Microdermabrasion vs Dermabrasion - What's the Difference?

When talking about skin resurfacing treatments, these are among the most popular options. But what exactly is the difference between microdermabrasion vs dermabrasion?

microdermabrasion vs dermabrasion

Image source: Freepik

Both dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are mechanical exfoliating procedures that buff away dry and dead skin, lift damage, and minimize the appearance of scarring and wrinkles. But that’s about where the similarities end.

When it comes to comparing microdermabrasion vs dermabrasion treatments, the most important thing is considering the intensity of the treatment and the severity of the problem targeted.

Here’s why these are the main differences between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion, plus more information about each of the treatments.

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The Difference Between Dermabrasion and Microdermabrasion

Both microdermabrasion and dermabrasion procedures are based on skin resurfacing, but while microdermabrasion is used for skin rejuvenation, dermabrasion is used to achieve more dramatic results.

So, the biggest difference between microdermabrasion vs dermabrasion is in the intensity of the treatment.

The microdermabrasion procedure is done to treat minor imperfections or just improve the overall appearance of the skin. It’s much gentler and more widely available.

This, apart from its many benefits, made it more popular than its original, much more intense version – dermabrasion.

Dermabrasion is a surgical form of dermaplaning that removes thicker skin layers, more specifically the surface and the middle layer of the skin, providing very intense exfoliation.

Being as aggressive as it is, it’s only performed in cases where less invasive procedures can’t give the desired results. These are mostly cases of deep scarring, deep wrinkles, prominent blood vessels, and even some medical issues.

Given that it affects living tissue, dermabrasion is done exclusively by medical professionals – dermatologists and plastic surgeons.

Let’s take a closer look into the differences between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion:

How Is the Dermabrasion Procedure Done?

The procedure itself has a few steps, the first of which is the application of numbing cream or local anesthetic injection. This makes the procedure itself appear painless, although you might experience some discomfort after the procedure (more on that later).

The dermabrasion procedure is done with a handheld device that features a rotating wheel with an abrasive surface at its top. It can feature a layer of wire brushes or it can have a rough surface similar to that used for sanding wood.

The procedure is completed by applying a moist protective dressing to your skin to preserve it as it heals.

The whole process can be found here.


Dermabrasion also requires proper preparation and skin assessment. The dermatologist needs to go over your medical history to see if there are any contraindications.

@drsanjaycocoona Brushing the skin off dead and aged cells to stimulate new skin and collagen. ⁠ ⁠ #dermabrasion #skincare #antiaging #cocoona #dubaicosmeticsurgeon ♬ Sunny Day - Ted Fresco

How Is the Microdermabrasion Procedure Done?

Microdermabrasion is a much simpler procedure. It doesn’t require any prep or numbing as it’s completely pain-free.

This treatment is done with a rotary pen-shaped handpiece with a rough tip. The device actually performs the suction in addition to exfoliating, removing everything that gets scrubbed off the skin.

There are 2 different techniques of microdermabrasion – diamond microdermabrasion, where a rough diamond-coated tip gets scraped against the skin, or an older version, crystal microdermabrasion, where tiny crystals are sprayed and then scrubbed against the skin.

You can learn more about the whole microdermabrasion process here.

Microdermabrasion vs Dermabrasion for Different Skin Conditions

Microdermabrasion is great for achieving a younger-looking complexion and a more even skin tone, but it’s unable to correct the more severe skin problems that dermabrasion can.

However, in some cases, both procedures can be used to treat the same skin issues. So when choosing between dermabrasion versus microdermabrasion, it comes down to how severe the condition is.

Let’s compare these procedures based on the skin conditions they’re used for:

Dermabrasion vs Microdermabrasion for Acne Scars

When it comes to treating scars, microdermabrasion has proven to be successful at reducing shallow depressed ones.

However, it doesn’t work quite as well when it comes to deeper acne scars like icepick (narrow, but deep indented scar) or boxcar (round or oval depression in the skin) scars.

Since these types of scars affect deeper skin layers, dermabrasion is a better choice.

dermabrasion vs microdermabrasion for acne scars
Image source: Instagram @urskinclinic

Dermabrasion is effective for different kinds of scars, including acne scars. Since this procedure takes off more layers it can even help treat keloid scars or scars from accidents, or even surgery.

Dermabrasion vs Microdermabrasion for Acne

Microdermabrasion is great for acne prevention since acne is caused due to dead skin cells, sebum, and dirt clogging up your pores. Microdermabrasion removes all that debris, not allowing bacteria to feed.

Also, microdermabrasion can help treat some types of acne. You can read about that here.

As for dermabrasion, it’s too radical for acne – especially seeing as they’re much less aggressive ways to deal with that problem. But if you really want to pursue this option, talk to your dermatologist about it.

Dermabrasion vs Microdermabrasion for Hyperpigmentation

Discoloration is caused by melanin overproduction, and it can manifest as melasma, sunspots, or as a result of skin injury, inflammation, or a side effect of other skin conditions.

Both microdermabrasion and dermabrasion, as skin resurfacing techniques, uncover a fresh skin layer once the old one is removed, diminishing the appearance of dark spots.

Usually, microdermabrasion is enough to treat hyperpigmentation, seeing as dermabrasion might be too aggressive.

But it’s important to understand that minimizing hyperpigmentation is done progressively, with multiple sessions to achieve an improvement.

When it comes to melasma, dermabrasion is used for worse sun damage-induced problems like precancerous growths, actinic keratoses, which are rough skin patches caused by sun damage, or even benign (noncancerous) skin growths.

Dermabrasion vs Microdermabrasion for Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Although microdermabrasion does have some anti-aging effects, they aren’t anything dramatic.

This procedure buffs your skin, so it removes the top layer of it, not only evening out the texture but also increasing the skin cell turnover and collagen production. This helps fight aging, but it doesn’t undo its signs.

It can help with shallow wrinkles, but it can’t do much to deeper ones.

For very deep wrinkles, dermabrasion is the recommended option.

Dermabrasion vs Microdermabrasion for Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Image source: Instagram @contoura_drgarcia

Dermabrasion Versus Microdermabrasion for Other Skin Issues

Since microdermabrasion vs dermabrasion is used for treating different skin issues, many conditions can only be used with one, but not the other.

For example, microdermabrasion can’t help treat skin growth like rhinophyma (nose enlargement caused by rosacea), or stretch marks, but dermabrasion can.

Meanwhile, every blemish that is superficial can be treated effectively with microdermabrasion. See what conditions microdermabrasion has shown to be effective for here.

Microdermabrasion vs Dermabrasion Risks

This might be what makes the biggest difference between the dermabrasion and microdermabrasion treatment.

Microdermabrasion doesn’t come with any major side effects. Other than leaving your skin looking red, in the hours following the procedure, you might experience some slight swelling or some minor bruising.

But even microdermabrasion can have some gone-wrong scenarios, so make sure you book with a licensed and experienced technician.

As already mentioned, dermabrasion is intense. Treatments as intense as this one carry a lot of risks.

They include more temporary ones like burning, itching, discoloration, and breakouts in acne and milia, but also more serious permanent ones, like permanent scarring and permanent discoloration as well as infection, plus, it can provoke rosacea.

So we’ll repeat it one more time: Dermabrasion is an intense treatment that can only be performed by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, so don’t let any untrained or uncertified practitioner perform this treatment.

Microdermabrasion vs Dermabrasion Recovery

Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive treatment after which you can continue your normal daily activities right away. Just make sure to treat your skin extra gently in the days following the procedure. Moisturize it often and do not skip on SPF!

But dermabrasion is a different story. While it technically doesn’t hurt because the anesthesia (or at least some form of topical numbing) is used, a thicker layer of the skin is removed. So dermabrasion entails a downtime period of a few weeks.

For the first few days, the skin needs to be protected as the injury is still fresh. Depending on the depth of the removed layer, the skin may even need to be covered since open wounds are very susceptible to infection.

This means that the aftercare routine needs to be followed to a T.

Dermabrasion vs Microdermabrasion Cost

The difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion cost is quite noticeable.

Dermabrasion is a serious medical treatment which is reflected in its very high price.

Surgical dermabrasion’s average price is around $1800, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. But of course, the cost varies depending on the location and the severity of the condition because if you require general anesthesia and hospitalization, the fee will increase substantially.

Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, is quite an accessible treatment so it can be found for as low as $50. But the average price of microdermabrasion is around $130, depending on the add-ons, since this is usually a procedure that is done in a combination with some other facial.

Which One Should You Get?

Choosing between microdermabrasion vs dermabrasion comes down to the severity of the condition you’re looking to treat.

You should speak with your dermatologist to determine which treatment is the best option for you – especially since you need to have a consultation before dermabrasion anyways.

In general, microdermabrasion is more suitable for the majority of clients. Even if it takes more sessions, it doesn’t require nearly any downtime, nor does it carry any major risks.

Microdermabrasion vs Dermabrasion – Main Takeaways

When it comes to comparing the difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion, it all comes down to the severity of the issue.

Microdermabrasion gently removes the surface skin layer for a clearer, glowing, and more youthful complexion. It can help fight many skin conditions, but it does so over time.

Dermabrasion on the other hand gets you very dramatic results in just one session. However, it is quite extreme and requires strict aftercare.

So if your skin concerns can be resolved without a surgical procedure, it’s better to try microdermabrasion first.



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