Flawless skin is everyone’s goal, but achieving it can be a journey. With so many choices out there targeting the same problem, how do you know which treatment is the best suited for your needs?
Chemical peel or microneedling are both go-to choices when it comes to reducing superficial skin imperfections. These treatments are both quite effective, but they work in different ways.
Here’s what you need to know about chemical peel vs microneedling before booking your appointment.
What’s the Difference Between Chemical Peel vs Microneedling?
Both microneedling and chemical peel are used to treat the same conditions by encouraging skin cell turnover and skin regeneration. Both result in improved skin texture and overall appearance of smoother, brighter, and healthier skin. But let’s look at each in more detail.
A chemical peel is a skin resurfacing treatment done with exfoliating chemical agents – mainly acids. The peel removes the outermost skin layer resulting in an improved appearance, skin texture and integrity.
The focus of this treatment is to intentionally cause damage to the skin’s surface. Once it peels off, a new layer of the skin will resurface and targeted imperfections will be diminished.
These treatments are customizable to fit each client’s needs and skin type specifically. They are categorized into 3 types – light, medium, and deep peels – depending on the intensity the treated condition requires.
Because your exfoliated skin will literally be peeling off, these treatments entail a longer healing process and a bit more intense aftercare regimen, but the results are so worth it.
A more detailed explanation of this treatment can be found here.
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Microneedling is a minimally invasive and mostly painless treatment that can be used on any skin surface – face, scalp, or any other body part.
This treatment also goes under the name collagen induction therapy, which people primarily associate with anti-aging. But microneedling treats many skin issues. It is also very effective in improving the appearance of acne scars, hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, etc.
The results are accomplished by using needles to cause controlled trauma to the skin surface, creating micro-channels in the skin and triggering its regeneration.
You can read more about microneedling in this guide.
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Combination of Microneedling and Chemical Peel
Sometimes, the effects of just microneedling or just chemical peel aren’t enough. In certain cases, the practitioner may recommend combining the two.
Combining microneedling and chemical peel doesn’t mean doing both treatments at the same time. It’s recommended to do a chemical peel first, as it exfoliates the top layer of the skin.
Then, 4-6 weeks later, you can do a microneedling session. Microneedling will be more effective as the old layer(s) of the skin are now gone. Deeper penetration will boost collagen production and help you achieve the desired results quicker.
The combination of microblading and chemical peel can also be done the other way around. You can do the microneedling first, which helps minimize the appearance of acne scars, after which a chemical peel will enhance complexion further.
Depending on the results you’re seeking, you should discuss the order with the professional you’ve booked the appointment with.
Image source: Instagram @theskinfairyuk
There are also other similar treatments that help deal with skin imperfections. One such treatment is microdermabrasion.
Microdermabrasion is essentially physical scraping off of the outermost skin layer. It removes built-up dead cells and reveals fresh, better-looking skin underneath.
With its pen-shaped handpiece that has a gritty diamond-coated tip and a vacuum, it sucks out the contents of the pores while simultaneously exfoliating the skin it’s pressed against.
How To Decide Between Chemical Peel vs Microneedling?
Okay, so you have a skin condition that can be treated either by microneedling or chemical peel. Which should you choose? Well, there are other factors also playing a role that might help you decide:
As already mentioned, both microneedling and chemical peel are used for mostly the same conditions. Both of these are great for the tone and texture of your skin, fine lines and wrinkles, as well as acne scarring, hyperpigmentation and enlarged pores.
However, there are some limitations to each of these treatments, making the other one a better choice.
Concerns like bulges, deep facial lines and more severe wrinkles don’t respond well to a chemical peel.
Also,this treatment might not be the best choice if you:
- Have cold sores
- Have open skin lesions (acne, eczema)
- Have untreated diabetes
- Are pregnant or are breastfeeding
- Have any burns (sun burns, chemical burns…)
- Have used Accutane within the last 6 months
- Have recently had facial surgery or other cosmetic surgical procedures (laser resurfacing, face lift, brow lift, eye lift, filler…)
Other than treating skin issues, microneedling is considered effective in promoting hair growth as well. Compared to the chemical peel, it poses less risk but it might seem less effective as it could take a few sessions to notice a difference.
This treatment may not be a good idea if you:
- Have keloid scarring, as it could make the condition worse.
- Have certain skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema
- Have active acne
- Have open wounds
- Have had radiation therapy recently
Image source: Instagram @advanceddermatologymd
What to Expect Afterwards
Either chemical peel or microneedling show great results when it comes to superficial skin imperfections. But because the procedures work differently, there is some difference, mainly in the healing process and aftercare regimens.
In both cases, the extent of successful results partly depends on how close you followed the instructions of aftercare. Let’s explain.
Chemical Peel Healing and Aftercare
A chemical peel causes your skin to peel off in patches and flakes for up to 2 weeks. There are also some additional side effects after the treatment, but those depend on the intensity of the peel. Read more about them here.
What to expect after a chemical peel depends on how intense your treatment was. The more intense the treatment, the more complex the recovery.
After a light chemical peel, you may expect a reaction similar to a sunburn (redness and slight irritation).
After a medium peel, some redness, swelling, stinging, and flaking are to be expected in the first 48 hours. To relieve these symptoms apply ointments and use the medications you were prescribed. 7-14 days after the treatment your skin will have finished peeling. Don’t forget to protect it with SPF daily.
For deep chemical peels, the recovery process takes a bit longer. Your skin will be severely red and swollen. Deep peels carry the biggest risks and you must follow the recovery instructions carefully. Avoid sunlight and activities that might disrupt the healing process. Your skin is sensitive and more susceptible to infections and other complications.
Whatever your skin reaction might be like – barely noticeable to quite severe – it’s important to follow the prescribed aftercare regimen. Otherwise, not only are you risking damaging your skin further, but also your general health.
If you want to know more about chemical peel side effects and risks, check out our Chemical Peel Gone Wrong page.
Image source: Instagram @skinvibesatx
Microneedling Healing and Aftercare
Microneedling isn’t as invasive and its recovery time is shorter in comparison to chemical peeling. Healing time after microneedling depends on how deep the needles pierced your skin. Usually, it’s a few days, but it can take up to a week.
In terms of side effects, they’re really minor and come down to some redness and minor tenderness. Usually, there is no bruising and bleeding unless you are doing deep microneedling. Generally, your skin will feel tight and flake a bit as it heals. You need to be careful not to infect your newly-healed skin.
Even though the wounds will be small, the microchannels aren’t immediately closed up after the session is done. Avoid direct sun exposure, sweating, harsh skin care products, and makeup. These things may irritate your skin and make it more susceptible to infection.
You will still need to follow a few aftercare rules, to prevent contaminating the skin and disrupting its healing process. By letting it heal properly, you will see the changes that will lead to wanted improvement.
Risks are an inevitable part of any cosmetic treatment. It’s important to differentiate them from side effects, as risks aren’t something that normally happens, it’s just a possibility. Still, you should be aware of them before booking the treatment.
Risks and side effects are much higher when doing a chemical peel vs microneedling. The most common side effects are redness, irritation, burning, and slight swelling. These symptoms are only temporary though. If they don’t clear up in a few days, you should go to the doctor.
With deep peels especially, there are many things that can go wrong. You can permanently darken or lighten your skin, be more prone to skin infections, and there is also a possibility of permanent scarring.
Don’t be scared, though! These complications most likely won’t happen. But it’s important to book your appointment with someone who is trained and licensed.
This treatment is considered relatively safe, although like any other cosmetic procedure it can pose some risks.
One of the risks is an allergic reaction to the cream or serum used after the session. There is also a possibility of wounds getting infected if the skin is not cleaned properly or exposed to contamination. So stay away from swimming pools, lakes, rivers, and oceans.
Infection can also happen if the tools used for the treatment were not properly sanitized. That’s why it’s important to go to a trained and licensed professional.
If you experience more severe side effects such as bleeding, bruising, and infection, visit the doctor’s office.
Comparing the cost of chemical peel vs microneedling is complicated.
A treatment like a chemical peel is customizable and depends on the individual requirements of a client. Microneedling cost is also hard to pinpoint because it’s usually done in more than one session, depending on the skin condition and desired results.
But to put things into perspective, here are the average prices.
The cost of this treatment depends on the type of peel you get. The average cost is around $670. Light peels can cost as little as $150 but deep peels can cost upward of $3000 (especially if they require anesthesia).
The price can significantly vary on the location and expertise of the technician as well.
Image source: Instagram @katiehultonbeauty
The cost of a single session can vary anywhere from $200 to $800. The total price depends on the size of an area treated and the number of sessions needed.
Image source: Instagram @facebywallace
So, Do I Need Chemical Peel or Microneedling?
The main similarities between these two treatments are the conditions they treat. Both microneedling and chemical peel can help significantly improve the way your skin looks. But they do it in different ways. That means their healing process and aftercare will differ from one another.
Other factors like cost, risk and side effects are also very important to consider when deciding which procedure to book.
But the best way to decide between a chemical peel vs microneedling is to consult a professional and let them assess the situation.
Cover image source: Freepik