Beauty / Skin Care

Which is Better: Microdermabrasion or Chemical Peel

Microdermabrasion or Chemical Peel

Do you feel that your regular facials are no longer quite cutting it when it comes to your skincare? Perhaps you’re just ready for a fresh start. If so, it might be time to take your skin care routine to the next level, and try either microdermabrasion or a chemical peel. These treatments are both types of exfoliation, or of removing dead skin cells from the epidermis. But which of these procedures is best for you? Here we’ll explore the difference between microdermabrasion and chemical peels, and take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Microdermabrasion or Chemical Peel

What is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a physical exfoliation, which means it involves the manual removal of dead skin cells from the superficial level of the face.  There are two different types  available: one requires a wand with a diamond tip and is particle-free; the other method is carried out using a wand with a crystal tip which sprays fine nontoxic aluminum oxide crystals on the skin. 

Qualified practitioners gently apply this diamond or crystal tipped instrument to the skin – this process is not painful, although you might experience a slight sensation of pressure. Dirt and impurities are sucked away, leaving the skin underneath healthy and glowing. It can also help combat acne and improve skin texture.

What is a Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel is another form of exfoliation, but one done using chemicals rather than a physical instrument. The acids in the peel strip away dead skin cells by dissolving the connections that hold these together on the epidermis. Chemical peels can consist of one type of acid or can be a compound of several. The strength of the formulation is directly related to the acids used. One commonly used solution is the Glycolic Acid Peel.

Chemical exfoliation is known for increasing collagen production, as well as reducing the appearance of sun damage, fine lines and wrinkles. However, depending on your skin type and sensitivity, the procedure may cause flaky and peeled off skin.

Microdermabrasion or Chemical Peel

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How often should I have each treatment?

When it comes to the frequency of microdermabrasion vs chemical peels, estheticians often recommend that each procedure can be carried out monthly. 

Chemical peels are harsher than microdermabrasion, and so shouldn’t be carried out more often than once a month. Around 5-7 days of aftercare is also recommended following a chemical peel.

Those suffering from severe acne may be advised to do microdermabrasion twice a month. This can allow the skin to be softened faster, enabling any creams to penetrate deeper.

How is the application different?

The most obvious difference when it comes to microdermabrasion vs chemical peels is the application of each. As microdermabrasion is done with a wand, it can’t be adjusted from person to person. Chemical exfoliation however is applied with hands to the skin.  The formulation can be tailored more to your skin type and requirements, ranging from extremely mild to a strong, thorough cleanse.

Which hurts more?

Microdermabrasion or Chemical Peel

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Neither treatment should be too painful. Microdermabrasion will result in a tingling sensation on the skin, and a feeling of warmth. Chemical peels can be more uncomfortable. Some estheticians use mild anesthetics or massage to help you manage the pain. It’s very common to experience redness of the face following both procedures.

What are the side effects?

The main side effect of microdermabrasion is the redness and inflammation you may suffer in the immediate aftermath. As it’s fairly gentle, there are few other risks. The more invasive chemical peel can lead to increased skin dryness and pigmentation, as the strong acids cause skin irritation. 

How long is the recovery time?

There’s a big difference when it comes to the recovery time of microdermabrasion vs chemical peels. The red skin caused by microdermabrasion should last no longer than two days, and is often gone in a matter of hours. The application of moisturizer can help with this recovery. You can then return to your usual makeup and skincare routine, although if you have particularly sensitive skin you may want to give your skin five days to totally recover.

When recovering from a peel, it’s advised to stay out of the sun for seven to ten days. If your skin feels especially painful and irritated afterwards, you may even need antibiotics or painkillers to help with the healing process.

Microdermabrasion or Chemical Peel

Nika_Akin / Pixabay

Can I do it myself at home?

Ideally, both of these treatments would be carried out in a salon, by a qualified doctor, dermatologist or esthetician. Either procedure takes around thirty minutes when done by a professional, and this provides the best results.

Mild chemical peels are available for purchase if you did want to try doing it yourself at home. However, the wands involved in microdermabrasion shouldn’t be used by anybody inexperienced.

How expensive are these procedures?

When it comes to the cost of microdermabrasion vs chemical peels, it’s important to think about how often you need to have these procedures. Microdermabrasion tends to be the cheaper option. It usually results in visibly glowing skin and an immediate improvement in skin tone. However, it’s a short-term solution and will require further follow-up appointments.

Chemical peels are more expensive: a peel could set you back by up to $4000! On the other hand, the results last for far longer. You may not need another trip to the salon for a couple of months afterwards.

Microdermabrasion: Pros and Cons


  • No pain
  • Beneficial for acne, dryness and skin texture
  • Cheaper
  • Quick healing
  • Results in a healthy looking, glowing complexion
  • Suitable for all skin types


  • Can’t be adapted in strength
  • Doesn’t help with acne scars, wrinkles or pigmentation
  • Needs to be repeated regularly

Chemical Peel: Pros and Cons


  • Results last for up to two months
  • Can help fix sun damage, acne, acne scars, pigmentation, redness and wrinkles
  • There are three different kinds, of different strengths, to choose between
  • Can be done at home if necessary


  • Recovery time is much longer
  • Can be more painful
  • More expensive

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the right skincare procedure – hopefully by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of these exfoliation techniques we’ve helped you come to the decision which is best for you, and best for the overall health and appearance of your skin.

Read more skincare articles at Cliché
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