Complexion Dermatology

Review: The Vi Peel Reveal

vi peel, chemical peel

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.

Vi Peel Treatment

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.

Vi Peel

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.

Day Two

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.

Day Three

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.

Vi Peel Peeling

Vi Peel Peeling

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.

Vi Peel Recovery

Day Four

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.

Vi Peel Eye Swelling

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.

Day Five

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.

Vi Peel Results

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.


  • Reply
    Jennifer K.
    February 25, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    Thank you for the honest and candid post-procedure experience! I think the improvement is quite noticeable on your forehead – looks great! That said, I don’t think I could tolerate the process you went through…I might just stick to Vitalize, Illuminize, etc!

    • Reply
      February 25, 2013 at 10:00 PM

      The process was not a joy, but I think I think it helped that I knew what I was in for. Glad you noticed a difference; I didn’t appreciate it as much until I did the side by side.


      • Reply
        February 8, 2015 at 9:47 PM

        I just had a peel and went through the same thing as you. Today is day 3 and my skin is raw and red and the creame they gave burns so I’m using neosporin. I don’t really think it is all that they hype it up to be like it’s gonna work a mariacle . I think it was a waste of $300

  • Reply
    June 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    Today is Day 1 for my VI Peel. So far no problems-just took a Benadryl so I can sleep tonight. You look lovely, even while peeling.

    • Reply
      June 12, 2013 at 7:59 AM

      Awe, thanks Alison. Let us know how it goes.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    An uneventful Day 2-no itchies, no tingles; starting to wonder if this is really going to peel? Underwhelmed so far, but if experience serves me, I could end up eating my words.
    I have forwarded this blog to my BFF who had questions about Ultherapy-you did such a terrific job on this procedure.

    • Reply
      June 12, 2013 at 9:37 PM

      Hang in there and brace yourself for face dandruff. The peeling for most people starts at Day 3. Be very very careful with the sun. I would avoid the sun completely until your peeling process is complete, and even then take care to use broad spectrum SPF 50 sunblock, ColorScience Mineral Sunscreen (it’s a powder and brush in one so it’s portable) and a wide brimmed hat.

      Looking forward to hearing how you liked your Vi Peel.


  • Reply
    Kim Lindsey
    August 19, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    I know I’m a late comer here, but stumbled upon this site trying to figure out what you very thoroughly explained, which is why the vi peel is so expensive, since my esthetician shared with me that the TCA, which I get yearly at varying levels is stronger than a vi eel. I’m guessing maybe because there’s less downtime compared to a strong Medical grade TCA and its universality.
    I definitely appreciate your honesty, since I thought I was the only weirdo walking around with melting face and the only time I wear a hat btw, along with big sunglasses. Sigh. . . The things we willingly endure for beauty.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    Had my first VI Peel 6 days ago. The process itself was fine and I left it on for 5 hours. I washed it off and used the first towlette I was to use. All good until 1 hour later when I felt a cross between extreme itch and pain for about 7 hours. I finally took a shower and felt much better. I peeled as I was told but now I look dryer and have more red spots than before the peel I kind of feel like I look worse. Ive been moisturizing and hoping that my skin will recover and look better. How long will it take to get better looking skin?

    • Reply
      October 29, 2013 at 7:48 AM

      Well, it took me a full 7 days to see the full benefits and I remember having the dry skin for some time. But, because you have some red spots, I would talk to you dermatologist. They should see you at no charge and give you a solid assessment of what’s going on. I’ve found they also have prescription healing creams that can help ease some of the irritation.

      Let us know how you do and I hope this just temporary for you!


  • Reply
    February 23, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    Hello. I just had a vi peel and your description is spot on! I was wondering what mix you found particularily effective in treating your melasma. After 2 kids, Mine is pretty severe. I spent a winter on retin-a and hydroquinone only to find it improved slightly. Finally this winter I tried a peel and while it’s better it’s still not at the level I’d like. i am definitely going to do more peels next winter but was wondering what else you did. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Susan Rich
    December 26, 2015 at 12:35 PM

    So happy to see a new post. I just love your site. :). Despite the downtime, I’m definitely going to try this peel on my aging, lacklustre skin.

    • Reply
      December 27, 2015 at 7:06 PM

      Thanks Susan:)

  • Reply
    September 13, 2016 at 5:23 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I wish that I would have read this about 6hrs ago, before my Vi Peel. Did you try and workout at all (sweat) during your peel? I am now reading that I can’t sweat for 7 days. I have a appointment with my personal trainer tomorrow morn as well as a marathon on Sunday. I really regret this decision…

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