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What is the Difference Between Microdermabrasion and Chemical Peel?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 17, 2024
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Microdermabrasion and chemical peel treatments are similar in terms of the kinds of results that they can deliver but different in terms of their processes. During microdermabrasion, the skin is deeply exfoliated. During a chemical peel, however, a chemical process takes place on the skin that works to remove dead skin cells and layers of skin. Another difference between microdermabrasion and chemical peel procedures is where they are performed and who can perform them. While microdermabrasion can be performed at a spa, most chemical peels have to be administered by a dermatologist or physician.

There are some microdermabrasion and chemical peel treatments that can be performed at home. As microdermabrasion has become a more and more popular treatment to fight the signs of aging and help to keep the skin clear, skin care technology companies have developed systems that can be used at home. This is especially true because the effects of microdermabrasion treatments are cumulative. Also, as chemical peels have increased in popularity, companies that sell skin care products have developed peels that can be used at home. While the most expensive at home microdermabrasion systems may compare to those used in salons, at home chemical peels are usually very light.

There is a range in the intensity of chemical peels that is different than the range of intensity of microdermabrasion treatments. This is one of the key differences between microdermabrasion and chemical peel treatments. There are three kinds of chemical peel treatments, which range from light to dramatic in their results. The deep chemical peels may require weeks of recovery time and must be performed by a licensed medical practitioner.

Choosing between microdermabrasion and chemical peel treatments really means choosing between levels of results. The only exception is with light chemical peels, which have results similar to microdermabrasion treatments. A single microdermabrasion treatment will generally not deliver the same results as a medium chemical peel or a deep chemical peel. These sorts of chemical peels remove more layers of skin than is possible using a basic microdermabrasion treatment.

It is possible for microdermabrasion and chemical peel treatments to have the same results, even regarding medium or deep chemical peels, if the microdermabrasion is administered on a regular basis. In fact, many people prefer to get regular microdermabrasion treatments instead of a deep chemical peel because, over time, the results are similar. With the microdermabrasion treatments, however, there is less recovery time and less pain.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Sep 11, 2013

@fify-- Some chemical peels are less irritating than microdermabrasion. AHA peels work well for me.

I've heard that microdermabrasion and chemical peels can also be used together (in alternation).

By ysmina — On Sep 11, 2013

@fify-- Professional microdermabrasion is very different from the kit you used. What you used sounds more like a chemical exfoliant than microdermabrasion.

Microdermabrasion can only be done at the spa. The process involves tiny microdermabrasion crystals that remove the top skin layer with abrasion. There is only one type of microdermabrasin and it usually takes several treatments to start seeing effects.

On the other hand, chemical peels remove skin with chemicals. Unlike microdermabrasion, there are many different types of chemical peels. Some are stronger and go deeper into skin layers than others. Chemical peels show their effects sooner from my experience.

By fify — On Sep 10, 2013

I've never had a professional microdermabrasion done, but I have used a home microdermabrasion kit for acne scars. It was basically a kit with three products for exfoliation and moisture.

I had relatively good results with this kit but still experienced some irritation. I'm sure that I could never get a chemical peel because I know that chemical peels go much deeper into skin and cause way more side effects.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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