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TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid)


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 body.

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 under $100.00.

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.


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