Acne is a problem that plagues over 90 percent of teenagers and persists into adulthood for around 12 to 14 percent of the population. Acne and the scarring it leaves can cause embarrassment and discomfort for those who experience it, leading to a decrease in self-esteem.
Microneedling is a minimally invasive solution to help improve the look of scars and boost collagen. TCA peels, or trichloracetic acid, can help to reduce brown spots and age spots, improve skin texture, treat some types of acne and reduce fine lines. When combined together, TCA peels and microneedling can have a seriously positive impact on the appearance of acne scars on the face.
How Microneedling Works
Microneedling is the insertion of a very fine, very short needle into the skin, creating microscopic punctures for the purposes of rejuvenation. These needles range in size from 0.5 millimeters to 2.5 millimeters, so the pin-pricks are really only skin deep.
On a short-term basis, microneedling alone gives the skin a plump and luminous appearance due to the inflammation and superficial swelling. In the long-term, skin can experience an increase in collagen and elastin production. In studies, skin treated with four microneedling sessions spaced one month apart saw a 400 percent increase in collagen and elastin six months post-treatment.
Those with eczema, rosacea, active breakouts and perioral dermatitis are advised against microneedling as it can aggravate their conditions.
How TCA Peels Work
TCA peels remove the top layer of skin and can vary in intensity. Results can depend on the intensity and strength of the acid. Stronger concentrations can cause skin cells to produce new skin altogether, while weaker concentrations just remove the top layer of skin to reveal the less damaged skin beneath.
TCA acts on keratin, a common protein found in the skin, hair and nails, by removing the outer structure of the keratin, causing it to stop functioning correctly, making the top layers of the skin peel off.
Peels with a concentration of 20 percent can be applied to the face, decolletage, hands and arms to help with sun damage or aging skin. Peels with a concentration of 35 percent should only be applied to the face.
Weaker concentrations require little to no downtime while stronger concentrations may need a week or two of downtime as the old skin peels off.
Combining TCA Peels and Microneedling
Microneedling can be combined with other scar treatments, like TCA peels, to maximize results. In one study, patients were treated with microneedling and a 20 percent TCA solution to help treat depressed acne scars. The results patients saw were comparable to a much more intensive peel without the same amount of downtime and side effects.
The reason adding microneedling to acne scar treatments has such a dramatic effect is because of the small channels the needles make in the skin. These channels allow the TCA solutions to penetrate deeper in the skin and be absorbed more effectively into the skin.
As the demand for less-invasive procedures to reduce the appearance of scars grows, the combination of microneedling and TCA peels has shown promise. Patients are usually satisfied with the results and there is minimal downtime involved.