Microdermabrasion Versus Chemical Peels


The question of which is better, microdermabrasion versus chemical peels, is one I have been researching and asking intermittently for years. To no avail. No one could succinctly tell me what the difference was and which was best for alleviating acne scarring (first and foremost).Enter Elena, Goddess of Skin, generally awesome woman, friend to all. Elena is the proprietor of Glow in Calgary and the sole employee. She books up fast but believe me when I tell you she’s worth fighting to get in to see.

When I found Elena on Groupon, she was offering 3 microdermabrasion sessions for something ridiculously cheap like $75 and her reviews on Facebook were glowing (can’t stop won’t stop, guys). It felt like a safe enough option, even if the results weren’t awesome.

When I arrived and she saw my skin, she asked me bluntly why I had bought microdermabrasion sessions…”no honey, you need a peel, microdermabrasion is for later when your skin is better”.


Say what?

So here’s the lowdown on microdermabrasion versus chemical peels, according to a professional that I trust:

I am not a doctor or skin care expert! I am just sharing my experiences and my experiences should in no way shape or form be taken as gospel. You do you.


Microdermabrasion is like a very good, very effective exfoliant. It goes deeper than something at home could go and really gets those top layers of cells gone. It’s great for reducing superficial skin damage, alleviating flaky and dull winter skin, and keeping already healthy but tired skin in tip top shape.

It’s great as a preventative measure. What it will not do all by itself is...you guessed it, remove wrinkles or deep or aged acne scarring (it can sometimes diminish very new acne spots or scars though).

All microdermabrasion is, is a crystal or diamond tipped wand with suction (much like a dentist’s tool) that is scraped across the skin repeatedly. It’s not exactly pleasant, but nor does it generally hurt unless you have an active breakout at the moment. You will leave the appointment very red, but generally by next day you’ll have softer, glowier, normal-hued skin.


Chemical Peels

Chemical peels, on the other hand, are an acid (chemical) solution applied to the skin by a dermatologist or specialist. The chemicals are very intense and the process should never be undertaken by yourself or at home - please for the love of all that is holy do not attempt this yourself.

The solution is applied to clean skin and immediately starts to burn. Listen up, nothing in life that’s worth having comes easy, right? Well this is no exception. It does burn. And itch. Like the dickens.

The right professional will know exactly how far they can push your skin, from the intensity of the acid itself (there are levels) to how long they can leave it on your skin. Elena goes so far as to treat different parts of my face for different lengths of time based on what it needs and how sensitive those areas of the face are. This is what you want!

Now here’s the tough part: once you’ve made it through the actual procedure, your skin will be very red for a while, and it will often blister or scab in places. I know, this sounds alarming. I, too, was alarmed. And Elena went easier on me the first treatment - which is good practice anyways, as any new specialist will need to learn how your skin reacts before they start ramping it up.

The second time I went though, she knew how much my skin could handle and we went more intense with it. There was mild blistering immediately after (that disappeared overnight) and a few small scabs, plus some mild scarring and redness around the chin that stuck around for a few weeks before disappearing completely.


If you keep your face very moisturized (heavy emollient, coconut oil, vitamins A & E) and don’t pick, these symptoms will go away quickly and I promise* you won’t have additional scarring as much as it seems you might.

*I make no actual promises. And Imma say it again: I am not a doctor or skin care expert! I am just sharing my experiences and my experiences should in no way shape or form be taken as gospel. You do you.


Best Case Scenario (or, what i do)

To sum, it’s not really microdermabrasion versus chemical peels, so much as a joint attack - at least in most cases.

If, like me, you have visible acne scarring or aged skin and/or sun discoloration, then according to Elena, you want to follow my routine: Chemical peel, followed 1-2 weeks later with microdermabrasion, then wait at least a month to repeat.

I’ve personally hit the combo twice in the last while, with about 6-8 weeks in-between, because I have quite a lot of acne scarring on my cheeks that I’m desperate to be rid of.  If yours isn’t as bad or you’re more addressing things from a “maintenance” point of view, I’d think you could go much less often for still-great results.


Happy skin to you!

Again, this may not be for everyone, but with all the conflicting information out there I was so relieved to meet a professional who wasn’t just constantly over-selling and up-selling me, but gave me the lowdown and then showed me the results (at super reasonable prices) to prove her point, that I had to share with you.

Hope it helps, friends! Let me know if you give it a go and if you get the same kind of results.

Happy skin to all of you!

PS. Get a good face sunscreen and stop skimping! 60 SPF, you guys. Elena is having none of my 15 SPF bs ;-)