Dermabrasion vs Microdermabrasion: Similarities, Differences, Pros and Cons

When the skin looks unhealthy, aging and soiled, peeling its outer surface can often restore its youthful and fresh appearance. Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are two skincare treatments that basically peel the skin and remove dead skin cells as well as other grimes and debris that cause health and cosmetic problems to the skin.

Although both treatments are basically sanding procedures that are intended to rub down the skin and to rejuvenate it, they are different in some details. Their difference, consequently, gives each its own advantages and disadvantages.

If you are planning to use any of the two procedures to improve your skin’s appearance and condition, be sure to learn about the similarities, differences, pros and cons of dermabrasion vs microdermabrasion and pick your preferred procedure accordingly.

Dermabrasion vs Microdermabrasion


When Do You Need to Peel Your Skin?

Skin peeling can be done for either cosmetic or remedial purpose. The following are several conditions that make you a good candidate for skin peeling.

  1. Aging skin that gives rise to such symptoms as vertical wrinkles around the mouth, crow’s feet under the eyes and wrinkles on the eyelids.
  2. Dark spots that are caused by sun damage and aging
  3. Acne, chicken pox, and other skin disorders that tend to cause scarring
  4. Scars that are caused by injury
  5. Precancerous skin growths

If any of those conditions occur on your skin, skin peeling or resurfacing can often be the best treatment for them. Skin peeling heals the affected skin by removing dead skin cells, growth and discoloration, if present, and promoting the skin’s self-healing process by wounding it.

Different Skin Peeling Procedures

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are not the only procedures used to peel the skin. In fact, due to their essentially similar techniques, they are still regarded as the same procedures under the umbrella of mechanical skin peeling procedures. Besides them, there are other skin peeling modalities that involve different procedures to peel the skin, including the chemical and laser procedures.

Each of those skin peeling procedures use different techniques to peel the skin. Brief explanation of each technique for each skin peeling procedure goes as follows.

  1. Mechanical procedures

Mechanical procedures include dermabrasion and microdermabrasion techniques. Both techniques utilize an electrically operated device that brushes the skin and removes its outermost layer. Dermabrasion is usually used to treat more severe skin problems, such as raised scars and certain types of acne. Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, is a milder treatment that usually doesn’t require recovery time.

  1. Chemical procedures

Chemical peel uses a certain chemical to peel the skin and to deal with its problems. According to the type of chemical used in the treatment, there are different techniques that this procedure uses.

The mildest chemical peel treatment is the glycolic acid or alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) peel. This treatment is an effective chemical treatment to treat superficial skin problems with almost no sedation, anesthesia and recovery time required due to its mildness.

Trichloracetic acid (TCA) peel is another chemical peel technique that is effective for removing wrinkles and blemishes. It is also affective for treating any skin problems that change skin pigment. Recovery time of this treatment usually lasts for few days during which patients are required to use sunblock.

Phenol peel is known to be one of the strongest chemical peel treatments available. It is effective for treating severe skin problems, including rough damaged skin, big spots, precancerous growths, and deep wrinkles. Only one treatment is necessary to achieve long-lasting effect.

It is believed that the effect of phenol peel can last for about 20 years. Due to its strength, however, heavy sedation and general anesthesia are needed for this treatment. Patients also often require hospitalization during the recovery time.

  1. Laser procedures

Laser peeling is also called laser resurfacing. It is done by shooting focused laser light energy to the affected area of the skin. Laser peeling can be done both for cosmetic purpose and for treating mild to severe skin problems. The most common types of laser used for this treatment is CO2 laser with wavelength at 10.600 nm and Erbium YAG with wavelength at 2940 nm.

Compared to other skin peeling procedures, laser procedures are the most expensive, with price that can be as high as $2,500 per treatment. Recovery time for this procedure is also relatively long and may last as long as 2 months. Patients are also recommended to avoid excessive sun exposure after undergoing the treatment.

Choosing a treatment that is the best for you is not as straightforward as you may imagine. You may want to avoid laser treatment due to its long recovery time and especially its expensive price; however, there are many possibilities in which you are required to choose this treatment. Laser treatment also offers many advantages that make it an appealing treatment for some people.

When it comes to choosing between microdermabrasion and dermabrasion, nevertheless, things are a little bit easier. Microdermabrasion is basically a non-invasive treatment that you will require only if you want to keep your skin clear, beautiful and shiny. Dermabrasion, on the other hand, is a more invasive treatment that requires downtime and special care afterwards.

If you are looking for a cosmetic treatment that you can do regularly, microdermabrasion is a better choice, but if you are dealing with serious skin problems that require more thorough treatment, you should opt for dermabrasion. The difference between microdermabrasion and dermabrasion as well as their pros and cons is what the next part of this article will focus on.

What Is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a regular non-invasive cosmetic procedure that is intended to exfoliate the outermost layer of the skin to give rejuvenation effect. This treatment is carried out by a professional who utilizes a handheld device that spreads aluminum oxide crystals onto the skin and circulates them to allow the superficial skin layer to flakes.

The handheld device then uses suction mechanism to remove the flakes from the surface of the skin. Due to the non-invasive feature of this superficial skin treatment, no wounding of the deeper layers of the skin occurs and no recovery time is needed. Microdermabrasion can be carried out regularly, usually once every month, to restore the condition of the skin. The following are results that patients can expect from microdermabrasion treatment.

  1. Removed fine wrinkles
  2. Removed slight and superficial discoloration on the skin
  3. Smoother and lighter skin surface
  4. Healthy glow on the skin
  5. Shrunk pores due to

What Is Dermabrasion?

Dermabrasion is a skin treatment procedure that is so invasive that it is often classified as one of surgical treatments carried out to the skin. Due to its invasive feature, dermabrasion often requires much longer recovery time. A skincare professional carries out this treatment using a handheld device with rotating wire brush or diamond tipped wheel to sand certain layers of the skin until the desired smoothness is achieved.

The sanding of deeper layers of the skin usually wounds it and makes this treatment more uncomfortable than microdermabrasion. Local anesthesia is mostly required by this treatment and it is usually supplied to through intravenous sedation.

Because the skin will constantly move during the sanding process, a refrigerant spray is usually needed to improve the skin’s stiffness and to prevent the skin movement. The following are results that patients can expect after undergoing dermabrasion treatment.

  1. Removed acne and traumatic scars, including deep ones
  2. Removed tattoos
  3. Shrunk rhynophyma (enlarged nose in rosacea)
  4. Removed actinic keratosis

Whom Microdermabrasion and Dermabrasion Are Best for?

Given the superficial process and results of microdermabrasion, this skin care treatment is best for people who wish to keep their skin smooth and healthy by undergoing this procedure regularly. Microdermabrasion is effective for keeping the healthy and youthful appearance of the skin without causing serious wounding. Its mechanical mechanism also makes it suitable for people with all skin types. Anyone who wishes to refresh their skin without worrying about long and risky recovery time should find microdermabrasion a perfect skin care treatment for them.

Dermabrasion is similar to microdermabrasion in that it is mechanical and it is suitable for all people regardless of their skin type; however, its invasive process definitely makes it an unpleasant process. Although the pain and discomfort of the treatment can be numbed using anesthesia, the length of the recovery time as well as the discomfort that occurs during that time is something that patients have to cope with.

Dermabrasion is a suitable treatment for people of any skin types with severe skin problem who don’t mind to bear the unpleasantness of the recovery time. It is also suitable who don’t want to undergo laser treatment due to its price. Dermabrasion is comparable to chemical peels. People who like to undergo chemical peels usually also consider dermabrasion a reliable choice.

Microdermabrasion and Dermabrasion Recovery Time

Microdermabrasion hardly requires recovery time due to its non-invasive nature. This, however, doesn’t mean recovery time is completely absent with this procedure. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin inflammation after the treatment is still a possible. Therefore, some patients may need to undergo further treatment to get their skin to recover. Nevertheless, the recovery time for microdermabrasion is generally short.

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Dermabrasion, on the other hand, is an invasive treatment that requires rather long recovery time. After undergoing this treatment, patients usually expect their skin to recover after about 10 days to two weeks. During the earliest stage of this recovery period, their skin will usually be swollen and wounded and feel painful, although the painkiller prescribed by the doctor can effectively numb the discomfort.

Smoking, drinking alcohol and applying cosmetics to the affected skin are also proscribed during the first 3 days of the recovery period. The wounded skin will become prone to infection. Patients are expected to keep a good care of their skin, to maintain its cleanliness, and to take the prescribed antibiotics. Even after the end of the recovery time, patients who undergo dermabrasion treatment are required to avoid excessive sun exposure for at least three months.

Does Insurance Cover Microdermabrasion and Dermabrasion?

Due to their basically being cosmetic treatments, microdermabrasion and dermabrasion are usually not covered by medical insurance. Patients who have their skin sanded using either procedure will not receive insurance coverage if their main purpose is to improve the appearance of their skin.

Patients who undergo either treatment in order to remove acne scars, precancerous skin growths, burns, and other abnormal skin condition, however, may find coverage from their medical insurance. It is possible to get insurance coverage if the purpose of the treatment is remedial one. If you are not sure about this, always consult your insurer before undergoing the treatment.

How Much Do Microdermabrasion and Dermabrasion Cost?

Dermabrasion is much more expensive than microdermabrasion not only due to the former’s base cost, but also because of the cost of additional medical treatments that are necessary during and after the treatment.

The base cost of dermabrasion usually ranges from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the type of skin condition being treated. Light procedure carried out to the skin area around the lip may only cost about $1,500, but more thorough procedure carried out to remove deep acne scars may cost $3,000 or more.

This cost has not included additional medical treatments that the procedure requires, including anesthesia and hospitalization, whose cost may range from $2,000 to $4,000. In total, to undergo a session of dermabrasion treatment, the total cost that you have to pay usually ranges from $3,500 to $8,000. Considering the expensive price of this treatment, you may want to think about consulting your insurer if you want to undergo this treatment for remedial purpose.

Microdermabrasion is much cheaper than dermabrasion. The cost for one session of microdermabrasion treatment ranges from $70 to $750. However, one-session treatment usually cannot give you an obvious result. You have to undergo this treatment for about 10 times before you can get the expected result.

In the end, you often have to prepare a budget with amount that ranges from $700 to $7,500 to get your skin smoothed and rejuvenated using microdermabrasion procedure. Since microdermabrasion is a purely cosmetic treatment, insurance is often not available for it.

The Advantages of Microdermabrasion over Dermabrasion

Microdermabrasion procedure helps you get healthier and more youthful skin. There are some advantages that you can reap if you choose this procedure as your regular cosmetic treatment.

  1. Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive treatment that gives amazing result.

Microdermabrasion tackles skin problems by treating only the outermost layer of the skin. Although the treatment seems to be superficial because it doesn’t touch deeper layers, the result is guaranteed to be amazing, especially if you undergo this cosmetic procedure for 10 to 15 sessions. Although it is not as invasive as dermabrasion, facelift and other cosmetic treatments to restore the smoothness of the skin, it can yield almost the same result with that of most invasive treatments.

  1. Microdermabrasion is painless.

As explained by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, microdermabrasion doesn’t trigger any sensations on the treated skin except the sensation of being mildly scratched and massaged. Instead of feeling pain, you will actually feel the pleasant feel of the massage. Unlike dermabrasion that requires anesthesia, microdermabrasion doesn’t, even if inflammation after the treatment is expectable. Read below to learn more about microdermabrasion recovery time.

  1. Microdermabrasion recovery time is not a big concern.

Microdermabrasion requires little to no recovery time, depending on whether inflammation occurs after the treatment. Even if it does occur, it is usually mild and will disappear very soon. If the inflammation occurs after your first microdermabrasion session, the likeliness of its occurrence after the second session onward will significantly decrease as your skin has become more accustomed to it. Consult your doctor if you experience discomfort after undergoing microdermabrasion treatment.

  1. Microdermabrasion is a quick procedure.

A microdermabrasion session hardly takes more than one hour to finish. Full-face microdermabrasion usually takes about half an hour to finish and neck treatment usually finishes within 20 minutes. The quick session of this treatment is what makes this treatment appealing for many patients.

  1. Microdermabrasion is relatively cheap.

One session of microdermabrasion only costs about $50 to $750. Compared to many other skin rejuvenation treatments, both invasive and non-invasive, microdermabrasion is relatively cheap. The cost per session of this treatment is the cost that many people can afford.

The Advantages of Dermabrasion over Microdermabrasion

Dermabrasion can be either cosmetic or restorative procedure. If you have to choose between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion, there are several reasons why you should opt for dermabrasion.

  1. Dermabrasion is effective for treating severe skin problems.

While microdermabrasion is a purely cosmetic treatment, dermabrasion can also be a restorative treatment for treating skin problems that cannot be treated using microdermabrasion. Dermabrasion is suitable for treating severe skin problems that cause tissue growth or wasting and restoring the smoothness of the skin. Acne and traumatic scars as well as various skin problems that make the skin appear uneven can be effectively treated using dermabrasion procedure.

  1. Dermabrasion is mostly a one-time procedure.

Dermabrasion treatment occurs mostly only once. You don’t need to undergo this treatment periodically in order to get the expected result. Therefore, although you often have to suffer after you undergo this treatment, you only have to suffer once. After you get through this suffering, you will have the everlastingly smooth skin that you always admire.

  1. It is easier to predict the cost of dermabrasion.

Dermabrasion is indeed an expensive treatment, but because you only need to undergo it once in order to achieve the expected result, you know exactly how much money that you have to spend in order to undergo this treatment. Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, yields the expected result only after you undergo it more than once.

Some patients may get the expected result after two sessions, but there are patients who have to attend 15 microdermabrasion sessions or more before they can get the result that they expect. The uncertainty of how many microdermabrasion sessions needed to achieve the result makes the expenses related to this superficial treatment more difficult to manage.

  1. Dermabrasion cost might be covered by insurance.

Dermabrasion procedure can be used for either cosmetic or restorative purpose. If you undergo this treatment to improve your look, your insurance will definitely not cover its cost; however, if you do it to treat skin problems that may threaten your health or even your life, such as precancerous growth, your medical insurance may cover its cost. Consult your insurer about its policy regarding dermabrasion cost coverage.

Although dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are two different treatments, there is always a chance for you to choose between them. When that time comes, your knowledge of the pros and cons of each treatment will greatly help you make a sound decision about which treatment to opt for.


Despite their similar name, microdermabrasion and dermabrasion are two different treatments. Microdermabrasion is mostly cosmetic whereas dermabrasion is mostly restorative. When you want to choose between both treatments, factors that you need to take into consideration include the severity of your skin problem, the cost that you are willing to pay, and the recovery time that you can bear.

Dermabrasion is useful for treating severe skin conditions, it is expensive, and it requires long recovery time. Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, is useful only for skin exfoliating purpose, it is generally cheaper, and it requires little to no recovery time. In the end, however, the most decisive factor is your doctor’s decision.

After your skin condition is diagnosed, your doctor will recommend you to undergo a specific treatment that is the most suitable for treating the condition. The treatments that your doctor possibly recommends are not limited to only dermabrasion and microdermabrasion, but also chemical and laser peels. Therefore, always take your time to ask your doctor about those treatments so that when you finally make a decision about which treatment to choose, your decision is a sound one.

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