Microdermabrasion VS Microneedling – How Do They Compare?

microdermabrasion vs microneedling

There is so much variety when it comes to facials nowadays. And the flawless complexion we are all after is promised by nearly all of them. So if your concerns can be addressed by multiple treatments, how do you choose?

Two beloved treatments are microdermabrasion and microneedling whose resemblance is more than just in their name. Let’s explore the similarities and differences, and help you decide between microdermabrasion vs microneedling.

What’s Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is an exfoliation treatment that is done with a pen-shaped handpiece with a ring at the tip and a suction tube in the middle.

There are 2 methods of microdermabrasion:

Either way, the upper skin layer is physically scrubbed and all the accumulated dirt, debris, and dead skin are sucked away, revealing new, smoother, and more radiant skin underneath.

It’s a treatment primarily used to diminish minor skin imperfections (very fine lines, shallow hyperpigmentation, dry patches) and refresh the skin.

For a more in-depth explanation of this procedure, check out our Comprehensive Guide to Microdermabrasion.

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What’s Microneedling?

Microneedling is one of the most beloved skincare treatments. This procedure is also known as collagen induction therapy, which is why it’s most often associated with anti-aging.

But microneedling can treat various other skin issues on any surface – including hands, back, scalp (it also treats hair loss), and any other body parts.

This treatment’s goal is to create controlled trauma to the skin’s surface and trigger the body’s natural healing process.

It does so by puncturing the skin with hundreds of tiny needles, either with a dermaroller (a wheel with needles that are then rolled onto the skin) or a dermapen (a pen-shaped tool with needles as its tip that are then stamped into the skin).

Find more in-depth information about microneedling in our Comprehensive Guide to Microneedling.

So, What’s the Difference Between Microdermabrasion vs Microneedling?

Both treatments are focused on skin resurfacing. However, the way it’s achieved is the main difference between microdermabrasion vs microneedling.

Microdermabrasion is a mechanical exfoliation of the skin, meaning the exfoliation happens externally, by removing the outermost skin layer.

The abrasion inflicts microtrauma to the skin which then triggers the production of collagen and elastin.

And, although these extended effects are beneficial in additional skin resurfacing, this is not the main goal of the treatment – immediate refreshing and smoothing out is.

Microneedling, on the other hand, aims to create micro-trauma and incite skin regeneration – which is how collagen and elastin production is triggered.

During the treatment itself, there’s no exfoliation and nothing is removed. Rather, the skin is encouraged to exfoliate on its own from underneath in the days to come, while the skin cell turnover is happening.

What’s the Difference Between Microdermabrasion vs Microneedling
Image source: Freepik & Freepik

How to Decide Between Microdermabrasion vs Microneedling?

These 2 treatments are both used to encourage skin cell turnover and regeneration, resulting in improved appearance and texture of the skin.

Although done very differently, there isn’t that much difference between the two in terms of effects and side effects (unless you’re dealing with more severe skin imperfections (in which case microneedling is the way to go).

So let’s review microdermabrasion vs microneedling in terms of 4 different factors:

Limitations

Limitations exist for every treatment and there are some skin conditions that aren’t treatable by either procedure. Those include:

  • Eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea
  • Active acne breakout
  • Active flare-up of cold sores
  • Inflamed skin
  • Hypertrophic (keloid) scarring

If you’re thinking of getting a facial to treat a more severe skin condition rather than to just glow up your complexion, it’s best to consult a dermatologist and have them decide the course of treatment.

Discomfort

Microdermabrasion causes no discomfort. In fact, some clients even enjoy the tickling sensation.

Microneedling, however, can be quite uncomfortable.

Since the needles puncture the skin, numbing cream is usually used to eliminate the pain. But there can be some tenderness after the treatment. Nothing major, though, and it’s worth muscling through.

Risks

Both of these treatments are considered to be minimally invasive and safe when done properly. However, some risks and side effects are still there. For both treatments the risks include:

  • Allergic reaction to any products used during the treatment (including the instruments) of as post-care
  • Infection due to inadequate aftercare or cross-contamination.
  • Bruising, scratches, swelling, and, for microdermabrasion, even post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Be aware that some irritation is normal right after the treatment. Your skin technician will explain which side effects are normal, and which would be signs of complications.

How to Decide Between Microdermabrasion vs Microneedling?
Image source: Instagram @thefacelabca

Aftercare

Since neither procedure is invasive, there really aren’t any strict aftercare rules – it comes down to avoiding the sun, products and activities that can cause irritation or infection.

Make sure you wear SPF regularly and be extra gentle with the treated area of the skin in the days following either treatment.

NOTE

Seeing as 3 out of the 4 factors don’t make any significant difference between the 2 treatments, the decision on which to get should probably be left to the professional, as they can determine which treatment meets your skin’s needs better.

Alternative Treatment: Chemical Peel

A chemical peel is another skin-resurfacing treatment. It exfoliates the skin by using chemicals, mainly different kinds and concentrations of acids.

Similarly to microneedling, the goal is to deliberately harm the skin’s surface so that the regeneration process gets triggered. And it does so by removing the outermost skin layer – which resembles microdermabrasion.

Learn more about chemical peels here.

For other similarities and differences between these treatments, check out how microdermabrasion compares to chemical peels and how microneedling compares to chemical peels.

Alternative Treatment: Chemical Peel
Image source: Instagram @cslcbeauty

In Conclusion

Both these treatments improve the appearance of the skin, but the way they do skin resurfacing differs.

Microdermabrasion pretty much only affects the top layer of your skin, while microneedling works just below the skin, internally. So the level of exfoliation is very different; one works externally and the other one is from underneath, as the skin’s processes do their thing.

Cover image source: Freepik

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