Your Official Guide: *The* Best Chemical Peel for Every Skin Type and Concern

Aida Badji

(Image credit: @aidabadji_)

I know the words "chemical peel" might sound extremely scary to some. To be perfectly honest with you, I, too, was someone who got major anxiety even thinking about getting one until I started seeing my amazing esthetician Caroline Godsick. Before I went to her, I thought a peel would be the worst thing I could do for my rough, dehydrated, barrier-damaged skin, but Godsick assured me this was not the case. She recommended that I do a series of VI Peels. "Peels tend to have a stigma around them being painful or difficult to manage and I think [Vitality Institute] has done an excellent job with making the experience a comfortable and easy process," she says. "Whether you struggle with fine lines and wrinkles, acne and acne scarring, hyperpigmentation or melasma, VI peels promote overall smoother skin texture by refining pores, controlling oil, and stimulating collagen production. I believe most people can benefit from a peel. As I like to say, 'Out with the old and in with the new!'"

Vitality Institute has several different peels that suit every skin type and need, but the series of peels I received were called Purify With Precision Plus, which is great for those who struggle with acne or dark spots. Vitality Institute founder and licensed aesthetician Marya Khalil shared a bit more about the different peels the brand offers and why the VI peel was created. "The VI Peel was created by my father, Dr. Khalil, as a solution to my hormonal cystic acne at a time when aesthetic skincare treatments were not safe for people of color. So in essence, the VI Peel was created for people of color, and of course, everyone else! We have six different VI Peels, all designed to correct a wide range of skin concerns, including pigment (like melasma and sun damage), acne and acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles, texture, and more. It’s completely painless and safe and effective for all skin types and tones."

While I can't say enough good things about the experience I had getting a series of four VI peels, Godsick and Khalil also broke down which type of chemical peel is best for each skin concern. Godsick decided to work with Vitality Institute because of how customizable their peels are and how you can tailor them to each skin type and concern.

For all their insight and a bit more about my chemical peel journey, keep reading below.

The Best Chemical Peel for Acne and Hyperpigmentation

VI Peel Before and After Results for Acne

(Image credit: @skinbycarolinegodsick)

If you struggle with acne and the scarring it leaves behind, a VI Peel Purify With Precision Plus is the one for you. I did a series of four of this type of peel and it improved my skin immensely. While this is an in-office treatment that needs to be done by a professional, I recommend seeing Godsick if you're in the L.A. area. She'll get you sorted and can asses your skin needs before diving in. If you're not, you can also use Vitality Institute's provider page to find an esthetician near you.

It's one thing to just tell you that this has worked for me, but you can check out the photo evidence above and see the difference it made in my skin. Before getting a series of peels, I was using the wrong products for my skin and it was in pretty bad shape. The bottom line is that I needed help. I've tried a lot of products and gotten a lot of facials over the years, but this is what made the biggest difference in my skin. The results do not disappoint and I was amazed at how quickly it worked. After a skin assessment, Godsick tends to recommend a series of peels to her clients who struggle with acne, hyperpigmentation, and melasma since these conditions require more sessions. Vitality Institute also offers a range of skincare products that work great both post-peel and for everyday care. I particularly love the Gentle Purifying Cleanser ($44) and SPF 50 ($48).

Khalil also adds, "Made for current breakouts and the scars and hyperpigmentation they leave behind, this treatment is great for those with excessive oiliness, acne with hyperpigmentation, acne scarring, and adult acne." For active acne, the VI Peel Purify is also a great option if you don't have dark spots. Khalil says, "VI Peel Purify is great for treating all types of active acne by sloughing off the dead skin cells that can clog pores and clearing out the junk trapped in your pores. This treatment is perfect for active acne, breakout-prone skin, oily and congested skin, and teen acne."

The Best Chemical Peel for Fine Lines and Wrinkles

For mature skin types, the VI Peel Advanced was created to help improve the appearance of deeper wrinkles and a loss of elasticity. Khalil says, "This innovative treatment penetrates deeper to soften fine lines and wrinkles by enhancing collagen stimulation and increasing cell turnover to help firm the skin."

In addition to a VI Peel Advanced, some skin types might also benefit from a retinol peel or a peel that features acids like mandelic and glycolic. These can also help with other concerns like acne as well. For at-home care, you can turn to brands like IS Clinical and Skinbetter Science for cleansers that are both safe to use post-procedure and for daily use. After the initial peeling period (which I'll explain more about below), you can then incorporate the above acids into your skincare routine to keep it clear and glowing with reduced fine lines.

The Best Chemical Peel for Sensitive Skin

Coco Bassey

(Image credit: @cocobassey)

Even if you have super-sensitive skin, don't worry, chemical peels may still be for you. You should always get a skin assessment with a professional before getting one, but there are peels out there designed for this skin type. I was initially worried that a chemical peel would irritate my extremely sensitive and acne-prone skin, but the VI Peel Purify With Precision Plus worked great for me. Always check with your aesthetician first, but many peels designed to combat acne are still 100% sensitive skin-safe.

The VI Peel Original is what Khalil describes as a "tried-and-true formula [that] is great for first-time peelers of all age groups and those with sensitive skin. You'll see tighter, brighter-looking skin, smoother texture, and renewed radiance. It’s great for early signs of aging and rough texture."

What to Expect After a Chemical Peel

Before you get an in-office chemical peel, Khalil shared a few more things you should know. "The VI Peel is a corrective, painless professional chemical peel treatment that can only be performed by a licensed practitioner. While there’s not much prep needed, there is a little aftercare involved after you get your peel. A lot of it is protecting your skin from prolonged sun exposure and making sure you take care of your skin so it can peel and heal properly. Because the peel gently exfoliates off the outer layers of the skin, you will see some skin flaking or peeling after your treatment. The peeling typically starts on day three and continues until days six or seven. Full results can be seen around day seven, though it differs from person to person."

Whenever I would get a VI peel, I would leave the office with the peel on. While it is slightly orange (but nowhere near the shade of a Cheeto), it wasn't so obvious that I got any weird looks while leaving the office or driving back home. You then leave the peel on for four hours, wash it off, and follow the given aftercare instructions. This was my experience with a VI peel and yours may be different depending on what treatment you get.

As Khalil mentioned above, there is some downtime with this type of treatment, so you might want to schedule it when you don't have any important events going on. I found that I peeled the most after the first treatment and less after each peel after that.

I also want to be fully transparent and tell you that if your skin has a lot of congestion under the surface like mine, you may go through a purge period for a few weeks after a treatment. This means your skin might seem like it's getting worse. I know it may seem like you're moving backwards and your skin isn't improving, but trust the process! This happened to me and honestly, although I'm done with my series of treatments, my skin is still purging a bit. I know it isn't easy—dealing with acne, quite frankly, blows. But your skin is and will get better. Just keep sticking to your aesthetician-curated routine and all will improve for the better.

Even if you don't have the budget to get an in-office treatment with an aesthetician right now, there are also plenty of great at-home chemical peel options that can help you achieve your skin goals. Take a look at some of our favorites below.

The Best At-Home Chemical Peels

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.