Chemical Peel vs. Microdermabrasion: What's The Difference?
If you feel like your skin care routine isn’t quite cutting it, you may want to consider receiving an in-office procedure from a dermatologist to help take your skin to the next level. Two popular choices right now are chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Both procedures provide a type of exfoliation, helping to shed dead skin cells, but they differ in important ways—including what they target, how they’re performed, and what you can expect after it’s all over. To find out all the key differences between chemical peels and microdermabrasion, we tapped board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali. Keep reading to find out which one might be right for you.
What Is a Chemical Peel?
From the name alone, you might be able to guess what a chemical peel is. The procedure involves applying a chemical solution to the skin in an effort to help peel off the top layers of skin. Think of it as a more extreme form of chemical exfoliation, quite a few steps up from using a glycolic acid toner or retinoid cream at home. The benefits of chemical peels can include new surface skin that feels smoother and looks younger, in addition to a reduced appearance of discoloration, scars, and signs of aging.
As for what you can expect during a chemical peel, know that it’s not a day-of decision. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s likely that your dermatologist will have given you a pre-peel regimen to follow for a few weeks to prepare. When the day of your peel arrives, your skin will be cleansed. When you and your skin are ready, your dermatologist will apply the peel evenly to your skin. There isn’t a set time for when the peel is ready to come off, rather your dermatologist will observe your skin to determine the best time to do so. After the peel comes off, you may be given a cool compress or a soothing lotion to help ease any discomfort.
When Should You Consider a Chemical Peel?
According to Dr. Bhanusali, one major difference between chemical peels and microdermabrasion is that in addition to exfoliating, peels can also help stimulate collagen. Another difference Dr. Bhanusali points out is that chemical peels are capable of penetrating the skin deeper. As a result, dermatologists may suggest a chemical peel to help address concerns such as acne, age spots, discoloration, dullness, sun damage, wrinkles, and/or fine lines.
What Can You Expect Post-Chemical Peel?
It’s important not to expect to see the complexion of your dreams immediately post-peel. The reality is, all peels performed by a dermatologist will require at-home care and time to heal. When healed, you can expect to see results, however in most cases they’re not permanent as skin always continues to age.
Follow your dermatologist’s instructions on how to care for your skin following a chemical peel. He or she may ask you to hold off on applying makeup to the area or may suggest applying ice packs for cooling comfort.
What Is Microdermabrasion?
While chemical peels are a form of chemical exfoliation, microdermabrasion is an example of manual exfoliation, meaning the dead surface skin is physically sloughed away. The non-invasive procedure gently exfoliates the skin’s surface.
Unlike a chemical peel, microdermabrasion doesn’t necessitate a pre-procedure plan. During the procedure, your dermatologist will use a handheld device to gently remove the top layer of skin, which may cause a non-painful sanding sensation. Dr. Bhanusali shares that diamond tips or crystals may be used to achieve the exfoliation and a vacuum can be used to remove the debris. According to the AAD, the entire process should take around 30 to 40 minutes for your face and 20 minutes for your neck. Afterwards, your dermatologist will apply a moisturizer.
When Should Consider Microdermabrasion?
Since microdermabrasion is less invasive than a chemical peel, deciding to have it done isn’t nearly as challenging. The AAD shares that microdermabrasion has widespread appeal to patients because it can provide a more youthful-looking complexion, helping to improve the appearance of dull skin, uneven tone and texture, age spots, dark spots caused by acne, and melasma. Additionally, some dermatologists use microdermabrasion to help enhance the results of skin care products.
What Can You Expect Post-Microdermabrasion?
We have good news: microdermabrasion calls for zero-to-little downtime. The AAD states that some patients may see their skin turn pink or red with slight swelling, akin to having a sunburn. During this time, you may need to apply a moisturizer and will need to use sun protection when outdoors.
Most patients will need a series of microdermabrasion procedures, not just one, to see visible results. Similar to a chemical peel, the results will also not be permanent. While following a dermatologist recommended post-treatment plan will help maintain the results, follow-up treatments are usually needed.