Chemical Peel

RSB Dermatology

Chemical peel:  an extremely common treatment for acne, age spots, fine lines, melasma, and wrinkles. With so many peels available one is easily confused about them. While there is nothing sexy about peels (no fancy lights or lasers), choosing the right peel for the right person is most important.


Firstly, choosing the wrong peel can have little benefit, thus wasting time and money, or can have bad results, such as scarring or pigmentation changes.

Secondly, proprietary, “fancy” brand-named peels, while "trendy", often offer little or no added benefit, increases cost, and are frequently performed by providers whom are less experienced.

While it would be impossible to discuss the pros and cons of every peeling agent available, here are a few of the mainstay peels:

Very superficial peels

Indications: acne, mild pigmentary disturbances, including melasma
Peeling Agent: Jessner’s, Glycolic Acid (often 35%), Salicylic acid

Superficial peels

Indications: acne, age spots, fine lines, mild pigmentary disturbances
Peeling Agent: Glycolic acid (often 50% to 70%), TCA (usually 20%)

Medium depth peels

Indications: mild to moderate wrinkles with or without pigmentation abnormalities
Peeling Agent: TCA

Deep Chemical peels

Indications: severe wrinkles
Peeling Agent: Phenol

What is a VI Peel?

This is a superficial to medium depth chemical peel that is used for fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentary issues. It contains: 10-12% TCA, 10-12% phenol, 10-12% salicylic acid, 4% vitamin C, and 0.1-0.4% tretinoin.

Is it more gentle than a TCA peel?

It depends. It comes down to experience. TCA peels can be superficial (using a 20% strength) that would be close in strength to this peel. A true medium-depth peel (35% TCA on the face) is usually a little deeper than this peel. The number of applications (how many times the provider applies the acid) matters as well. So to state that a VI peel is gentler than a TCA peel is not entirely correct. It can be gentler than a TCA peel and it can be deeper than a TCA peel.

Will the VI peel lighten my skin?

Any peel can affect the skin tones and that needs to be discussed with the doctor. This particular peel has phenol which can lighten the skin.

What is a Blue Peel?

This peel was developed by Dr. Obagi and is  a medium depth TCA peel with a blue dye added.  Firstly, one cannot say that it is "better" than a TCA peel, because it is a TCA peel with blue solution added. Period! The blue added color helps the provider know how deep the peel is going. Secondly, this color is not necessary as a regular TCA peel "frosts" the skin so that the provider knows the depth achieved.

In short, the results of a TCA peel and an Obagi Blue Peel can be the same (if all factors are the same, such as TCA strength, number of applications, etc). I equate this peel to putting training wheels on a bike. If one is proficient at riding a bike, they do not need training wheels.

Click Here to see what the American Academy of Dermatology Has to say.