Trichloroacetic Acid is used as a skin peel chemical to remove
wrinkles and acne scars. It has also been suggested as a an aid
in tattoo removal. Proponents claim that in some cases it will
remove a tattoo, in others it will help fade or lighten a tattoo
such that it can reduce the number of costly laser treatments.
When applied to the skin, it causes a minor irritation and the
skin to peel, and proponents claim that this will result in a
fading over time of the tattoo ink. It is recommended for light
skinned people, and may lead to hypopigmentation (i.e., removal
of skin pigment) of darker skinned individuals. It should not
be used around the eyes, nose, lips or other sensitive parts of
The usual course is to apply TCA every month to month and a half;
this results in skin peeling about 2 to 3 weeks later. Proponents
of TCA use for tattoo removal state that fading is evident after
2-3 treatments, and 3-6 treatments before complete fading. The
price of TCA is comprable with other tattoo removal creams, usually
Does it work?
There is some evidence of at least limited success using TCA
for tattoo removal.
For example, in a study by Hall-Smith & Bennett (1991) published
in the British Medical Journal, 57 patients were offered tattoo
removal by TCA. Trichloroacetic acid gave a good or fair result
for 22 patients, a poor result for 1 patient and 34 patients did
not complete the treatment.
Another study entitled "A simple method of tattoo removal"
by Hudson & Lechtape-Gruter (1990) published in South African
Medical Journal used a 97% solution of TCA.There were 11 females
and 29 males who participated. Most of the tattoos had been carried
out by amateur tattooists. Nineteen patients required only one
treatment, ten required two treatments. The authors report that
a scar was present after treatment, but the results were deemed
to be satisfactory by 90% of patients.
There are, of course, many cases where it may not work and you
should carefully note the TCA concentration sold, the risks of
scarring, your skin color, the size and type (amatuer vs professional
tattoo artist applied) among other factors.