For many years now, I've been looking for a solution to my atrophic acne scars, which serve as a constant reminder of my teenage and adult years struggling with cystic acne.
After using a 30% glycolic acid peel in early 2020 with good results, I decided to step up to a more advanced peel with trichloroacetic acid (TCA): Revitaboost Peel Pads 35%.
This product contains 35% alpha hydroxy acids (TCA, glycolic, mandelic, malic, citric) to provide multi-level exfoliation with a mix of stronger and weaker acids.
In particular, I was interested in seeing if the TCA and glycolic acid combination could help improve the pitted / indented scars on my forehead and temples.
So how well did this product work? Let's find out!
(p.s. my before/after photos are included)
On paper, the formulation is very impressive - boasting the 5 AHAs I mentioned earlier, plus willow bark extract (a natural source of salicylic acid) and a list of botanical extracts (green tea, cucumber, chamomile, comfrey, ylang-ylang, rooibos, yarrow) that soothe skin.
Of course, with a chemical peel, we're mostly concerned with the peeling agents themselves and whether the product is formulated at an effective pH level.
Based on their order of appearance, the formula is predominantly glycolic acid and TCA, followed by mandelic acid and malic acid, with smaller amounts of citric acid.
Overall, the ingredient list is very good - it's packed with active agents and boosters, with no unnecessary additives or skin irritants (like alcohol in some chemical peels 🤔).
Next, onto the product design.
Revitaboost comes in a sturdy plastic jar with an inner safety seal to prevent leakage.
(although it did leak out once when I turned it upside down - you have to be super careful with making sure the lid is shut tight)
It's easy enough to use as well - just open the jar and pick out a peel pad to start swiping. But first, I'd recommend wearing latex gloves to prevent your fingers from peeling.
On the other hand, the peel pads themselves can be difficult to pick up as they don't have any finger notches like you'd normally see with brands like Stridex.
The first few times, I tried to separate the peel pads (without wearing gloves) and ended up squeezing more liquid into my fingers than onto my face. 🤦♂️
One of the first things I noticed was that the peel pads felt a little bit dry and there was not a whole lot of excess solution at the bottom of the container.
For me, this meant that using one was not enough to cover the entire face, and definitely not enough to do a second or third layer (because TCA goes deeper with more layers).
An easy solution is to turn the stack of peel pads upside down (using gloves, of course) before you pick out the one you're going to use. Or pick one from the middle.
The pads would sometimes come apart as well and leave behind little bits on my skin (like when you're using cotton balls to apply a toner and you get some of it stuck on your face).
Overall, I think the quality of these peel pads could be improved. I've definitely used softer and more durable ones before, like Stridex (which is only a drugstore brand).
Of course, the most important question is: does Revitaboost provide any results?
And the answer is: YES! As I'll explain through my before/after photos, Revitaboost does provide visible results vis-à-vis brighter skin tone, reduced redness, smoother skin, and a mild-to-moderate degree of scar improvement.
Next, I've provided my before (around late Sept 2020) and after (mid Jan 2021) photos:
Note: I have some Vaseline around my eyes, nose, and mouth in the before photos which is why my face looks so shiny (photos were taken just before my first treatment).
The most noticeable difference in these photos is a much lighter skin tone - most obvious when you look at the full face picture.
There was also a mild reduction in redness on my forehead and cheeks.
In terms of blemishes and minor acne scars (ice pick and boxcar) on my cheeks, I don't feel that Revitaboost made a significance difference (both objectively and subjectively).
But my skin did feel smoother at the end of each peeling session (about 2 weeks).
Next, let's take a look at the atrophic acne scars on my temples.
Here, I've included two sets of photos, one taken using a traditional camera angle and another using the "angled lightning" approach to better capture the depth of my scars (by casting a shadow over them).
First, I want to make the important caveat that it's very difficult to make a definitive statement using the angled lightning technique as it's really dependent on where your light source is relative to the surface of your scars.
For example, if my light source is angled just slightly more in one photo than the other, it may lessen the extent of the resulting shadow and give the false impression that the scar itself has somehow improved.
In any case, I have tried to replicate the "setup" of both photos as closely as possible, and I would say that there appears to be a moderate improvement in my scars.
The edges of my atrophic scars are somewhat smoother, although the actual "pits" themselves have not improved too much (and will likely require TCA CROSS).
Note: the "after" photo looks a little better than it actually is because I didn't get the light to shine exactly across like in the "before" photo. So the shadows are a bit more muted.
Next, here's the other side:
On the right side, the photos are a bit more comparable given the way the light casts over the scars here.
You can see that the deepest scars near my eyebrows are little changed, and this isn't too surprising as it most likely requires a higher level of TCA using the CROSS technique to effectively "burn" out the scar tissue there.
The remaining atrophic scars seem slightly smoother and less jagged than before.
Overall, I'm very satisfied with the results from Revitaboost 35% after 8 treatments.
I think that with additional treatments, plus a TCA CROSS treatment, I can reduce the visibility of my atrophic scars even more. To Be Continued...
Finally, the product gets top marks for affordability at $29.95 for 30 peel pads ($1 each).
That compares to $100+ for a typical in-office glycolic acid peel at your dermatologist.
It's also great value compared to liquid chemical peels that usually sell for $25-$30 an oz as you usually only get 12-15 uses out of each bottle (vs. 30 here).