What Are the Differences between Dermabrasion and Microdermabrasion?

Kathleen Howard

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are cosmetic procedures used to exfoliate, remove imperfections, and enhance the appearance of the skin. While these procedures sound similar, they differ in severity, price and average recovery times. Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon abrades, or scrapes, the skin with a specialized sanding machine or rotating tool. Microdermabrasion is a less invasive procedure, performed by an esthetician, that resurfaces the complexion by removing a very thin layer of skin.

The amount of skin removed during the procedure is the difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion.
The amount of skin removed during the procedure is the difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion.

The primary difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion is the amount of skin removed during the procedure. During dermabrasion a surgeon will remove several layers of skin until he or she reaches the top layer of the dermis, which is known as the papillary dermis. To keep patients comfortable during treatment, they are typically sedated and injected with local anesthetics. Due to the depth of the exfoliation only one treatment is usually necessary to achieve the desired results. After one treatment, patients typically notice a dramatic difference in the appearance of their scars, wrinkles and other imperfections.

Microdermabrasion, also commonly referred to as a power peel, is a less invasive procedure that produces less dramatic results than dermabrasion. This procedure is performed by an esthetician who uses a handheld tool to exfoliate the skin with fine crystals. Instead of removing several layers of skin, microdermabrasion only removes a very thin layer from the surface of the skin. In most cases, these treatments are not painful and do not require the use of sedatives or anesthetics. While microdermabrasion will brighten and smooth the skin, it will take several treatments to dramatically reduce scarring, wrinkles or hyperpigmentation.

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion also differ in price. While dermabrasion is more effective than microdermabrasion, it is also more expensive. Patients can expect to pay for their treatment as well as for anesthesia, hospital fees and other expenses. Microdermabrasion treatments are usually much more affordable. Although, for the best results many patients do need several treatment sessions, which will affect the overall cost.

Another difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion is the average length of recovery. Dermabrasion is considered a surgical procedure. After treatment, a patient’s skin will be very raw, bleed, and might secrete fluid that will eventually forms a crust. It might be several days before a person’s skin looks normal enough to go out in public. While a person’s skin might look irritated after microdermabrasion, it will not look so irritated that he or she is forced to stay at home.

While dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are both exfoliating treatments, these procedures are very different. A person who wants to eliminate deep wrinkles or scars, or who wants to remove a tattoo, might want to consider dermabrasion. People who want to smooth and brighten their complexion will benefit more from microdermabrasion. These treatments should be chosen based on a person’s desired results, budget and willingness to undergo an invasive surgical procedure.

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