Chemical peels can be an ugly venture – ironic because they are undergone in the name of beauty. I associate the ugly side of peels with Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, who was forced to flaunt a chemical peel induced burn, red and raw, just in time for Carrie Bradshaw’s book launch.

Still, I am always interested exploring different types of peels since they often do more good than harm. Personally, I’ve only experienced a glycolic peel one time, about a month ago, when my skin was looking particularly dull. I should have known that one glycolic peel, which is the most gentle peel available, wouldn’t make any noticeable difference to my skin; the process needs to be repeated several times before tangible results ensue.

Recently, I read about something called the Vi Peel, which is supposedly a celebrity favorite because it is relatively painless and there is very little downtime. I found that hard to believe, as the Vi Peel is definitely not a gentle alpha hydroxy acid peel, which is comprised of fruit acids. Instead, Vi Peel consists of a blend of trichloroacetic acid, Retin-A, salicylic acid, phenol and vitamin C. Retin-A is a proven wrinkle fighter, TCA can relieve the skin of fine wrinkles and surface blemishes, salicylic acid is an exfoliant and an anti-inflammatory agent, vitamin C stimulates collagen and battles wrinkles and hyperpigmentation and phenol provides long lasting solutions to major issues such as deep set wrinkles. On their own, Retin-A and TCA are more moderate peels, while phenol is even harsher; improvements after a phenol peel can be dramatic and last many years. But side effects are more likely to occur and are more severe. These include permanent sun sensitivity and permanent de-pigmentation of the skin. The latter is the major reason that dermatologists do not recommend phenol peels for dark-skinned individuals.

Vi Peel, however, claims to be safe for all skin types. Perhaps the particular blend of ingredients lessens the severity of some of the individual ones (like the phenol). That’s the only explanation that can account for the fact that the Vi Peel advertises itself as combining “the strongest and most effective acids” while being “virtually painless” and requiring “little downtime.” That “little downtime” aspect is the best part, in my opinion; according to the Vi Peel website, for the first two days there will be no signs of having had a peel at all. On days three and four the skin will peel but it can be hidden with a moisturizer. By day six or seven the peeling is over and you should see results that include a reduction or elimination of hyperpigmentation (including melasma), smaller pores, minimized wrinkles and an increase in collagen.

While many of the reviews I read online have been positive, almost all of them reiterate the fact that Vi Peel is not nearly as painless as it claims to be. And that the peeling is not insignificant – in fact, it can force you to stay indoors for a good week. There are also several negative reviews I came across, most from people with darker skin who claimed that the peel worsened their hyperpigmentation or scarred them in some way. Overall, though, it seems that the good reviews outweigh the bad ones.

The cost of Vi Peel varies from city to city, ranging anywhere from $150 – $400 per session, with many people claiming they only needed one session to make a lasting difference.