I Tried A Trichloroacetic Acid Peel For My Stubborn Melasma

My glow speaks for itself.

I tried a trichloroacetic acid peel for my melasma and my skin has never looked more even.

Of all the high-powered, fancy treatments available during a facial — and there are several to choose from — a chemical peel has always been the one I’ve avoided. Lying down in a dark room while an esthetician essentially burns the skin cells off your face and neck is not my idea of a good time.

Unfortunately, I’ve also been blessed with several patches of hyperpigmentation — specifically melasma — which cares very little about my skin care preferences. Dark spots are finicky to treat (more so if you have higher levels of melanin in your skin), and after years of struggling with over-the-counter products to banish the unwanted pigment on my forehead, cheeks, and upper lip, I finally relented that a chemical peel might be the solution.

“Chemical peels that use different types of acids — including salicylic, lactic, and glycolic — can break up pigment cells that have risen to the surface of the skin,” says Renée Rouleau, esthetician and founder of Renée Rouleau Skincare. For people like myself, who haven’t seen enough improvement in their melasma patches after using topical products for more than three months, she says a professional chemical peel can help tackle those stubborn pigment spots.

TCA, and this peel specifically, is ideal for treating melasma because it sinks into the skin much faster than other acids.

Lucky for me, I frequently visit Elizabeth Grace Hand, the founder of Ställe Studios in New York City and the type of if you know, you know esthetician your friends whisper about at parties. So last fall, when I stopped in for a seasonal skin tune-up (seriously, go vacuum out those pores when the weather changes and thank me later) she suggested that my dark spots could benefit from a BioRePeel treatment, a new trichloroacetic acid peel that she’d just added to her product collection. Although hesitant to undergo the month-long course of treatment, Hand assured me that the results would be well worth the four trips to her TriBeCa studio.

Here’s everything that happened when I tried a professional trichloroacetic acid peel for my melasma.

What Is A Trichloroacetic Acid Peel?

Chemical exfoliating acids, like glycolic, lactic, mandelic, and more, are frequently found in both over-the-counter products and professional-grade peels. Trichloroacetic acid, or TCA, is less common but quickly gaining popularity, and has clinical studies to support its claim to significantly reduce signs of photodamage (like hyperpigmentation) in the skin.

Hand explains that TCA, and this peel specifically, is ideal for treating melasma because it sinks into the skin much faster than other acids. “The peel, driven primarily by the relative volume of TCA in the [BioRePeel], gets to the deeper layers of the skin where the pigment really comes from,” she says, adding that because this product absorbs so quickly, it reduces the amount of time on the surface of the skin. This helps to avoid that tell-tale skin shedding that is so common with professional-grade chemical peels — and, in turn, reduces the downtime and recovery for your face post-peel.

“Along with the TCA, you have about a dozen other ingredients, ranging from complementary actives to moisturizing and nutrient-rich squalane, arginine, and amino acid complexes,” says Hand. This left me hopeful that I could avoid the majority of the stinging and redness that accompanies most chemical peels.

Other Skin-Boosting Perks

This TCA peel has a multitude of benefits other than just tackling dark spots, like reducing acne, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, and lessening scarring, and it’s suitable for all skin types and tones.

Another added bonus? The product is not photosensitive like many other chemical peels on the market, which means it’s safe to use year-round as opposed to only the winter months when you’re exposed to less sunlight. (Of course, that doesn’t mean you can skip sun protection after this peel — or any other time.)

How Many Sessions Do You Need?

According to Hand, a standard course of treatment would be four sessions about seven to 10 days apart (so you’d finish the entire process within a month). I had travel scheduled between some of my sessions, so the length of time in between sometimes varied, but she assured me that this wouldn’t significantly impact my results. The number of required rounds is also specific to each person and their particular skin condition.

My Experience

What it’s like to get a BioRePeel treatment.@hannahbaxward

My initial appointment with Elizabeth included cleansing, LED, and massage (which were lovely) with the peel as an add-on, but the subsequent sessions were much more brief — just a cleanse and mask application. For the peel, she painstakingly added pea-sized drops around my face with a plastic syringe (which is great for content).

After all the dots were applied, she gently massaged the formula into my skin, spreading a thin gel layer across my face — I decided to avoid my neck until I could see how my skin would react. Then she set the clock for precisely seven minutes and hovered a handheld fan around my face to help with any discomfort.

To my surprise, there was hardly any. I’ve had at-home peels that stung worse than this treatment, and I experienced zero eye-watering or stinging skin. Sure, I was relieved when she wiped away the gel and applied moisturizer and sunscreen, but I wasn’t counting down the seconds until it was over either. My skin was barely pink, and by the time I walked back outside, not even the most attuned beauty fan would know I had just undergone a professional peel.

The Results & Aftercare

Before starting the BioRePeel treatments.
After the first peel.
1 / 2

Every week (sometimes more, sometimes less), I returned for a peel treatment — and still, there was zero irritation. I did see a small bit of peeling around my nose and chin the day after one treatment, but it was nothing an extra layer of moisturizer couldn’t solve.

Once the rest of my minimal summer tan faded, my melasma patches also seemed to dissolve into nothingness, and by the time the last appointment rolled around, my skin looked surprisingly even toned. There were a few light patches on my forehead, but overall the bulk of the pigmentation was gone.

I was thrilled, not only for the lack of dark spots, but also because my skin never felt overly dry or irritated from the repeated chemical peels. This is likely because the peel itself is quite mild in comparison to others, and I was also diligent about using sun protection and avoiding retinol during the treatment window.

“The most important feature of standard aftercare is to keep the skin hydrated and nourished,” says Hand. “The upper layers of the skin will be starved of hydration and nutrients as the lower layers of skin go through the natural repair process.”

In addition to avoiding retinol, this meant applying a thicker moisturizer than normal (I like Biossance Squalane+ Omega Repair Cream) and adding in an occlusive layer at night to lock in moisture, like the Futurewise Slug Balm. “I love the BioEffect EGF Serum and the Dr Loretta Intense Replenishing Serum to lock in moisture,” says Hand, and I can attest that both are terrific.


At Ställe Studios, a BioRePeel is $350 per treatment as an add-on to the facial or $450 as a standalone, but pricing will vary depending on the provider and location. Obviously, splurging for a professional treatment as opposed to an at-home option is always going to cost more, but in my opinion, the results are much more significant and definitely worth the price tag.

The Final Verdict

After my final TCA peel.

If you struggle with melasma or another type of relentless hyperpigmentation, I’d highly recommend investing in a TCA peel like this. It might not solve the problem forever (the root causes of melasma are multi-faceted and it often reoccurs), but as an annual reset, I’m now convinced a TCA chemical peel is the right way to go for clear, even skin.

Studies referenced:

S Sitohang, IB. (2021). Trichloroacetic Acid Peeling for Treating Photoaging: A Systematic Review. Dermatol Res Pract. 2021 Aug 30;2021:3085670. doi: 10.1155/2021/3085670. PMID: 34504524; PMCID: PMC8423570.