Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peel: What’s The Difference?

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Last Updated on 05/27/2022

microdermabrasion or chemical peel for acne scars

Chemical peels and microdermabrasion treatments are both non-invasive skincare treatments that can target a range of skin concerns. Whether being done professionally or at home, you may be wondering what is the difference between chemical peels and microdermabrasion? Both are exfoliating treatments designed to resurface the skin and reveal new, healthy skin cells. But what exactly is the difference between Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peel? A lot, actually! In this post we’ll discuss the differences and how to choose which treatment is right for you.

What Is The Difference Between Microdermabrasion and Chemical Peel?

What Is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is deep exfoliating treatment designed to exfoliate the top layer of the skin and remove dead skin cells stuck on the surface. It’s considered non-invasive and has minimal downtime. Microdermabrasion can provide instant results and reveal smoother, softer and brighter skin.

The treatment uses a handheld device with a suction and a tip with diamond or crystal particles that are used to physically exfoliate the dead skin. The suction can help collect the dead skin cells that are removed, as well as unclog pores and remove dirt, oil and bacteria from the skin.

Microdermabrasion helps reduce fine lines, hyperpigmentation, acne scars and dark spots. It is also used to decrease the appearance of large pores, improve skin texture and treat sun damaged skin.

It’s normal for the treatment to cause mild tingling or stinging sensation and slight redness is common after the procedure, but should subside quickly.

The treatment itself is very versatile and can be tailored to your skin type and skin concerns.

Benefits Of Microdermabrasion

is microdermabrasion or chemical peel better?
  • Minimizes fine lines and wrinkles a study done showed improvement in fine lines and wrinkles after just 3 microdermabrasion treatments. As the microdermabrasion exfoliates the dead skin away, it leaves behind new, healthy skin cells, which can help to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Fades hyperpigmentation – as the dead skin is exfoliated away, dark marks and hyperpigmentation gradually fade. It’s even more effective when used with a topical treatment that can penetrate deeper into the skin.
  • Reduces appearance of large pores – microdermabrasion is excellent for minimizing the appearance of larger pores. It can also help prevent blackheads and acne breakouts.
  • Fades acne scarring – microdermabrasion treatments are good to use on acne scars as they may improve the appearance of pitted and discolored acne scars. After several treatments, new collagen production may help reduce the look of acne scars. It can also help fade post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and dark marks left over from pimples
  • Evens skin tone – microdermabrasion can be very effective in improving skin tone and texture, especially if it is used in combination with other types of brightening products like vitamin c
  • Stimulates Collagenone study showed that microdermabrasion stimulated collagen and promoted skin rejuvenation which can help with scarring from surgeries or accidents, stretch marks and indented acne scars
  • Smooths texture – microdermabrasion is good for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as improving overall texture. As it gently removes dead skin cells, it smooths the surface of the skin – giving you more even-looking skin. As dead skin cells build up on the surface, skin becomes rough and dull looking, so keeping dead skin from building up will keep skin smoother and softer
  • Treats acne – microdermabrasion can be effective in treating acne breakouts, as it removes the buildup of dead skin cells from the skin and keeps them from getting trapped in the pores and leading to clogged pores and acne

Who Should Get Microdermabrasion?

People who have signs of aging, sun damage and acne scarring as well as those looking for immediate results from their anti-aging skincare serums will benefit from microdermabrasion.

Microdermabrasion is also an excellent treatment to improve skin texture and enhance the penetration of topical skincare products, which can lead to even better results when combined with a good skincare routine.

Most people can benefit from microdermabrasion treatments, but those with inflammatory acne, sensitive skin or rosacea should steer clear, as it can worsen those issues.

What Is A Chemical Peel?

microdermabrasion vs chemical peel for dark spots

A chemical peel involves applying a strong, exfoliating solution that will peel off the top layers of the skin. The chemical peel does not physically exfoliate the skin, rather it uses chemical exfoliants like AHA or BHA’s to “unglue” the dead skin cells so they are more easily removed. The dead skin will begin to shed, flake or peel off, revealing new, fresh skin cells.

Chemical peels can help with acne, scarring, lines and wrinkles and more. They’re often a quick procedure that may be a little uncomfortable while the peeling solution is on the skin.

A chemical peel involves putting the solution on the skin and allowing it to sit for a certain amount of time. The peel is then neutralized and no longer effective. You will likely experience slight redness or tightness, depending on the strength of the peel.

Peels can generally provide instant results like smoother, softer skin with a healthy looking glow.

Different chemical peel solutions will be used depending on the skin type, condition and concerns.

Depending on the peel, it can have minimal to no downtime or the peel can be more invasive and lead to actual peeling or flaking of the skin.

Related Post: Salicylic Acid Or Glycolic Acid: Which Is Best For You?

Benefits Of A Chemical Peel

Like microdermabrasion, chemical peels can have a ton of great benefits for the skin.

  • Treats acne – one of the reasons many people like chemical peels is that it can be very effective at reducing acne breakouts, especially if it’s a peel containing BHA or salicylic acid. It works to clean out dead skin cells, sebum and debris from pores to treat current breakouts and prevent new ones from forming
  • Evens skin tone – chemical peels can help to even skin tone reduce dark spots, sunspots or other skin discolorations by exfoliating away old skin cells
  • Improves skin texture – just like microdermabrasion does, chemical peels can make skin appear smoother and softer while also improving skin’s texture by removing dead skin cells to reveal a more even appearance
  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles – chemical peels work in a similar way that microdermabrasion does, gently exfoliating away dead skin cells to reveal newer looking skin underneath. This reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, giving the skin a smoother, more youthful appearance
  • Smooths out rough or uneven skin – chemical peels work to remove dead cells on the surface of the skin which can make it appear less textured
  • Stimulates collagen – deeper peels especially can stimulate collagen which helps to keep skin looking youthful as well as reducing atrophic acne scars and wrinkles
  • Minimizes pores – chemical peels can reduce the size of pores by keeping them clear. When pores are clogged they appear bigger
  • Fades hyperpigmentation – chemical peels can also reduce patches of brown or dark skin and fade hyperpigmentation caused by acne scars, sun damage and more
  • Fades acne scars – chemical peels can help to reduce atrophic acne scarring or other types of indented scarring by stimulating collagen production which can help fill in those indented areas in the skin

Types Of Chemical Peels

Light Chemical Peels

Light chemical peels just treat the surface of the skin and can help with texture, tone, pigmentation and acne issues. Mild or light chemical peels usually contain AHAs (like glycolic, lactic or mandelic acids) or BHA (salicylic acid) or a combination of both.

Medium Chemical Peels

Medium depth chemical peels exfoliate down to the deeper layers of the skin and can be used to treat atrophic acne scarring as well as stimulate more collagen and generally show more results than light chemical peels. A medium chemical peel would be something like a TCA peel.

Deep Chemical Peels

Deep chemical peels treat the lower layers of the skin and stimulate the most collagen. They are typically only used for full facial rejuvenation or very deep scarring. Deep chemical peels can have a lot of downtime and a long recovery process. A phenol peel is the deepest type of chemical peel.

Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peel For Hyperpigmentation

If you’re looking to treat hyperpigmentation chemical peels will be your best option. Not only are they more effective, but many chemical peels also contain skin lightening agents like kojic acid and other ingredients that can help fade hyperpigmentation quicker than microdermabrasion can.

Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peel For Acne

Microdermabrasion can be really helpful for breakouts, but so can chemical peels. However, chemical peels will be more effective at treating acne and breakouts because of the active ingredients in the peels.

Salicylic acid peels are especially great for treating acne because they can kill acne causing bacteria, unclog pores, treat and prevent new acne.

For mild acne, microdermabrasion can still be a great option. Plus, microdermabrasion and chemical peels can be used together for optimal results.

Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peel For Acne Scars

Generally, microdermabrasion will not be able to treat very deep acne scars. Microdermabrasion only treats the top layer of the skin, whereas chemical peels can go deeper into the skin to stimulate more collagen production to fill in those scars.

Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peel For Wrinkles

Chemical peels can definitely help reduce and prevent wrinkles. Chemical peels work by exfoliating the surface of the skin to reveal fresher looking skin below and stimulate collagen to fill them in and plump the skin.

Microdermabrasion isn’t enough on it’s own to treat wrinkles because it doesn’t go deep enough into the skin, but microdermabrasion combined with an anti-aging routine can be very beneficial, especially if the lines and wrinkles are mild.

Microdermabrasion Or Chemical Peel For Large Pores

Both microdermabrasion and chemical peels can help reduce the look of large pores. Although pore size is largely genetic, keeping the pores clear will help the appear smaller. Microdermabrasion or chemical peels can help to unclog pores and keep them clear so they look smaller.

Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peel: Cost

If you are getting microdermabrasion or chemical peels done in office, the price can vary depending on the practice and your geographical area. In general, professional chemical peels can range anywhere from $100-$500 and up for a single peel. Most peels are needed in a series (at least 3-6).

Microdermabrasion can range anywhere from about $70-150. Microdermabrasion is often added onto facials, which can increase the cost.

However, there are some at home microdermabrasion tools and at home chemical peels that can reduce the costs associated with these skincare treatments.

Microdermabrasion Vs Chemical Peel Vs Laser

Lasers are another popular skincare treatment that uses a device that emits different wavelengths of light, depending on the specific device. Lasers can target a variety of skin concerns and can be non-invasive with no downtime or can be invasive with a lot of downtime.

Laser treatments can treat everything from rosacea, hyperpigmentation, large pores, dullness, lines and wrinkles, acne scarring and more.

They are known for their ability to stimulate collagen and elastin production and many of the more invasive lasers that are used for laser skin resurfacing or ablative lasers are used for pitted acne scars or other scarring issues.

Depending on the type of laser used, some can exfoliate the top layer of the skin while heating up the deeper layers of the skin to stimulate collagen production.

In general, lasers are more effective than chemical peels and microdermabrasion because they can target a specific issue like hyperpigmentation or redness from rosacea. Many lasers are minimally invasive and don’t have any downtime, which makes them ideal for issues like pigmentation or anti-aging.

Lasers can be much more expensive than chemical peels and microdermabrasion, however. Lasers are typically done in a series of at least 3 treatments, depending on what concerns you are targeting.

Microdermabrasion And Chemical Peel Aftercare

Aftercare following chemical peels or microneedling is generally pretty simple. You’ll need to avoid any kind of exfoliating products (both chemical exfoliants and physical exfoliants) for at least 7-10 days, maybe longer if the peel or microdermabrasion treatment was deep. 

You’ll also want to focus on hydrating the skin with a hyaluronic acid or other hydrating serum and keeping the skin moisturized to avoid skin barrier damage. Keeping the skin hydrated and moisturized can also help to reduce flaking and peeling of the skin following chemical peels. 

General Aftercare Instructions:

  • Avoid sun exposure
  • Avoid exercise for at least 24 hours
  • Avoid swimming or saunas 
  • Do not pick or pull any flaking skin

How long after chemical peel can I get microdermabrasion?

Doing a microdermabrasion treatment after a chemical peel can help to remove any leftover flaky skin and improve results from your peels. Microdermabrasion can safely be done 3-4 weeks after a lighter peel. If the peel was deeper, you should wait at least 6 weeks before doing microdermabrasion. 

Can you get microdermabrasion and chemical peel together?

Yes, you can get microdermabrasion and chemical peel done at the same time/same day. It’s better to do a microdermabrasion treatment before the chemical peel. Getting rid of the dead skin cells on the surface before doing a chemical peel can help the peel penetrate better and give better results. 

Microdermabrasion should not be done after a chemical peel, but it can be safely done before. 

Microdermabrasion and chemical peel together can be a great combination and can enhance the results of your treatments.

Can you get a chemical peel and microdermabrasion at the same time?

Yes, you can get microdermabrasion and chemical peel done at the same time. The microdermabrasion should be done first, followed by the chemical peel. 

Which is best microdermabrasion or chemical peel?

When choosing between microdermabrasion or chemical peels, it all depends on what you are wanting to get out of the treatment. If you don’t want any downtime and have minor skin concerns, microdermabrasion is a great option. 

If you don’t mind some peeling/flaking or more downtime, or have atrophic acne scars or hyperpigmentation, chemical peels will be the best option for you. 

Is Microdermabrasion or Chemical Peel More Effective?

Since microdermabrasion can only treat the surface of the skin, it’s better for mild issues like rough skin texture or minor imperfections. Chemical peels can work at a deeper level and are usually stronger than microdermabrasion, so chemical peels will be more effective for most issues. 

Microdermabrasion Or Chemical Peels: Wrap Up

Microdermabrasion and chemical peels are both great skincare treatments by themselves and even combined. For best results, doing a series of both treatments can really help with texture, scarring, acne, melasma and anti-aging. Both at home and professional treatments can be effective and improve various skin concerns. Is a peel or microdermabrasion better? Well, that entirely depends on your skin concerns, how severe they are and if you are willing to deal with a little downtime and recovery time. Both treatments are effective and have minimal downtime, but deeper chemical peels can come with a recovery period, which is important to consider when choosing the best treatment for you.

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