microdermabrasion vs chemical peel

Chemical Peel Vs. Microdermabrasion: The Ultimate Guide

What does microdermabrasion do for my skin? Is it the same as a chemical peel? Is one better than the other? What is the downtime for these procedures? These are some common questions that we are asked by our clients about microdermabrasion vs. chemical peels and today we are going to provide the answers!

Both treatments are very popular and are similar in some ways but there are a few key differences. Depending on what issues you are attempting to address on your skin, one treatment may be more suited to do the job than the other. It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the specifics of a procedure in order to make an informed decision of which would work best for your circumstances. Both procedures are done to exfoliate dead skin cells from the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis.

Exfoliation should be included in everyone’s skincare routine as it is critical to rid your skin of these dead cells periodically to ensure a healthy complexion. Microdermabrasion and chemical peels exfoliate the skin’s surface in different ways. Microdermabrasion uses a tool to physically exfoliate the top layer of skin and chemical peels use chemical solutions to remove the dead cells from the skin’s surface.

What Is Microdermabrasion?

During the microdermabrasion procedure, the medical technician uses a special tool to manually exfoliate and slough away the dead skin cells on the surface leaving a smoother texture and even skin tone. Microdermabrasion is used to address the following:

  • Hyperpigmentation or uneven pigmentation
  • Fine lines & wrinkles
  • Clogged pores
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Minor scars
  • Skin texture issues.

The microdermabrasion tool is made with diamond tips or crystals which aids in the exfoliation process. A special vacuum is sometimes used to remove the sloughed-off skin cells. The procedure is not painful, does not require any pre-treatment, and there is no downtime. The entire procedure normally takes about 45 minutes and is followed by a special moisturizer.

Read about different types of microdermabrasion treatments available at SurgiCare Arts & Aesthetics.

Pros And Cons of Microdermabrasion


  • Painless
  • More affordable
  • Heals quickly, no downtime
  • Combats dryness
  • Improves texture
  • Provides glowing complexion

  • Treatment is not as targeted
  • Usually requires more than one treatment

What Is A Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel uses a chemical solution that penetrates the skin and essentially dissolves the top layer of the skin off. There are different strengths or levels of chemical peels to strategically target specific skin imperfections. Chemical peels penetrate deeper into the skin and are more aggressive than microdermabrasion. This makes this treatment perfect for treating skin issues such as:

  • Acne & blemishes
  • Fine lines & wrinkles
  • Crow’s feet
  • Brown spots
  • Sagging skin
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Melasma (patchy facial skin discoloration)
  • Scars

Normally, in preparation for a chemical peel, the patient is instructed to perform a specific skincare routine for a period of time to prepare the skin for the treatment. Dead skin cells will flake off or shed for up to two weeks and will reveal healthy smoother skin. There is moderate downtime after a chemical peel as your skin will need time to heal and fully resurface. Recovery time and healing varies from person to person and depends on the type of chemical peel you received, but typically between a week to two weeks.

Find more details about chemical peels: Chemical Peels: Magical Transformation of Your Skin.

Pros And Cons of Chemical Peels


  • Penetrates deeper
  • Can address more serious issues
  • Results last longer
  • Improves acne
  • Addresses deeper wrinkles and lines and signs of aging
  • Chemical formulation is targeted for each patient’s specific issues

  • More painful
  • Recovery time is longer
  • Requires pre-procedure skincare regime and post-procedure care
  • More expensive

Which Is Better: a Chemical Peel or Microdermabrasion?

How do you choose between the two procedures when both seem to address the same types of skin issues? One major difference is that a chemical peel will help stimulate increased collagen production so if targeting the signs of aging, a chemical peel may do a better job in obtaining the results you desire. Also, chemical peels penetrate deeper into the skin so it can address more significant imperfections and the results are more dramatic.

Microdermabrasion is less invasive than a chemical peel and has little to no downtime. If your skin is sensitive or you do not want to invest the time into pre and post-care, then it may be the best choice for you.

Bottom line is that it depends on the end result you desire and what recovery timeline you are willing to follow. Microdermabrasion is quicker and a bit less expensive with a quick recovery, however, a chemical peel is going to do a more significant job in resurfacing the skin.

Best Treatment For Acne, Wrinkles, and Sun Damage

Acne: Chemical peels are normally the best choice since they contain salicylic acid which helps to reduce future breakouts and lessens noticeable imperfections caused by acne.

Wrinkles: Light wrinkles can usually be addressed using microdermabrasion or a weaker “light” chemical peel. Deeper wrinkles would be better addressed using a medium-strength or deep chemical peel.

Sun Damage: If sun damage is minimal and addressing a touch of rough skin, microdermabrasion or a light chemical peel should be adequate. If your skin is severely damaged or you may be at risk of melasma, a medium or deep chemical peel is recommended.

Double The Results By Combining Microdermabrasion & Chemical Peels

Amazing results can be achieved by alternating between the two procedures. They work well together to address all types of skin imperfections and leave your skin with a healthy glow. While they can not be done at the same time, both can be used separately targeting specific issues and tailored to suit your circumstances for optimal results.

If you desire a healthy glowing appearance and want to roll back the hands of time, contact us today for a consultation to find out which procedure or combination of both will deliver the results you want. We would welcome the opportunity to partner with you and create a personalized plan to reduce signs of aging, sun damage, acne, etc, and leave you with beautiful healthy skin.

Read next: Microneedling Vs. Microdermabrasion.

Angelina Postoev, MD, FACS, a triple board certified cosmetic surgeon, and Christopher Ibikunle, MD, FACS, offer microdermabrasion and chemical peels treatments to patients in Buckhead, Lawrenceville, Suwanee, Johns Creek, and the surrounding areas of Georgia.

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