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 11

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  Deep peels will remove scars but can also cause permanent loss of skin color and are therefore have been replaced by more better technology (lasers.)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
4.9 out of 5 stars 216 reviews

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 18 reviews

​Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion

Chemical peels and Microdermabrasion are procedures which exfoliate the skin to improve the appearance of skin imperfections. Microdermabrasion works best for superficial skin imperfections such as fine lines and wrinkles. Chemical peels are most effective on serious skin problems such as deep wrinkles and scars. Chemical peels are more effective than Microdermabrasion, however unless the chemical peel being used is very strong they are often not strong enough to treat scarring.

Hardik Soni, MD
Summit Emergency Medicine Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 45 reviews

Chemical Peels Vs. Microderm Abrasion

Although from the name it may sound like Microderm Abrasion is the best option to exfoliate the outer layer of skin, chemical peels actually do a much more thorough job.  For moderate acne scars and sun damage, you'll definitely want to go the chemical peel route, and you may want to combine it with BBL/IPL and microneedling treatment.  Best of luck to you!

Thomas McFadden, MD
Greenville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 64 reviews

Chemical Peels versus Microdermabrasion versus Lasers for acne scars and brown spots

There are many different modalities that are effective in treating acne scars and brown spots.  Microdermabrasion works very well for maintaining beautiful skin, as do light chemical peels.  Chemical peels work better than microdermabrasion for brown spots.  Lasers such as Fraxel, eMatrix, and the Tri-Vantage work best for acne scars and dark spots.  Please consult a board certified dermatologist for the best cometic results.  Best, Dr. Green

Michele S. Green, MD
New York Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 78 reviews

Chem Peels vs Microdermabrasion.

Chemical peels are more effective than microdermabrasion, however unless the chemical peel being used is very strong they are often not strong enough to treat scarring. A more effective option is microneedling or fraxel resurfacing.

Kaleroy Papantoniou, MD, FAAD
Great Neck Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 31 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.

Daniel Shapiro, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 107 reviews

Moderate acne scars and sun damage can be treated many ways.

Microdermabrasion will remove the top, dry, rough skin layers and will leave your skin softer and smoother. This procedure is similar to how your skin would feel after a nice facial. Microdermabrasion will have  very little to no effect at all on acne scars (even mild ones), as these scars are within and often extend below the deeper skin layers. Even the deepest laser resurfacing, surgical dermabrasion, or strongest chemical peel will not completely remove or eliminate moderate or severe acne scars.

However, all of these options will have some beneficial effect on your skin, removing much of the sun-damaged irritations or rough patches (actinic keratoses), and improving, but not eliminating the acne scars.

As a general rule, you get what you pay for. Lighter chemical peels treat the most superficial layers, make minimal changes in true irregular scars or textural changes in skin, and heal quickly. That is why they are often done in a spa or skin care clinic by estheticians, and don't cost too much.

Stronger peels (higher concentration TCA or phenol peels) go deeper into the skin layers, remove more textural changes and scarring, but will still not be as aggressive as full-face ablative laser resurfacing, which gives the most improvement and best results, but costs more. No matter what procedure you have, the healing still takes about a week, and there may be redness that lasts somewhat longer.

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 255 reviews

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
4.7 out of 5 stars 43 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.