The One Chemical Peel You Need to Try for Stunning Skin

Updated 10/15/19

Courtesy of Anastasia Bobrovska via Instagram

You've cleansed, toned, moisturized, and sun-screened routinely for six months straight. You may have even invested in facials, tried an at-home microcurrent device, or derma-rolled through gritted teeth (please, collagen, appear overnight). And yet, somehow, your skin just doesn’t glow from the inside out as you've always dreamed it would when you said, “I do.” Time to give up? No, time to head to a trusted M.D. for the VI Peel, a light chemical peel that removes the damaged outer layers of skin for a smoother texture and game-changing glow.

We sought out Melissa Doft, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon and clinical assistant professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Doft sold us on the peel when she explained how it combines many of the best peeling ingredients (Phenol and TCA) with anti-aging ones (retinol A, vitamin C), minus any irritating hydroxy acids. “The VI peel helps to improve the tone, texture, and clarity of skin while reducing age spots, sun damage, and hyperpigmentation,” she says. “It also softens fine lines and acne scars while stimulating collagen production for firmer, more youthful skin.” Sound too good to be true? We put it to the test.

What It’s Like

Truth be told, chemical peels sound much scarier than they actually are. The visit to Dr. Doft’s stylish practice on Manhattan’s Upper East Side was quite lovely. We chatted for a while before she cleansed my face and wiped the chemical solution all over with gauze. It didn’t hurt or even sting, but I did walk out looking like Samantha on that episode of Sex and the City—or like someone who has no idea how to use self-tanner (the solution has an orange hue).

Following the office visit, you’re sent home with a handy kit that includes specific instructions for the next 72 hours. You’re allowed to remove the solution using a post-peel towelette four hours after the initial application; one hour before bed, another towelette and gentle face washing with the VI cleanser. You’re also given a hydrocortisone cream to relieve any itching or discomfort, plus an SPF 50 sunscreen to wear over the course of the week to protect the new layer of skin.

The Process

The VI Peel is suitable for all skin types and requires little downtime, but each patient responds differently. I experienced quite a bit of itchiness on night one (have a Benadryl handy and a Claritin or other nondrowsy antihistamine for the following day, just in case). It’s best to schedule your peel for the end of day Thursday, so you can go to work on Friday with only minor dryness and then hibernate over the weekend since the majority of peeling takes place on days two and three. The peeling isn’t totally gross, but it’s not exactly cute (and you’re not allowed to pick at the skin, it has to fall off naturally), so if you’re uncomfortable appearing in public, like I was, limit your plans. By Monday morning you should wake up fresh and ready to re-enter the world.

The Results

After just one peel, my skin had an improved appearance. Dark spots and fine lines were diminished immediately upon completing the peel, and months later my skin still looks better, even after a trip to the Caribbean (which typically results in the reappearance of melisma-related discoloration).

Dr. Doft recommends a series of three peels, scheduled one month apart, ending 30 days before the wedding. “I often have patients return to the office seven to 10 days later for a medical facial that includes an enzymatic peel and dermaplaning,” she adds. “This removes any excess skin and is an hour and a half of pure indulgence for a very busy bride-to-be!”

The Fine Print

Price varies depending upon the practice, but Dr. Doft charges $400 for the peel and $250 for the facial.

Our Verdict

One peel is a great pinch-hit for brides seeking that extra boost just before the wedding. But to maximize the effects, we recommend the full trio of treatments, which are undoubtedly a worthy investment.

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