As a tattoo removal agent Trichloroacetic Acid, commonly abbreviated as TCA, has been marketed as a cheap way to remove tattoos. However,
many professionals consider it to be unsafe. Nuviderm has been pulled off the market and the lawyer involved in the class action suit said “these acidic
creams present a potential for serious risk to the health, safety, or welfare” of an individual.
Instructions for TCA have been redefined for the “Do It Yourself ” tattoo removal industry and it has been determined that more treatments at lesser
concentration are less risky. The importance of following instructions must be emphasized to avoid scarring and complications. Scarring is possible
because of the higher the concentrations. And for that reason most recent TCA tattoo removal products come in strengths no greater than 50%. That
is further diluted to suit the patients’ skin pH and the location of the tattoo. Most users are in the 15% to 30% strength range after performing patch
tests to determine the proper strength.
TCA is by no means perfect and has the possibility of scarring, hypopigmentation, and sometimes hyperpigmentation. Lasers, IPL,
dermabrasion and salabrasion all carry the same risks of scarring or having an effect on skin pigment discoloration. The only method with
zero risk of scarring are some of the tattoo removal creams.
TCA is a medium strength cosmetic acid used primarily for facial peels and other cosmetic procedures. Customers using TCA to remove a tattoo need
to follow package directions exactly. TCA is an acid which works by removing thin layers of skin in order to get down to the tattoo. The top layer of
skin is called the epidermis. When a tattoo is applied, the tattoo pigment is injected into the dermis which is the second layer of skin.
Using TCA as a tattoo removal procedure is a slow process. For each application, the epidermis will begin regeneration within 24 – 48 hours
then complete the healing process within five to ten days. Dermal regeneration will take time and requires treatment intervals of once every
three to six weeks. Users can expect to see the tattoo being lightened after the first few treatments, which might take months.
Cons of TCA:Slow to see results
Potential for scarring and skin discoloration similar to that of laser removal
Slightly to very painful–usually the stinging, like a beesting of each initial application
The FDA considers it unsafe.
Pros of TCA:
Less pain than other invasive treatment methods such as laser, dermabrasion and particularly salabrasion, or surgical excision.
Low cost compared to other methods
Using the chemical peeling agent TCA, the outer layers of the skin are slowly peeled away. The layer of skin containing the tattoo ink comes
closer to the surface. As the body replenishes the affected area with new skin, the pigmentation of the tattoo ink begins to break apart and
move closer to the surface. During subsequent TCA treatments, users can see the tattoo becoming lighter.
TCA does not work instantly. It takes time for the process to work, so people using this method of tattoo removal will not see instant results. TCA will
need to be applied once every three to six weeks with the entire process taking a period of months.
As with any medical procedure, there are risks. Individuals with diabetes or other chronic conditions that inhibit the natural healing powers of the body (
immune system problems) are advised against using any tattoo removal product or procedure that requires a healing period.