VI Peel review: I tried the popular chemical peel and here's everything you need to know

The VI Peel comes with hefty claims of reducing acne scars, smoothing lines and more – our beauty writer's review reveals if it's actually worth it

A woman having the VI Peel applied by an aesthetician's gloved hand
(Image credit: Future/Getty images)

The VI Peel is one of the best-known chemical peels on the market and comes with hefty claims in terms of its benefits to your complexion. But when all's said and done – is it actually worth it? My VI Peel review will reveal all. 

In the quest for a clear complexion and skin so tight you could bounce a penny on it, I've long been a devotee of skincare outside of my pay bracket. When tackling things like how to get rid of acne scars, breakouts, and fine lines, sometimes even the priciest lotions and potions won't cut the mustard. This is where the door opens and in flood the innumerable treatments and tweakments on the market that go a little deeper, such as skin boosters and yes, peels. 

Nothing is quite as deep as, say, peeling off a whole layer of your skin like a snake. It was during my research into the best skincare for PCOS that I learned about the VI Peel - a medium-depth peel that claims to be, "safe for all skin types and tones with results in as little as seven days." Curious, keen, and desperate to find out more, I booked myself an appointment at The Harley Street Skin Clinic. It was here that Dr Aamer Khan (opens in new tab) and Lesley Reynolds (opens in new tab) assessed my skin concerns and helped me choose the right option from the six peels made by the Vitality Institute.

VI Peel review: what you need to know

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What is a VI chemical peel?

The Vitality Institute makes six different medical grade VI Peel formulations, which are customized for a whole range of skin conditions. These formulations are intended to remove sun damage, lift pigment, fight fine lines and wrinkles, and reduce acne and acne scarring. Although I went in wondering how to get rid of acne, (the bane of my existence since adolescence) the clinic's computer analysis told me my skin is 41. Reader, I was just shy of 34. Despite years of wearing SPF50 day in, day out, and the kind of skincare routine that has more steps in it than anyone has time for - I was clearly in need of a boost.

In short, I asked for whichever peel would get me nearer to the date on my passport and according to Dr. Khan, my best bet for an all-rounder was the VI Peel Advanced treatment. This treatment is designed for, "more mature clients that want to intensify results against deep-set wrinkles and loss of elasticity." As well as combat signs of aging in the skin it also helps enhance collagen stimulation which in turn increases cell turnover and helps firm the skin.

How to prep for the VI Peel

Ahead of the appointment, the experts suggested that I use The Vitality Institute's clinical daily skincare products, which are formulated to reduce pigment and increase cell turnover. I was slightly dubious but these products have proven to be a marvel. In particular, the VI Derm SPF50+ Sunscreen which is potentially the best facial sunscreen I've ever used - which seriously says a lot. Don't be fooled by this prematurely aged skin, I have used countless sun protectants in my time and this one is now on my all-time favorite list.

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VI DermDaily UV Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen | RRP: $48/£40

This sunscreen feels light as a feather and provides full sun protection while also allowing your skin to breathe. It's friendly for all skin types, soothes your skin, and helps correct sun damage too. It genuinely lasts all day long, unlike many SPF50 products, and may be your next skincare obsession too.

Is the VI peel painful?

VI Peel review: Aoife Hanna immediately after VI Peel.

 Aoife immediately after the VI Peel

(Image credit: Aoife Hanna)

On the day of the appointment, the dermatologist painted the solution onto my face. It felt cold, tingled a little, and had a nail polish remover type of smell. He described it as being almost 'iodine' like in appearance and I think that's a pretty spot-on description. As a treatment with fairly low impact - before the actual peeling begins on day three - you're able to go about your day almost as usual. Well, almost. Perhaps don't go on ahead and commit to attending an event (with free drinks) afterward.

For those of us with fairer complexions, be ready to leave your appointment looking like you'd just used fake tan for the first time - badly. Yes, as you can see from the images above, initially the VI Peel left me looking like a Cheeto. However, I've made enough of a fool of myself at this point in my life that I just went with it. Nothing cements your status as a camp icon quite as much as telling perfect strangers that you're orange because you've had an acid peel, while holding two of said free drinks and reaching for another.

Days 2 - 4 after VI Peel.

Days 2-4 after the VI Peel

(Image credit: Aoife Hanna)

Once back home, I stuck religiously to the instructions in the booklet, which provides you with a detailed but easy-to-understand regimen - using the products provided in the aftercare packet. Dr. Khan suggested that I book my appointment allowing for being indoors day three onwards and he was absolutely right. It felt and appeared as though I'd had a very nasty sunburn - minus the heat - and it took every shred of strength for me not to scratch or peel the curling bits of skin off.

I was told no fitness, no saunas, no hot water near my face. They said if I must wear makeup, to only use mineral foundations so as not to aggravate my skin further. And so, armed with a little packet containing mini tubes of the brand's Post Peel Protectant, VI Derm Gentle Cleanser, VI Derm SPF50+ Sunscreen, two VI Peel Post Peel Towelettes, and a detailed aftercare booklet - I began my recovery process.

As my face cast off the old, the skin underneath was visibly clearer, brighter, and with smaller pores. 

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BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Hydrating Gel Cream | RRP: $37/£32.50

If you're the kind of person who has ignored mineral foundations on the assumption that they only came in powder form - this product is the one for you. It comes in a broad range of shades, contains SPF 30, and has sheer coverage - like a second skin. It's bang on the clean beauty trend, vegan, and cruelty-free so it's a no-brainer. There's been plenty of hype about this product which, once you try it, is totally understandable.

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Mii Cosmetics Irresistible Face Base 100% Pure Mineral Loose Powder Foundation | RRP: £26.50 (opens in new tab)

Mii's loose mineral powder is filled with all kinds of complexion-friendly mineral ingredients and is a great option for coverage that you can layer. Jam-packed with mica, amethyst powder, and quartz, this foundation manages to be creamy and soft while also helping tame shine. Cruelty-free, vegan, and with a broad range of shades - it's a winner.

Does the VI Peel actually work?

VI Peel review: Aoife Hanna after VI Peel.

Aoife after the VI Peel

(Image credit: Aoife Hanna)

Every time I mentioned to anyone that I was trying the VI Peel, they were desperate to hear what I thought, and honestly - I would recommend this treatment. 

The average price of a VI Peel costs around $200-$500 per session in the US and £150-£400 in the UK - depending on where you're having it done, which peel type you choose, and how many you intend to have. As expected, my hormonal acne reared its ugly head once again but my skin still looks far better than it did before and I fully intend to book another in the future.

As a medium-depth peel, it's far from a one-and-done situation. In fact, you may have to go back several times for the desired results, which may be a turn-off to some prospective clients. However if like me, the idea of a far stronger peel and longer recovery is a terrifying thought - and you'd prefer steady, cumulative results, then the VI Peel could be for you.

Aoife Hanna
Junior News Editor

Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.