Earlier this month, I shared my love of chemical peels and how they’ve made a real difference in my skin from an anti-aging perspective. Thru the years I’ve tried Vitalize, Illuminize, Bx-Lift, as well as a variety of glycolics and TCAs at the recommendation of my dermatologist who says rotating peels is key to keeping your skin from developing a resistance.
So when he suggested I mix it up with the Vi Peel (a medium depth peel made of TCA, Retin-A, Salicylic Acid, Phenol and Vitamin C) I thought why not? It’s winter; the sun is hiding, and I have a long weekend ahead of me; perfect conditions for molting. But at a whopping $400 (thanks NYC prices), the Vi is the most expensive peel I’ve tried so it better deliver on that promise to reverse the signs of aging and sun damage.
Before I commit, I nicely ask my doctor to hold tight while I do a mobile search on Real Self (it’s the only face I’ve got after all ) and notice a surprisingly meh 67% approval rating.
A quick scan of the negative reviews leads me to wonder if some of the patients either weren’t ideal candidates, didn’t see their dermatologist first or had their expectations mismanaged. I can see how this could happen; Vi promotes itself as one of the first stronger peels that can work across all skin types, even notoriously delicate African American and Latina complexions. Vi also implies it’s effective in treating melasma, which I know from experience is notoriously stubborn. But the truth is, that sometimes peels and lasers can make skin conditions worse, especially when there’s hyperpigmentation involved.
I ask my doctor about this and get reassured that while Vi Peel isn’t a magic wand, it’s worth a try because of my history of tolerating peels and my Fitzpatrick Type 2 complexion.
Still, if I don’t have Anne Hathaway skin at the end of this, I’ll be Les Miserables.
The application itself was painless and quick. I feel nothing at all, in fact I wonder if enough was applied. I’m sent on my way with a little kit of Vi moisturizer (one with sunscreen, one for night time) and the retinol pad which I’m to apply the following day after washing my face.
The only issue is the lingering scent of something that reminds me of vaguely of paint thinner. I run into a friend, who asks about the funny smell to which I assure it’s nothing, only my face melting.
My face feels taut and is actually sporting a bronze glow. I decide I don’t look so bad and decide to step out to see Les Mis and have a quick bite with husband and friends. Both are low-lit environments so I figure no one will be the wiser. Besides, the real peeling isn’t supposed to start until Day 3. So imagine my surprise, when I wake up from my movie nap with a collar of white flakes clinging for dear life to my black cashmere sweater.
And these weren’t just any flakes, this was a facial N’Oreaster.
My peeling is strongest around the mouth, nose and heading north to my forehead. My face dandruff is so bad, that if I simply wipe my brow or push my finger against my head, a stream of white gooey skin balls falls off. I’m obsessed with moisturizing because it helps the dead skin come off.
This is disturbingly satisfying.
I probably don’t look as gross as I feel to the outside world, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone attempt more than a night of Netflix and pizza delivery at this stage.
By the end of the day, I am neon fuchsia. I have officially peeled off an entire layer of my face. My son refuses to let me kiss him goodnight.
This is by far my worst day for discomfort. My face is bloated and I feel like I have terrible sunburn on my face. The skin around my eyes is especially swollen, red and dry, with deep crevices that make me look like I have the skin of an elephant. I learned this is called peri-orbital swelling and is a normal reaction when the skin is irritated.
My skin is so red and raw, it stings when I apply the post peel crème. I want to just rub Aquaphor all over my face, but am afraid of breakouts so stick with my Vi Crème. I’m peeling so much, I get flakes of myself caught in my eye lashes. I begin to panic and wonder I be nothing but a skull by the end of all this.
I pop an Advil and try to remember what normal looked like.
I’m beginning to look normal again, and have decided to face people who aren’t my immediate family. My neck is starting to peel (the Vi Peel is safe for neck, hands and décolletage) and is incredibly pink. No turtlenecks for me.
Day Six and Seven
By now, skin has all flaked off revealing baby fresh new skin. It’s delicate and raw so I keep the make-off my face sticking to moisture
The Bottom Line
So was it worth the flake fest and $400? You decide, the results are below.
While my sun spots and melasma on my cheeks are only subtly diminished, my skin feels more taut, I’m supremely luminous, bright and pinkish. But, what I don’t like is that there seems to be a lot of hype about the peel as a Holy Grail of skin treatments. It’s a nice peel, but it’s not a silver bullet for treating deeper hyperpigmentation issues or melasma, it’s one good option in an arsenal of many treatment options you have and may even need for deeper hyper-pigmentation. I also found the promise of limited time to be completely false, and I think most who have had this would agree. You seriously should prepare for some non human contact for at least 4 days. You are far from your best self, and you feel gross. If you have a big event, I would schedule it 3 weeks out to be on the safe side.
In the end, I’ll happily do the Vi Peel again whenever my dermatologist suggests. But I can’t stress enough that the most important factor in getting the best out of this or any peel or laser is starting with your board certified cosmetic dermatologist to make sure you’re properly diagnosed as a good candidate, have realistic expectations and don’t do more harm than good.