turnover faster and reveal new layers of brighter, more even-looking skin.

Meanwhile, Vitamins C & E provide antioxidant benefits and promote collagen deposition (an important step for repairing textural issues like scars and wrinkles).

Panthenol (Vitamin B5) and Allantoin help your skin retain moisture and accelerate the post-peel healing process while Green Tea and Calendula Flower Extracts reduce stinging and irritation.

QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads

Reviews so far have been very positive, although some reviewers made claims that sound too good to be true (e.g. "instant results", "1 week improvements", etc.). I would caution against forming your opinion based on the most positive reviews as these tend to overstate the actual results.

The most common complaints include: the product leaves behind a sticky residue and some people experienced breakouts or rashes after using this product.

My Verdict: Featuring 20% glycolic acid, the QRxLabs Resurfacing Pads strike a perfect balance between effectiveness and affordability. Add these peel pads to your daily routine for brighter, smoother, and healthier-looking skin.

Special Coupon: Save more when you shop more at QRxLabs. Use promo code COMBO3 to save 10% on purchases of 3 products and promo code COMBO4 to save 15% on 4 products. ????

2. QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel

Summary: QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel is a great starting point for your first liquid peel. ????

Best For: Uneven Tone, Acne Scars

Key Ingredients:
30% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ QRxLabs

QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel

For beginners, 30% glycolic acid is generally considered the best starting point as it provides a mild level of exfoliation but still delivers noticeable results for your skin (for more sensitive skin, a good alternative is 10% mandelic acid or 10% lactic acid).

Decades of clinical research has shown that "the most popular and time-tested superficial peeling agent is glycolic acid..." (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018)

30% glycolic acid is usually strong enough to significantly improve mild-to-moderate cases of hyperpigmentation, including dark spots, acne marks, and sun damage.

Glycolic acid also helps smooth out uneven skin texture such as wrinkles, fine lines, and acne scars.

There are hundreds of brands that offer glycolic acid peels. From my (many hours of) research, I've found that the following ones provide the highest quality:

  1. Perfect Image: 1,000's of reviews, peels cost between $25-$30 a bottle
  2. QRxLabs: 100's of reviews, peels are a bit cheaper at $20 a bottle
  3. Planet Eden: 100's of reviews, peels start at $15.50 a bottle and include a free fan brush
QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel

Perfect Image has the most number of ratings for its Glycolic 30% Gel Peel but is more expensive than QRxLabs and the shipping is sometimes not included.

However, I really like that they've created a categorization system using Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 that helps beginners determine which peel is most suitable for them.

QRxLabs is my top recommendation right now as they offer excellent value for money.

The QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel is (as the name says) a gel, rather than a liquid, which makes the peel easier to work with and prevents it from dripping into your eyes or mouth. It also contains Green Tea and Chamomile Extracts to reduce skin irritation. ????

Planet Eden is another great choice and also includes a free fan brush. However, shipping may take a few days longer as they do it themselves instead of using Amazon's warehouses. I also highly recommend their starter kits which include an additional cleanser and recovery cream.

My Verdict: 30% glycolic acid is the best starting point for beginners and has been shown to be clinically effective for mild-to-moderate cases of hyperpigmentation. Perfect Image, QRxLabs, and Planet Eden all offer excellent versions of this popular peel for a fraction of the professional cost.

⚠️ Important Note: You should always neutralize glycolic acid peels to prevent excessive peeling! Try this at-home baking soda solution or pick up a chemical peel neutralizer.

QRxLabs Coupon: Save more when you shop more at QRxLabs. Use promo code COMBO3 to save 10% on purchases of 3 products and promo code COMBO4 to save 15% on 4 products. ????

3. QRxLabs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel

Summary: QRxLabs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel is a suitable "step-up" peel for experienced users. ????

Best For: Uneven Tone, Sun Spots

Key Ingredients:
50% Lactic Acid

Get It @ QRxLabs

QRx Labs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel

Once you're ready to step up your peel game, consider trying a 50% lactic acid peel.

This alpha hydroxy acid is structurally similar to its glycolic acid cousin but with fewer side effects and faster recovery times (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018).

Lactic acid has demonstrated comparable results to glycolic acid in clinical studies for the treatment of hyperpigmentation, wrinkles & fine lines, and sun damage. However, be prepared for up to 2 weeks of recovery time while your skin repairs itself after a 50% lactic acid peel.

The two brands that I currently recommend are:

QRx Labs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel

Both are gel peels that reduce the risk of chemicals dripping into your eyes or mouth. Both also include skin lightening agents like Kojic Acid and Bearberry Extract to help fade your dark spots even faster by inhibiting melanin synthesis (QRxLabs also includes Licorice Root Extract).

Overall, both lactic acid peels have excellent customer reviews with comments of brighter skin tone, reduced signs of aging, and smoother skin texture.

My Verdict: If beginner peels aren't cutting it anymore for your skin, consider stepping up to an intermediate peel like the 50% Lactic Acid Peel to counter signs of aging and hyperpigmentation. Perfect Image and QRxLabs both offer excellent products with bonus skin lightening ingredients.

⚠️ Important Note: As this is a professional grade and unbuffered chemical peel, please make sure you have successfully completed a beginner peel first (such as 30% glycolic acid). The high acid concentration can seriously damage your skin if you do not take adequate precautions.

QRxLabs Coupon: Save more when you shop more at QRxLabs. Use promo code COMBO3 to save 10% on purchases of 3 products and promo code COMBO4 to save 15% on 4 products. ????

Up Next:
The Best Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation

Best Chemical Peel for Hyperpigmentation

Today, I'm going to discuss the award-winning Exuviance Performance Peel AP25.

Does this product live up to its claims? Let’s find out. ⭐

RELATED:

ⓘ In today's post, I'll share my 2¢ on Exuviance Performance Peel AP25!

Exuviance Performance Peel AP25

Summary: The award-winning Performance Peel AP25 provides powerful exfoliation to treat stubborn hyperpigmentation.

Best For: Melasma, Age Spots

Key Ingredients:
25% AHAs & PHAs

Get It @ Exuviance, Ulta Beauty

Exuviance Performance Peel AP25

For more stubborn hyperpigmentation such as melasma, Exuviance's award-winning Performance Peel AP25 might be just the solution for you (as seen in Harper's Bazaar: 150 Beauty Must-Have's).

These individually wrapped 2-step peel pads are infused with a powerful blend of 25% Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, and Gluconolactone (a gentle acid molecule known as a polyhydroxy acid).

Studies show that one of the best at home chemical peels for melasma is 30-50% glycolic acid which helps fade common symptoms like brown spots & gray patches. (source: Chemical Peels in Melasma: A Review with Consensus Recommendations by Indian Pigmentary Expert Group, 2017)

While Performance Peel AP25 only uses 25% glycolic acid, it's also boosted by mandelic acid and gluconolactone for additional exfoliation to reduce skin discoloration. ????

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUUa9SVllac

Given the strong concentration of this product, Exuviance recommends using it only twice a week.

Make sure to do a patch test first to ensure no irritation or discomfort occurs within the first 24 hours (this is included in the 13 treatments per box, so you have 12 remaining sets for a total of 6 weeks).

In terms of results, Exuviance cites the following from their 30-day clinical study:

However, it is worth noting that participants used Performance Peel AP25 in combination with other Exuviance products, which means these statements aren't necessarily reflective of AP25 on its own.

Having said that, Performance Peel has received outstanding reviews on Exuviance and Ulta Beauty where there's currently over 600 ratings with an impressive number of 5-stars on both platforms.

Exuviance Performance Peel AP25 Full Size

Many customers reported reduced signs of melasma, more even skin tone, softer wrinkles & fine lines, smoother skin texture, and smaller pore sizes.

Again, don't just take my word for it: have a look at some of the user feedback.

On the other hand, most of the negative reviews were due to unauthentic products from third-party Amazon sellers (always a risk with popular items). For this reason, I recommend buying AP25 directly from Exuviance or from Ulta Beauty which is an authorized retailer.

My Verdict: For stubborn forms of hyperpigmentation like melasma, the Performance Peel AP25 offers a powerful solution with 25% AHAs & PHAs, strong clinical results, and outstanding reviews. ????

Up Next:
The Best Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation

Best Chemical Peel for Hyperpigmentation

If you're looking for the best moisturizers to use after a chemical peel, you're in the right place!

ⓘ In this post, I'll help you find the right moisturizer after a chemical peel!

RELATED:

What Are The Best Moisturizers To Use After A Chemical Peel?

Here are my top picks for the best moisturizers to help your skin recover following a chemical peel:

  1. Best Overall Pick: Dermal Korea Collagen Essence Sheet Masks (24 Pack)
  2. Best Recovery Cream: La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5
  3. Best Recovery Lotion: Avène Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream
  4. Best Recovery Balm: Barker Goods Organic Balm for Scars
  5. Best Value for Money: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
  6. Best for Deep Hydration: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
  7. Best for Post-Aesthetic Procedures: Glytone Soothing Lipid Recovery Cream

1. Best Overall Pick: Dermal Korea Collagen Essence Sheet Masks (24 Pack)

Summary: I love using these Korean sheet masks post-peel to reduce redness & rehydrate. ????

Best For: Post-Peel Recovery

Key Ingredients:
Collagen
Vitamin E

Get It @ Amazon

Dermal Korea Collagen Essence Sheet Masks

2. Best Recovery Cream: La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5

Summary: La Roche-Posay is my preferred recovery cream to slather on after a chemical peel. ????

Best For: Post-Peel Recovery

Key Ingredients:
5% Panthenol
Madecassoside
Copper, Zinc, Manganese

Get It @ Amazon

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5

3. Best Recovery Lotion: Avène Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream

Summary: This Avène skin cream helps soothe irritated skin and improve skin hydration. ????

Best For: Post-Peel Recovery

Key Ingredients:
C+ Restore
Copper-Zinc Sulfate Complex Avène Thermal Spring Water

Get It @ Amazon

Avène Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream

4. Best Recovery Balm: Barker Goods Organic Balm for Scars

Summary: This Barker Goods Balm is great not just for scars, but for nourishing your skin barrier. ????

Best For: Post-Peel Hydration

Key Ingredients:
Organic Olive Oil
Organic Beeswax
Organic Coconut Oil
Organic Carnauba Wax
Vitamin E

Get It @ Amazon

Barker Goods Organic Balm for Scars

5. Best Value for Money: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

Summary: First Aid Beauty's bestselling Ultra Repair Cream is a super affordable facial cream with antioxidant protection. ????

Best For: Post-Peel Hydration

Key Ingredients:
Colloidal Oatmeal
Shea Butter
Allantoin

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Sephora

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

6. Best for Deep Hydration: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

Summary: I'm a huge fan of Laneige's Water Sleeping Mask which can add a massive boost of hydration to your skin. ????

Best For: Post-Peel Hydration

Key Ingredients:
Sleep-Tox™
Hydro Ionized Mineral Water
Moisture Wrap™

Get It @ Sephora

Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

7. Best for Post-Aesthetic Procedures: Glytone Soothing Lipid Recovery Cream

Summary:

Best For: Post-Aesthetic Procedures (Chemical Peels, Laser Therapy, Microdermabrasion, Microneedling)

Key Ingredients:
Camelina Oil
Pro-Vitamin A
Shea Butter

Get It @ Amazon

Glytone Soothing Lipid Recovery Cream
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