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TCA Peel Vs. Glycolic Peel

author image Whitney Dickinson
Whitney Dickinson is a professional writer focusing on fitness, nutrition, goal-setting, motivation and travel. Dickinson is a National Strength and Conditioning Association certified personal trainer. She earned her Bachelor of Science in exercise science and Master of Science in kinesiology, and is currently completing a Master of Science in psychology.
TCA Peel Vs. Glycolic Peel
Brush applying a facial peel Photo Credit: Serghei Starus/iStock/Getty Images

If you are looking for smoother, brighter, younger-looking skin without cosmetic surgery, chemical peels may be an option. With various types of peels available, though, knowing what is best for your skin and the results you want may be confusing. Trichloroacetic acid, or TCA, peels elicit deeper effects and have longer recovery times than glycolic peels.

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TCA Peel

TCA peels are intended to reach a medium depth layer of your skin. They are often used to treat fine surface wrinkles, superficial blemishes, pigment problems and shallow scars. TCA peels are more aggressive than glycolic peels, but they are not as invasive as phenol peels. The procedure only takes 10 to 15 minutes, but sun exposure should be limited for several months afterward to protect the new layer of skin.

Glycolic Peel

Glycolic peels are a more gentle form of chemical peel that primarily penetrates the most superficial layer of skin. They remove blemishes, brighten skin, fade sunspots, hide acne scars and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Because they are mild, glycolic peels require less recovery time. Best results are achieved after performing multiple peels over a period of time.

Recovery Time

Due to the mild nature of glycolic peels, recovery time is virtually nonexistent. Slight irritation may occur to the skin, but it will not be enough to disrupt normal daily activities. TCA peels, however, may take three to seven days for the new layer of skin to develop, and 14 days for the healing process to complete.


Glycolic peels may cost $150 to $300 per treatment, with repeated procedures every six weeks. At-home versions may also be used, although the results are commonly not as good as professional treatments. TCA peels are pricier, at $1,000 to $2,000 per treatment. Procedures are recommended every two to three months.


Because microdermabrasion and chemical peels both deeply exfoliate the skin, they should not be used concurrently. Consult a physician before deciding to use any chemical peel. Only qualified cosmetic dermatologists and plastic surgeons should guide you through deeper chemical peels, since they may require pain medicine to ease discomfort. Always avoid sun after a chemical peel procedure, and use sunscreen on a daily basis. Follow your skin-care provider’s guidelines and warnings so you do not cause damage to your skin.

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