This Chemical Peel *Majorly* Healed My Hormonal Acne
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For most of my adult life, my skin has been breakout-free thanks to a combo of birth control pills and spironolactone. Then I quit both last fall and shit hit the fan. Despite my derm-approved skincare routine, the area around my nose became peppered with blackheads and my chin and jawline covered in cystic zits and resulting acne scars. I clearly needed something else to more effectively target my breakouts and hyperpigmentation, so I decided to book myself a VI Peel—a professional chemical peel that's designed to treat both.
Keep reading for my full VI peel review for acne—plus everything you need to know about the VI peel, including how it works, what it costs, the recovery time, and more.
What is a VI Peel?
The VI Peel from Vitality Institute is a medium-depth chemical peel that's administered by a licensed professional either in a medspa or doctor's office. There are six different types of VI peels, each with their own benefits, but in general these peels utilize a combo of TCA, retinoic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin C, and phenol to exfoliate the top layers of the skin and reveal the smoother, brighter, and less damaged layers of skin underneath, says medical aesthetician Zsamieka Gammon at Ever/Body, where I booked my VI Peel treatment.
What are the benefits of a VI Peel?
Depending on the type of VI Peel you get, the treatment can be fantastic at smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, reducing acne and acne scarring, improving skin texture, and fading hyperpigmentation (like melasma or sun spots) caused by UV damage and inflammation, says Gammon.
After my practitioner assessed my skin and I filled her in on my current situation, we decided that the VI Peel Purify with Precision Plus was the best option for me. It's the VI Peel with the best benefits anyone with adult acne (🙋♀️🙋♀️🙋♀️) thanks to a dose of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid (together, they help reduce acne-causing bacteria, dead skin cells, and sebum on the skin) and brightening ingredients that regulate melanin production to help fade stubborn acne scars and marks.
How long do the VI Peel results last?
The results of a VI Peel can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Ultimately, the longevity of your results will depend on how well you take of your skin post-treatment. That means cleansing, moisturizing, and wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or more everyday. Lifestyle factors—like smoking, excessive drinking and sugar consumption, and lack of sleep—will also impact your results, so the better you are to your body, the better your VI Peel results will be.
What does a VI Peel cost?
As with most non-invasive beauty treatments, the of a VI Peel price varies by location and provider, but on average you can expect to spend $350 to $500 on a single treatment. Your provider may suggest a series of peels—like three or four spaced a month apart—for best results, so definitely keep that in mind when considering the cost too.
My experience with the VI Peel:
The day of the peel:
I arrived to my appointment with clean skin and not having used any actives on my face for three days prior. After talking me through the treatment, my provider prepped my skin with an alcohol wipe and then began applying the peel in layers. After each layer was applied, my skin started to look more and more orange—which is totally normal. I experienced a very slight tingling sensation as each layer of the peel was applied, but it wasn't painful at all.
About 10 minutes later, once all the layers of the peel were applied, I was done. The peel is self-neutralizing, so four hours after application you simply wash it off and home and begin using the VI Peel at-home care kit. Using the at-home care kit—which includes post-peel towelettes, soothing hydrocortisone cream, and a face sunscreen with SPF 50— and following the instructions to a T is crucial for the best result.
The day after the peel:
My skin looked kinda shiny and felt weirdly dry and tight, but nothing major to report. I used the at-home care kit as instructed (hydrocortisone cream and SPF in the day and post-peel towelettes and night) and opted to not wear any foundation or face makeup, even though technically it's allowed.
Three and four days after the peel:
On day three, I woke up with flakes and peely skin on my chin and around my mouth. I was told by my provider it was crucial not to pick or remove any of the dead skin prematurely (it can cause hyperpigmentation and scarring), so I tapped on more of the hydrocortisone cream and avoided any mirrors until the evening. By nighttime, my face was fully shedding. I'm not going to lie it was totally gross—like Baby Foot but if you did it on your face.
Day four was equally gross. My skin was super peely and putting makeup on top made it look worse, so I just left my skin bare and let it do it's thing. And even though I was told not to touch my face, I couldn't help myself by the end of day four.
I used cuticle nippers to delicately clip—not rip!—the edges of dead skin that were lifting off my face and then patted more hydrocortisone cream on top. I imagine most medical professionals would scoff at this, but (1) it worked without causing skin trauma, and (2) I was meeting friends for dinner that night and refused to go out with chunks of dead skin hanging from my face.
Five days after the peel:
On day five, I woke up and my skin was nearly back to normal. There were some tiny dry patches around my brows and hairline, but the major flaking was done and my skin was starting to look super glowy and smooth—especially on my cheeks and forehead. The big breakouts and inflammation around my nose were way less noticeable, but I did have a little bit of purging around my chin, which my provider said is normal post-treatment.
Each day my skin continued to improve and one full week after my peel, I was super happy with the results. My skin was clearer, my acne scars had faded, my pores looked smaller, and overall, my skin had a really nice glow. Totally worth the 2.5 days of unsightly peeling IMO.
Is the VI Peel worth it?
Based on my experience, the VI Peel is absolutely worth trying—especially if you're dealing with stubborn skin issues—like acne or hyperpigmentation—that aren't responding to at-home options. The downtime is really minimal compared to other non-invasive treatments (like Fraxel or microneedling)—plus the treatment itself is really quick (I was in and out in 25 minutes) and it's totally painless too.
Is a VI Peel a permanent fix for acne, or any skin issue? No—but very few things are. Did it clear up my breakouts for a few weeks and significantly reduce my acne scarring? Absolutely—which was a major benefit for me.
Meet the expert:
Zsamieka Gammon is a medical aesthetician and the aesthetic clinical education lead at Ever/Body, a med spa focused on clinical dermatology with locations in NYC, Washington DC, and Maryland.
Why trust Cosmopolitan?
Lauren Balsamo is deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan with nine years of experience researching, writing, and editing skincare stories that range from the best exfoliators for sensitive skin to a comprehensive Hydrafacial review. She regularly tests and analyzes new cosmetics treatments, while working with the industry’s top dermatologists and aestheticians to assess new technologies.
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