In order to remove fine lines, wrinkles, acne scars, and even tattoos, many people look toward skin resurfacing procedures to remove these imperfections and restore facial skin back to perfection. There are two main skin resurfacing techniques: microdermabrasion and dermabrasion. Although these techniques sound similar, they have different qualities. Each skin resurfacing technique involves different procedures, different tools, and different purposes. If you have a wrinkle or scar you wish to remove, it is important to understand the difference between the two techniques so you choose the skin resurfacing technique—microdermabrasion or dermabrasion—best fit for fixing your imperfection. Microdermabrasion Treatment
Microdermabrasion removes a fine layer of skin, which allows for the removal of fine lines, stretch marks, and superficial scars. This skin resurfacing technique does not go deep into the skin layers and instead focuses on removing blemishes on the upper layer of the skin.
In order for microdermabrasion to work, the doctor uses a hand-held device to spray and circulate a high pressure flow of crystals onto the skin. The crystals are either aluminum oxide or baking soda, depending on which is used. These crystals will exfoliate the outermost layer of skin. After the microdermabrasion treatment, your skin will typically feel tight, dry, and similar sensations that come with experiencing sunburns. Many doctors recommend specific moisturizers and sunscreens to use in order to lower the risk of peeling after the procedure takes place.
Typically with microdermabrasion, you need to have between 6 to 12 sessions (each being two weeks apart) and a maintenance session every two months in order to see and keep results. The amount of treatment sessions you need depends on the area for the treatment. If you are having acne scar removed, that may take more treatment sessions than the removal of a fine wrinkle.
Microdermabrasion is non-surgical and does not require the use of anesthesia. This skin resurfacing technique is often referred to as the “lunchtime peel” because you can resume your normal schedule after the procedure. Often doctors recommend undergoing a chemical peel in addition to the microdermabrasion in order to achieve the best results for your skin.
Dermabrasion can dramatically improve the appearance of the skin. This technique can treat deep wrinkles and scars. Although it is pricey, dermabrasion allows you the opportunity to resursuface your skin and remove any imperfections. Dermabrasion also allows for the removal of acne scars and tattoos, with results lasting at least twelve months. This procedure is most often used to refinish the skin’s top layer and provide the patient with smooth and youthful-looking skin.
This skin resurfacing technique uses a hand-held device with a rotating metal wheel. This metal wheel contains a wire brush to peel off layers of skin. The amount of layers the hand-held device will work through depends on the depth and size of your scars and wrinkles. After the dermabrasion procedure takes place, your skin will scab over in the treated location. Once the scab falls off naturally—do not pick at it—then your skin will be left fresh and new.
Depending on the size and depth of the area to be resurfaced, this procedure can last between a few minutes and a few hours. You will need a yearly maintenance session to maintain the refreshed and scar-free face. Dermabrasion can be pricey as the procedure does not take into account the cost of anesthesia or operating room costs. If the purpose of this procedure is to remove a scar or reduce a cancerous skin growth, your medical insurance company may cover part of or all of the cost of the dermabrasion.
Microdermabrasion versus Dermabrasion
It is important to know which procedure is the best for you and the blemish you wish to have removed. If your blemish lies at the surface and is a small scar or wrinkle, microdermabrasion is probably the best bet for you. If your blemish is deep or is in a widespread area, you should consider dermabrasion as a skin resurfacing technique. With either skin resurfacing technique—microdermabrasion or dermabrasion—you need to be sure to discuss everything with your doctor, from risks to recovery.
[page updated December 2008]