Chemical Peel vs Microdermabrasion – Which Works Better?

By Emily M.| Last updated on October 17, 2022
chemical peel vs microdermabrasion
⏱️ 6 min read

We all want a flawless complexion – that’s a no-brainer. But how do we get it? With so many options available now and with treatments becoming more and more affordable, as clients, we may find ourselves overwhelmed with all the choices and with no clear idea of what’s right for our skin.

Well, as it turns out, the best treatments are the ones which stay a staple in dermatology through the years. In particular, we’re thinking of microdermabrasion and chemical peel.

So now that we’ve narrowed it down to 2 options, let’s compare chemical peel vs microdermabrasion and help you choose your fighter.

What’s the Difference Between Chemical Peel vs Microdermabrasion?

Both microdermabrasion and chemical peel are exfoliating skin treatments that remove the outermost layer of the skin, but they are performed in different ways.

Microdermabrasion is a mechanical form of exfoliation, while chemical peels are a chemical one.

Here’s a short overview of each treatment that will explain how they function.


Microdermabrasion essentially means physically scraping off the outermost layer of the skin, removing built-up dead skin to reveal fresh, smoother skin underneath. We know that the idea of skin scraping doesn’t sound too pleasant, but the treatment is nowhere near as aggressive as it sounds.

It’s done with a pen-shaped handpiece with a gritty round tip that’s diamond-coated (that’s why the treatment is sometimes called diamond microdermabrasion). There’s a hole in the middle, so it’s more like a ring.

This ring is pressed against the skin, and the microdermabrasion machine provides suction through the handpiece. As the ring scrapes off dead skin cells, the suction immediately takes them away, plus it sucks out the contents of the pores.

This way, the skin is cleansed deeply and thoroughly, the pores are unclogged eliminating blackheads and whiteheads. The dead skin and the dirt don’t linger on the skin, so there’s no risk of new congestion or contamination that results in acne.

Alternatively, there’s also crystal microdermabrasion, where there’s no gritty surface on the handpiece, but rather a spray of tiny crystals which does a sort of sandblasting to the skin. This technique is becoming more and more obsolete, though, as it’s harsher on the skin and messier.

For more information on this treatment, head over to our Comprehensive Guide Through Microdermabrasion.

difference between chemical peel vs microdermabrasionImage source: Instagram @roncarlossalon

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels also remove the outer layer of the skin, but they do so by applying acids to the skin which destroy skin cells on the surface, causing them to peel off. There are 3 types of chemical peels based on intensity:

  • Light peels
  • Medium-depth peels
  • and deep peels.

Depending on the type of peel, a thinner or thicker layer of skin can be removed. The more severe the skin condition is, the more intense the peel.

The most common acids used are AHAs and BHAs in varying concentrations, but there are many, many different acid mixes that can be used. A chemical peel is a highly customizable treatment, and your chemical peel routine should be established by a professional, ideally a cosmetic dermatologist.

Chemical peels are notorious for the peeling process that can last for several days after the procedure, but this annoying process is what brings about an improvement.

For more information on this treatment, head over to our Comprehensive Guide Through Chemical Peels.

chemical peelsImage source: Freepik

How to Decide Between Chemical Peel vs Microdermabrasion?

To decide whether to get a chemical peel or microdermabrasion, you first need to establish how severe the skin imperfection you want treated is. If it’s very severe, the most effective option is a medium-depth to deep chemical peel.

If it’s not so severe, chances are you’ll get an improvement from either a light to medium-depth chemical peel and microdermabrasion. Both treatments generally require several sessions to get the maximum out of them, but it’s all down to your expectations and the desired results.

To help you decide, here are key factors to consider:

The Condition You Want Treated

If your condition is deeply rooted, such as deep hyperpigmentation, deeper wrinkles or deeper acne scars, chemical peels will probably work better, as they can be adjusted to target deeper layers of the skin.

If the condition is more shallow, both chemical peels and microdermabrasion will probably work equally well. This is the case with newer fine lines, enlarged pores, congested skin, shallow hyperpigmentation, less prominent acne scars.

If you just want to refresh your skin and get it glowing, you only need a thin layer of epidermis removed, so perhaps microdermabrasion is a better option, since you get more or less immediate results and there’s no downtime.

condition you want to treat with chemical peelImage source: Instagram @flawlessfeaturesbyrenee

What to Expect Afterwards

With microdermabrasion, your skin might be a bit red afterwards. If the treatment was more intense, it’s possible you get some minor swelling or bruising. But generally, there’s no downtime and you can carry on with your life as usual (just remember to wear your SPF).

With a chemical peel, the effects take some time to emerge. Right after the treatment, there might be some initial redness for a day or 2, but the real action starts around day 3 – the peeling. The affected skin will start coming off in flakes, and it won’t look too attractive for several days. You’ll have to take special care of it until all flaking stops, so for 7-14 days.

Image source: Instagram @skin_danyelle


In terms of aftercare for chemical peel vs microdermabrasion, chemical peels require more work.

In the days following a chemical peel, you have to wash your skin in a particular way, moisturize it frequently and generously, pay strict attention not to expose it to sunlight, and above all else, refrain from picking at the peeling skin – if you do, you can cause permanent damage.

Microdermabrasion doesn’t entail any special post-care routine, you just need to avoid products and activities that can cause irritation, and stay away from sunlight for a few days. Keep wearing your SPF to maintain the results of your microdermabrasion.

chemical peel aftercareImage source: Freepik


The average price of a microdermabrasion session is around $120, with the price range going from $70 to $220 depending on the location. This treatment is more or less standardized, and it costs about the same in all salons in 1 area.

But it’s very difficult to compare the cost of chemical peel vs microdermabrasion, because the treatment is highly customizable, and the cost varies significantly according to intensity.

Light chemical peels cost around $160, but there’s a lot of variation here depending on which peeling agents are used. The average cost of medium-depth peels is around $350, but the price ranges from $200 to as much as $1500. Deep chemical peels can cost anywhere between $1000 and $6000 – these are serious, complex treatments, and the price reflects that.

You can find more info on the pricing of chemical peels here.

Treatment Availability

Finally, there’s the question of what’s available in your area. Although these treatments are widely popular, it’s possible you won’t find them in every salon.

If there’s only 1 of these options available, either will give you improvement.

But be careful with who you trust with your skin.

Microdermabrasion is done with a professional device with more or less pre-set configurations, and there’s very little room for error or performing the treatment poorly. But a chemical peel is much riskier – if done by an inexperienced practitioner, it can compromise your skin and cause permanent damage.

So unless there’s a licensed, experienced professional, ideally a cosmetic dermatologist available for a chemical peel, perhaps go for the safer option of microdermabrasion.

Are Microdermabrasion and Chemical Peel Safe for Dark Skin?

Yes, both treatments are perfectly safe for dark skin when performed by an experienced technician. However, the risks of something going wrong are higher in the case of chemical peels done on skin tones than it is for microdermabrasion.

Final Note

The choice between chemical peel vs microdermabrasion comes down to the needs of your skin, so it’s best left to a professional. Hopefully, this article has pointed you in the right direction, but if your dermatologist advises a different treatment, you should definitely listen to them.

Cover image source: Freepik



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