Dermabrasion vs. Microdermabrasion

Woman's Face

A lot of patients wonder what the difference is between microdermabrasion and dermabrasion. The answer is the depth of the treatment and the amount of recovery involved. Another difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion is who can perform the treatment.

Microdermabrasion is typically performed in a medical spa setting by a trained aesthetician. Dermabrasion is a type of surgery and should only be performed by a highly trained and experienced surgeon. Learn more about the differences between the procedures so that you can decide which one is right for you.

What Happens During Dermabrasion

Before dermabrasion, your skin is washed and the surgeon will typically apply an antibiotic to the area to be treated, to reduce the risk of infection. You are then given an anesthetic to numb the skin and may be given a sedative. In some cases, you might be under general anesthesia during the procedure.

The surgeon will use a tool to remove the top layers of skin, peeling it down to the dermis. The exact tool used varies. In some cases, it is a wire brush that spins quickly. It can also be a spinning wheel covered in diamonds. The whole process takes about an hour or less, depending on the size of the area treated.

After, your skin will look as though someone has rubbed sandpaper on it. The outer layer will be raw and red. Some people experience bleeding after the treatment.

What Happens During Microdermabrasion

During microdermabrasion, you are fully awake. The procedure is less uncomfortable than dermabrasion, so you won’t need any anesthetic. During the treatment, the aesthetician or doctor will spray tiny crystals across your skin. The force of the spray helps exfoliate the top layer of the skin. A small vacuum then sucks up any crystals. Another way of performing microdermabrasion involves the use of a diamond-tipped wand, which is moved across the surface of the skin to gently exfoliate the top layers of cells.

Typically, patients feel some scratching or vibrating during the treatment, depending on the method used. Discomfort is minimal. Like dermabrasion, the typical microdermabrasion treatment takes about an hour.

What Dermabrasion Treats

Understanding what dermabrasion treats can help you decide if it’s the option for you. Typically, the procedure is performed to help remove or reduce scars and deeper wrinkles on the face. For example, it can be performed to remove acne scars or scars caused by chickenpox. It can also help reduce scars related to rosacea or an injury. Some people choose dermabrasion to remove tattoos or actinic keratoses, which are a type of skin cancer. The treatment also helps ease deep lines around the mouth, often caused by smoking.

What Microdermasion Treats

Microdermabrasion can also be performed to reduce the appearance of acne scars on the face. It’s sometimes performed to help treat acne, too.

The procedure also helps reduce the signs of aging. Exfoliating the skin can reduce or remove dark spots caused by hormone shifts or sun exposure. It also helps improve the texture of the skin by removing dead cells and shrinking the size of pores.

Caring for the Skin After Treatment

While you’re able to jump back into your daily life right after a microdermabrasion treatment, the recovery after dermabrasion is considerably longer. Your surgeon will typically give you specific instructions for caring for the skin after the treatment. In most cases, you’ll need about a week to rest up and recover before going back to work. You’ll need to wait about four weeks before starting up exercise or vigorous activity again.

After dermabrasion, the skin will be red or pink, sensitive and a bit swollen. As the area heals, it will form a scab. Don’t pick at the scab — it will fall off on its own. Your surgeon will usually want to see you a few days after the treatment, to make sure everything is healing as it should. You may be given a special lotion or ointment to use to help soothe the skin.

Sun protection is essential following both dermabrasion and microdermabrasion. You’ll most likely be told to avoid any sun exposure in the first few days or week after dermabrasion and to wear sunscreen if you do go out in the sun after that.

Schedule a Consultation

A consultation is a must before either microdermabrasion or dermabrasion. Our staff at Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute can review your specific concerns and let you know which treatment is best for you. Call  703.257.6000 to schedule a consultation.

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