Chemical Peel vs Microdermabrasion

Which is better for moderate acne scars and sun damage? Is one better for one or the other? Should they be combined?

Doctor Answers 7

Microdermabrasion does not remove scars

Microdermabrasion will not remove scars but can improve brown spots left over from acne lesions.  It will also improve discolorations and coarse texture caused by sun damage.  Light chemical peels will have the same effect.  Stronger light and medium peels, such as TCA peels may improve scars and wrinkles but not as effectively as some lasers.  Deep peels will remove scars but can also cause permanent loss of skin color and are therefore have been replaced by more better technology (lasers.)


Laguna Niguel Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 182 reviews

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Better results with chemical peels

I have seen improvement in the appearance of ance scars and sun damage with chemical peels and microdermabrasion. In my opinion, results can be seen sooner with chemical peels since exfoliation can be cutomized to meet the needs of your skin and can be stronger than microdermabrasion alone. Microdermabrasion is more superficial and is a great option to maintain your skin after you achieved your desired result.

Depending on your skin type chemical peels can be combined with microdermabrasion for deeper exfoliation. Most skin conditions, including acne scars and sun damage, require a series of treatments in the range of 6-8 depending on how strong the treatments are. I recommend a consultation with a skincare professional who can recommend the best treatment course for your specific condition. Good luck!

Joseph Serota, MD
Aurora Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Improving acne scars and sun damage

The discolorations left behind from acne lesions are not truly scars but rather post-inflammatory red or brown color.  True acne scars leave behind tissue loss and indentations in the skin.  Post-inflammatory color can be improved both by microdermabration and chemical peels.  Each technique can provide superficial resurfacing of the skin.  Your skin cells turn over every 28 days.

Alternating microdermabrasion with chemical peels on a monthly basis will take advantage of the cells normal cycle and achieve excellent results with minimal risk of irritation.  There are many different types of peeling agents which can achieve different depths of chemical peel each tailored to the individual patient and their goals.  As with any treatment plan consult a skin specialist, especially a board certified dermatologist, to design the right program for you.

Pamela Carr, MD
Sugar Land Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Fraxel For Acne Scars

Thank you for your question. At my practice, I have gotten excellent results for scarring with Fraxel. This treatment eliminates irregular skin discoloration, and stimulates new collagen production, tightening the skin without prolonged recovery. After a series of 2 to 4 Fraxel treatments, the cumulative cosmetic improvement is near more aggressive lasers, but unlike more aggressive lasers, redness and swelling eliminated within 2 to 4 days after each treatment. Fraxel is outstanding for fine wrinkles, mild skin laxity, irregular pigmentation, acne scars, surgical scars, enlarged pores, stretch marks, age spots and Rosacea. It can be used safely on the face, neck, hands, arms, and chest.

Chemical peels are best

The biggest bang for your buck, so to speak, is definitely chemical peels.  There are a variety of them to chose from and if done properly can make a big difference even for deeper acne scars.  Microdermabrasion, in my opinion, will make little, if any, difference.

Victoria W. Serralta, MD
Arlington Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Chemical Peels tend to do a lot better for discolorations and sun damage than microdermabrasions.

There are many types and strenghts of chem peels which work great for discolorations and sun damage but still usually need to be done 4-6 times.  Microdermabrasions do well to maintain your complexion once the peels get it to where you like it.

David Hansen, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.