Universal Trichloroacetic Acid Peel Technique for Light and Dark Skin

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Despite their great potential, medium and deep trichloroacetic acid peels are underused in light-skinned patients and are rarely used in darker-skinned patients because of the widespread fear of pigmentary complications and scarring. This concern has led many physicians to opt for the use of lighter types of peels (glycolic acid peel, Jessner peel, etc) and different lasers and intense light technologies. Trichloroacetic acid peels have been described in numerous publications. However, no study to date has described the precise technique and the practical pearls of a successful trichloroacetic acid peel approach in a clear, detailed, and reproducible manner.


To clarify a practical approach to a universal trichloroacetic acid peel and to offer novice and experienced facial plastic surgeons an organized, easy, and safe technique for medium and deep trichloroacetic acid peels.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This study was a case series of universal trichloroacetic acid peels in an academic setting. The study dates were January 1, 1996, to November 1, 2015.

Main Outcomes and Methods

This article discusses the preoperative evaluation for a chemical peel, a previously published genetico-racial skin classification, and the trichloroacetic acid peel technique, which aims at standardizing and controlling the application of the acid to improve results and lessen complications. The “strip” technique is described, which increases the physician’s control over the peel depth.


A total of 923 trichloroacetic acid peels in 803 female patients (87.0%) and 120 male patients (13.0%) were reviewed (mean age, 41.59 years). The follow-up period ranged from 6 months to 13 years (mean, 13 months). This case series revealed a low incidence of complications, including 54 patients (5.9%) with persistent hyperpigmentation, 3 patients (0.3%) with mild telangiectasia, 2 patients (0.2%) with acute herpesvirus infection, 2 patients (0.2%) with bacterial Staphylococcus infection, and 1 patient (0.1%) with hypopigmentation.

Conclusions and Relevance

When properly applied, trichloroacetic acid peels are efficient and safe for light and dark skin. The technique can be an easily implementable addition to a physician’s cosmetic practice.

Level of Evidence


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