In Ask a Dermatologist, Cosmetic, Skin Care

The skin naturally sheds its cells. As we age, this process slows down, resulting in dull skin. Cosmetic exfoliation treatments can remove dead skin cells to reveal brighter, smoother skin. This blog will discuss the differences between a chemical peel and microdermabrasion.

A chemical peel can remove deeper skin imperfections with a chemical exfoliant solution. Microdermabrasion uses a tool to gently exfoliate the outer layer of the skin and wipe away the dead skin cells.

Both procedures are performed by a board-certified dermatologist or esthetician to rejuvenate the skin. Both treatments can be performed on the face, neck, chest or shoulders, as well as other areas of the body. After treatment to remove dead skin cells, your skincare products will absorb better and be more effective.

What is a chemical peel?

Chemical peels are performed with glycolic acid, salicylic acid or trichloroacetic 30% acid. The acids work to remove the outer layer of the skin, including dead skin cells, and reveal fresher skin. At Columbia Skin Clinic, we offer a micro/light peel or a TCA peel to help address skin issues such as:

  • Acne scars
  • Wrinkles
  • Pigmentation
  • Sun damage
  • Age spots
  • Melasma

A light/microchemical peel exfoliates the superficial layer of skin using glycolic or salicylic acid. Products available over the counter may include alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids. Our prescription-strengthen solution has higher concentrations. 

A light chemical peel can address mild pigmentation, acne scars and fine lines. After a light chemical peel, you may experience redness and flaking of the skin. Symptoms subside within three to four days. 

A TCA peel uses trichloroacetic 30% acid, which penetrates deeper into the outer layer of the skin. It works for age spots and sun-damaged areas of the skin, including the hands, upper and lower arms. The application may cause burning and discomfort for up to 10 minutes. After 10 days, the age spots will peel off.

Both procedures are performed by applying the chemical to your skin. During a light/micro peel, the chemicals will be neutralized with another solution or gently wiped off your skin.

When you have a TCA peel, a neutralizer is not needed. You may be given a cool compress for your skin afterward. The whole procedure generally only takes 10 minutes.

The results of each treatment vary depending on the type of peel and the issue you want to treat. You may need several chemical peels to achieve your desired results. Chemical peels provide temporary results, so we recommend maintenance treatments every three months or as directed by your dermatologist.

What is microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is done with a minimally abrasive tool that gently resurfaces your skin and vacuums away dead skin cells. The procedure is non-invasive and has little downtime. Tools for home use are available, but they may not provide the safest treatment for all skin types. A dermatologist can provide a more comprehensive solution with mechanical exfoliation.

A microdermabrasion treatment can be used on the face, neck, chest, back, arms and hands. It can help with a variety of skin issues:

  • Dull complexion
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Age spots
  • Blackheads and whiteheads
  • Large pores
  • Fine lines

During the microdermabrasion procedure, your dermatologist will use a handheld device that exfoliates the treatment area. You may feel a sanding sensation because the tool gently removes dead cells on the surface of the skin. Depending on the treatment area, it may take 30 to 40 minutes to complete.

In our office, we use the DiamondTome Microdermabrasion wand with natural diamond chips embedded in the tip. Using diamonds rather than crystals to exfoliate the skin allows for immediate results. Your dermatologist can also provide a customized experience based on your skin sensitivity.

There is no downtime with microdermabrasion. Your skin will feel softer immediately after the procedure. You may have some redness in the treated areas, but it will resolve on its own.

As your skin heals, your results will continue to improve. You may have dry skin as the dead skin cells begin to flake away. You can apply moisturizer immediately to prevent dry skin.

You may need more than one treatment to see your desired results. Like a chemical peel, microdermabrasion results are temporary. The procedure can be done every four to eight weeks to maintain results.

Which skin procedure is right for me?

Your dermatologist will recommend a treatment based on your skin issues and desired results. Each procedure can help reveal smoother, brighter skin. If you have specific problem areas to address, one treatment may provide better results than the other. In some cases, you may be able to have a combination of a chemical peel and microdermabrasion treatment.

You may also receive instructions prior to your visit to ensure your skin is prepared for the procedure. If you use an acne treatment, you may be asked to stop for up to two weeks before a chemical peel. Products with retinol or retinoids should also be stopped prior to either exfoliation method.

Chemical peels and microdermabrasion are not recommended for people with skin cancer, eczema, dermatitis or cold sores. Your dermatologist will meet with you for a consultation to ensure you are a good candidate.

Chemical peel and microdermabrasion in Columbia

If you want smoother, more radiant skin, book a consultation for skin rejuvenation with one of our dermatologists or estheticians. A chemical peel or microdermabrasion treatment may be right for you. Call Columbia Skin Clinic for an appointment.

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