Press Releases

Cancer-Causing Chemical Found in Skin Peels

Legal action calls on Walgreens to end sales of toxic TCA skin peel products

Oakland, CA-The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) today announced it has initiated legal action against Walgreens and four other companies for sales of skin peel products that contain the cancer-causing chemical trichloroacetic acid (TCA). Just one treatment of a “Perfect Image” brand TCA skin peel sold by Walgreens can expose a woman to more than the lifetime limit for TCA. 

“Halloween is coming, but women don’t want scary skin peeling products made with a cancer-causing chemical,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “Other companies are taking stronger steps on toxic chemicals, so it’s concerning that we keep finding problems at Walgreens. There’s just no excuse for the company to continue selling products that can harm women’s health.”

CEH purchased eleven TCA-based skin peel products in September from online retailers, including and Amazon Marketplace, among others. According to the product labels, the TCA skin peels contain between 15%-50% of the carcinogenic chemical. In addition to cancer, TCA has been linked in animal studies to genetic damage, birth defects, reduced fertility and other serious health problems. Last year, a New York Times report noted the health concerns about TCA peels and described the history and uses of the chemical. For decades the chemical was primarily used as a pesticide; it has also been used as a solvent by the plastics industry and as an etching agent in metals.

Most skin peels are marketed to women, but some are marketed to men with acne scarring and some specifically target African American men. There are alternatives to TCA, including milder acid peels and non-chemical skin treatments. CEH advises consumers to avoid TCA peels and look for safer, non-chemical treatments.

Earlier this year, CEH and the national “Mind the Store” campaign rallied outside of Walgreens stores, to highlight the company’s failure to adopt strong policies to protect consumers from toxic chemicals. CEH and the campaign noted that retailers such as Target and Walmart are taking more proactive steps to address chemical health threats to consumers. Testing by the campaign this spring found high levels of toxic chemicals in a variety of products sold at Walgreens, including toys, pet products, and school supplies, among others. CEH is calling on consumers nationwide to urge Walgreens CEO Gregory Wasson to take swift action to end sales of TCA-laden products and adopt and implement a comprehensive approach to toxic chemical health risks.

The Center for Environmental Health has an eighteen-year track record of protecting children and families from harmful chemicals in our air, water, food and in dozens of every day products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.


TCA Products purchased by CEH (product/retailer)

Perfect Image 15% skin peel/ (also purchased from Amazon Marketplace)

Perfect Image Eternity skin resurfacing peel pads/

MedPeel 20% TCA skin peel kit/ (Mayt’s)

Peel Rx Medi Peel 25%/

Skin Obsession 25% TCA skin peel/

Platinum Skin Care 30% TCA skin peel/

Makeup Artists Choice 30% TCA skin peel/

I’m Fabulous skin peel/

MediPeel 30%/Molarity (via Amazon Marketplace)

TCA 20% Pro Strength/Erlenmeyer’s Laboratory (via Amazon Marketplace)

Dermalure TCA 50% skin peel/ (via Amazon Marketplace)