What Is the Difference Between Microdermabrasion and Chemical Peels?

Microdermabrasion and chemical peels are both popular skin treatments used to address a variety of skin concerns, including acne scars, but they work in different ways and have distinct effects. Here’s a detailed comparison of the two:


Microdermabrasion is a mechanical exfoliation treatment that uses a device to gently remove the outermost layer of dead skin cells.

How It Works

  • Procedure: A handheld device sprays fine crystals or utilizes a diamond-tipped wand to exfoliate the skin. The device also has a vacuum to suction away the exfoliated skin cells and crystals.
  • Effect on Skin: This process removes the superficial layer of skin, promoting new skin growth and improving skin texture and tone.


  • Minimal Downtime: Usually, there is little to no downtime, and you can return to your daily activities immediately after treatment.
  • Immediate Results: Skin often looks brighter and feels smoother immediately after the procedure.
  • Safe for Most Skin Types: Generally suitable for all skin types and tones.

Best For

  • Superficial Scars: Effective for minor acne scars, fine lines, and superficial pigmentation issues.
  • Overall Skin Rejuvenation: Good for a general boost in skin appearance and texture.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels use various acids at different strengths to exfoliate the skin chemically, promoting the shedding of the outer layers.

How It Works

  • Procedure: A chemical solution is applied to the skin, causing it to exfoliate and eventually peel off. The type and strength of the acid (e.g., glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, trichloroacetic acid) determine the depth of the peel.
  • Effect on Skin: This process stimulates new skin growth, improving skin texture, tone, and pigmentation.


  • Customizable: The strength and type of peel can be adjusted based on individual skin concerns and desired outcomes.
  • Effective for Various Concerns: Can address deeper scars, more significant pigmentation issues, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Best For

  • Moderate to Deep Scars: More effective for treating deeper acne scars compared to microdermabrasion.
  • Pigmentation Issues: Particularly useful for hyperpigmentation and melasma.
  • Aging Skin: Can significantly improve signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.


  • Varies by Peel Depth: Light peels have minimal downtime, while medium and deep peels can require a few days to weeks for full recovery.

Key Differences

  • Method of Exfoliation: Microdermabrasion is mechanical, using physical abrasion, while chemical peels use chemical exfoliation.
  • Depth of Treatment: Chemical peels can penetrate deeper layers of skin, making them more suitable for addressing moderate to deep acne scars, while microdermabrasion is more superficial.
  • Downtime and Recovery: Microdermabrasion typically has no downtime, whereas chemical peels, especially medium to deep ones, can require significant recovery time.
  • Suitability for Skin Types: Microdermabrasion is generally safe for all skin types, while chemical peels need to be carefully selected and applied based on skin type and concerns to avoid adverse effects.


Choosing between microdermabrasion and chemical peels depends on your specific skin concerns, desired outcomes, and tolerance for downtime. For superficial improvements and minimal recovery time, microdermabrasion is a good option. For more significant skin issues like deeper scars and pigmentation, chemical peels might be more effective. For advanced skin care treatments, give us a call at (425) 837-8710 and schedule your complimentary 30-Min. consultation.

Your best skin is one phone call away.

Call today to schedule your FREE 30-min. Consultation.

Pelage Medi-Spa Issaquah
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