Microdermabrasion Vs Chemical Peel – Decide Your Exfoliation Method

Learn more about microdermabrasion vs chemical peel treatment, which exfoliation method is best for you?
AuthorBy Wendy Gould

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Microdermabrasion Vs Chemical Peel - Image/Shutterstock

Exfoliation is a must for all skin types, even for sensitive skin types. This is a fact that everybody should have learned by now, beauty enthusiast or not.

One of the longest running debates when it comes to promoting proper skin care is differentiating microdermabrasion vs chemical peel. Which is better — microdermabrasion[1] or chemical peel[2]?

Both have been around for some time now, tried and tested for decades, unlike most other skin exfoliation procedures offered these days. How are these two treatments different and what basic information must you be aware of before scheduling a session?

What’s New In Skin Exfoliation Treatments?

A lot has changed since chemical peels became the buzz in skincare in the 80s and microdermabrasion became a headline in the 90s.

What’s glaring is that people are turning less often on invasive plastic surgery solutions to solve their skincare issues.

In general, minimally invasive and non-invasive procedures are getting the bulk of attention from women and men who desire gorgeous-looking skin and keep their youthful glow longer.

In 2016, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that 17.1 million cosmetic procedures in the US alone.

An estimated 15.4 million of which was accounted for by minimally invasive procedures. The top three most popular procedures are Botox injections, soft tissue filler injections, and chemicals peels.

The same study also reported that clients as young as 13 years old get these procedures done.

Your typical skin exfoliation menu will consist of the following three categories of choices:

1. Laser Skin Rejuvenation and Resurfacing Techniques:

  • If you value precision, nothing can beat the power of lasers to deliver treatment only where treatment is needed, practically leaving undamaged skin tissue unscathed and untouched.
  • Whereas older skin laser technologies will inevitably damage the surface layer, newer types of laser treatments will be capable of bypassing top layers, leaving these undamaged, to reach imperfections located in the deeper layers of your skin.
  • In some instances, treatment is also combined with radiofrequency therapy which uses radio waves to stimulate greater efficiency in skin regeneration.

2. Mechanical Resurfacing:

  • These procedures can be thought of as scrubbing on your skin to get the debris to break off and become eliminated from your skin.
  • Suction tubes and vacuums are commonly used, as are abrasive cloths and physical exfoliation devices such as brushes.

3. Chemical Peels:

  • These procedures generally use a chemical agent to burn off the damaged layers of your skin.
  • Chemical agents have different capacities for exfoliating the skin, some may cause mild and gentle exfoliation while other chemical agents can cause more intense peels that could take longer for your skin to become healed and relieved.

What are microdermabrasion and chemical peels?

For you to be able to answer whether microdermabrasion or chemical peels suit you best, here is a quick definition and description of what is microdermabrasion treatment and what are chemical peels:



Microdermabrasion – Image/Shutterstock

  • The benefits of microdermabrasion treatments lie in the exfoliation efficiency of the fine abrasive material used to scrape off the damaged top layer of the skin.
  • It is common for the skin to be vacuumed after sloughing off your skin’s top layer. How does microdermabrasion work? Most professional skincare centers will give you two choices for microdermabrasion — Diamond Peel or Crystal Peel.
  • The first uses a pen-like tool with a sandy or abrasive tip.
  • This is scratched across your skin to break and manually slough off the debris that formed on the surface.
  • The pen-like tool usually comes with a vacuum device that sucks the dead skin off of your skin to reveal a fresher, less blemished, and more radiant layer.
  • The second, on the other hand, uses aluminum oxide crystals scattered across your skin. These crystals rub against your skin’s damaged top layer, causing the skin to flake off.
  • A sucking device is then used to clear your skin of debris.

Chemical Peels

Chemical Peel

Chemical Peel – Image/Shutterstock

What is a chemical peel procedure?

  • There are generally two categories of chemical peels. One is termed resurfacing or chemical resurfacing, and another is known as chemical peeling treatments.
  • The first is practically painless and superficial while the latter can range from mild to intense, depending on the chemical agent used and the level of benefits you expect to derive from a chemical peel.
  • The most common choices of chemical peel agents include glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid, and sometimes combined acid peels like the AHA Vitamin C peel and the Jessner Peel, which combines lactic acid, salicylic acid, and resorcinol.

You Can Also Read – Amazing Benefits Of Chemical Peels For Younger Looking Skin.

What’s The Difference Between Microdermabrasion And Chemical Peels

Most definitely, these two procedures share many things in common but also differ in some ways. Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Uses/Skin Issues Addressed:

    Both procedures help improve the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, dull skin, uneven skin tone, and hyper pigmentation.

    Both procedures work wonders for skin at any age, making pores appear tighter, and the surface feels smoother and looks more radiant.

    Is microdermabrasion good for acne treatment? Microdermabrasion is generally not recommended for the relief of acne breakouts as the procedure will likely spread infected pores and, therefore, worsen acne.

    Chemical peels should work better at disinfecting and clarifying acne-challenged skin.

  • Best For Skin Type:

    Microdermabrasion can be practically painless, whether you choose diamond or crystal peel.

    Chemical peels also can be mild and light, depending on the chemical agent used and the skin issues that you are trying to address.

  • Side Effects:

    People with a very thin skin surface may show scratch marks following a microdermabrasion treatment which could show for an entire week.

    As for chemical peels, permanent chemical burns are always a possibility so make sure to avail the services of a certified skincare specialist for these procedures.

    Stinging, redness and swelling are a given but persistence and duration depend on the intensity of the chemical agent used.

  • Post-Procedure Care:

    Both require aftercare and you should closely follow your skin specialist’s advice to avoid infections and scarring, as well as to help you make the results last longer.

    Microdermabrasion will generally not require downtime while a chemical peel will, usually lasting anywhere from three days up to two weeks.


Que: Is chemical peel same as microdermabrasion?

Ans: No, microdermabrasion is “mechanical” exfoliation and chemical peels are “chemical” exfoliation. Chemical peels are selected based on your skin type.

Que: Who should not use microdermabrasion?

Ans: People who have taken the acne medicine isotretinoin in the past 6 months may need to wait before having microdermabrasion.

Que: Does microdermabrasion damage your skin?

Ans: No, Microdermabrasion is safe and effective for all skin types.


Exfoliation is a key strategy to keep your skin healthy and vibrant.

When it comes to exfoliation procedures, it matters a lot that you study your choices well and review the pros and cons of each available procedure in more detail.

If you know your skin depended on it, chances are, you will devote sufficient time to know more about how to find the right exfoliator and which exfoliation procedure, microdermabrasion vs chemical peel perhaps, will suit your skin best.


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