The main difference between Microdermabrasion and Microneedling is that Microdermabrasion is a gentle yet thorough skin exfoliating facial. But Microneedling technique is a derma roller procedure that involves the use of numerous tiny, sterile needles to puncture the skin.
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What is Microdermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure. It involves a skincare specialist gently sanding your skin with a small hand-held device, removing the top layer of skin which typically becomes thick or uneven over time. It is a gentle yet thorough skin exfoliating facial.
This skin rejuvenation procedure can be used for the treatment of discoloration, light scarring, sun damage and stretch marks, making skin look younger.
There are two well-known types of microdermabrasion procedures:
- Crystal Microdermabrasion uses microfine crystals ejected from a small tube onto your skin—working like a high-intensity scrub—and then sucking it back up along with the removed layer of skin.
- Diamond Microdermabrasion uses a diamond-tipped wand for the same exfoliating effect in place of the crystals.
Microdermabrasion has many benefits. Just a single microdermabrasion treatment can leave the skin feeling smooth, soft and radiant looking. A series of sessions can improve both skin texture and overall tone. It also reduces fine wrinkles, acne/ acne scars, and enlarged pores.
The actual procedure of microdermabrasion is quick; it takes between 15 to 40 minutes for the face and 20 minutes for the neck. Your aesthetician or technician will cleanse your skin in order to prep you for the microdermabrasion procedure. If you’re undergoing crystal microdermabrasion, the technician will also cleanse your face post-procedure to clear away remnant crystals.
It is recommended to follow up the treatment with an application of moisturizer and sunscreen.
Many salons and medispas incorporate microdermabrasion into their complete facial treatments. The procedure is often paired with a mask and facial massage. This typically takes 60 to 90 minutes.
Microdermabrasion should feel, at worst, like a gritty face massage with minor tugging. If it's uncomfortable, let your technician know
How many treatments you will require is dependent on your end goal. If you want mild rejuvenation from a spa day, just one treatment will have your skin looking bright and soft to the touch. For the improvement of specific skin problems, however, you will need a consultation and a series of treatments for positive results. Generally, 6 to 10 treatments are prescribed which are spaced 7 to 14 days apart on average. Before seeing reduced signs of ageing, between 5 and 16 treatments may be required.
For several days after your procedure, there may be slight swelling or sunburn-like symptoms.
The results are not permanent.
Microdermabrasion helps to thicken collagen, which results in younger-looking skin. Collagen—a protein that makes skin appear tight and smooth and is abundant when you’re a child—declines with age, resulting in loose, more uneven skin as you grow older.
Microdermabrasion can reduce signs of ageing, and make the skin smoother and more even. This procedure is safe for all skin types and has many benefits. It can:
- Improve hyperpigmentation (patches of darkened or blotchy skin)
- Improve age spots and blackheads and other blemishes.
- Exfoliate your skin, resulting in a fresh, more youthful appearance
- Reduce fine lines and wrinkles
- Lessen stretch marks
- Reduce or get rid of enlarged pores
- Treat acne and reduce the scars left by acne
While microdermabrasion is typically minimally invasive, it is still not suitable for everyone. People with certain skin conditions might find the procedure aggravates their skin instead of helping it. Examples are:
- People with severe or even moderate inflammatory acne:
Although microdermabrasion can help with comedonal acne— noninflamed acne including bumpy skin, blackheads, and other blemishes— or mild acne, it doesn’t help inflammatory acne. The procedure can worsen inflamed and raw skin and is painful when done over such pimples. However, once the acne is under control, with mild inflammation, microdermabrasion treatment can help lighten discolorations left by the pimples.
- People with rosacea:
Rosacea means having sensitive skin. Microdermabrasion can make its symptoms— such as redness and puffiness— worse, but even if you’re not in the middle of a flare-up, a microdermabrasion procedure can cause it.
- People with cold sore breakouts:
Not only can microdermabrasion make cold sores worse and more painful, but the procedure could cause it to spread to other areas of the face. It is also worth letting your technician know if you are prone to cold sore breakouts, as microdermabrasion can trigger it.
- People with rashes, skin irritation or other wounds:
Microdermabrasion should not be done over broken or irritated skin. It is not suitable for people with eczema, psoriasis, ringworm, or any other similar rash.
- People who are taking topical retinoids:
People who have taken medicines such as isotretinoin in the previous 6 months might need to wait before having microdermabrasion procedures as some medicines increase the risk of complications such as scarring.
Ideally, it is best to consult with your dermatologist and get a professional opinion before getting a microdermabrasion treatment. Sometimes it may harm instead of helping your skin, and your dermatologist can recommend safer alternatives.
Some examples of alternative treatments are:
- Chemical peels are a viable option if the grit and suction of microdermabrasion procedures are unsuitable for your skin. They also exfoliate and rejuvenate skin without being as aggressive.
- Salon facials are relaxing, can make your skin brighter, and softer to touch. You can also get the gunk and blackheads extracted from your pores for a proper cleanse. They have the added benefit of being customized to skin type, but be sure to tell your aesthetician about skin issues and medications you might be using.
- Acne treatment medication might be a better fit if you’re attempting to treat acne with microdermabrasion. For most acne patients, tried-and-true medication prescribed by a dermatologist is more effective.
A point to be clarified is that microdermabrasion is not the same as dermaplaning, which is a procedure that exfoliates your skin and also eliminates dirt and vellus hair—also known as peach fuzz. Instead of using a high-speed brush to exfoliate the skin (as in dermabrasion), in the process of dermaplaning, doctors or aestheticians use a scalpel or a tool called a dermatome.
In the days following microdermabrasion, common side effects include:
- general tenderness such as stinging sensations or burning
- increased sensitivity to sunlight
- redness of the skin, similar to sunburn
While rarer, some people might also experience:
- mild pimples or acne
If any patch of your skin is bleeding, changing or growing in any way, it is best to consult a doctor. These issues can indicate skin cancer.
As microdermabrasion works on the skin’s surface, there are few long-term issues. However, tenderness, swelling, or minor bruising is to be expected. Typically, your skin will be slightly pink post-treatment— this usually fades within the next few hours.
For a few days, you might feel sensations similar to mild sunburn. Acne treatments, medicated cleansers and toners might burn or sting after a microdermabrasion treatment. However, makeup, moisturizers, and non-medicated facial cleansers can typically be used after treatment without consequences.
You should also increase sunscreen usage during the healing process as microdermabrasion makes you more susceptible to sun damage.
What is Microneedling?
Microneedling is a minimally invasive method employed by dermatologists to treat various skin conditions. This technique is a derma roller procedure that involves the use of numerous tiny, sterile needles to puncture the skin. This physical trauma increases collagen production and triggers other healing factors to keep the skin looking youthful, with a firm and taut texture.
This procedure, like microdermabrasion, works on the science of collagen, which is an essential protein that helps keep the skin smooth and young. Ageing causes collagen in the skin to decline, which contributes to wrinkles and other signs of age. Skin can also lose collagen due to scarring from acne, stretch marks, or other injuries.
It is effective in treating minor scarring related to acne, ageing, and surface wounds. You’ll also notice brighter, firmer skin.
It is important to clarify that microneedling is NOT a quick solution. While it requires no downtime for recovery, seeing the full results of the procedure can take several months as it involves the growth of new skin.
Most people get microneedling done on their faces, but it can also be employed on other parts of the body, such as the stomach or thighs. The procedure aims to start the body’s healing process by generating collagen and elastin to patch up the micro-injuries caused by the needles.
First, a numbing cream is applied onto the site of treatment so the needle pricks are virtually painless. Then the technician will move a pen-shaped or rolling device with tiny needles over your skin. The needles make tiny cuts that cause minor bleeding. Your service provider may also spread an ointment or serum on your skin afterwards.
Microneedling procedures may take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the area being treated. Total preparation and procedural time might be longer, but not more than 2 hours. People usually need between 4 to 6 treatments to see results.
Dermatologists and aestheticians can both provide microneedling services. There are also DIY microneedling devices although dermatologists warn against them as you might hurt your skin, especially through improper sterilization of the needles.
If you get an appointment somewhere other than a doctor’s office, you should confirm their credentials, and make sure that the equipment is sterilized.
Microneedling is especially effective for the following:
- alopecia or extreme hair loss
- burn scars
- hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating disorder)
- hyperpigmentation (dark spots/ discoloration on your skin)
- large pores
- poor skin elasticity or loose skin (such as after major weight loss, or liposuction)
- rejuvenation of skin
- scarring— from cuts and/ or surgery
- signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles
- stretch marks
- sun damage
Additionally, professionals may use microneedling to deposit medication, like vitamin C or topical tretinoin deeper into the skin barrier. This boosts the treatment for a plethora of issues.
Microneedling may also be a better fit for darker-skinned people as it doesn’t involve heat as laser treatments do, which can potentially affect your skin’s color or pigmentation.
You should always consult your dermatologist on what’s best suited for your skin.
While microneedling is considered quite safe for most people in overall good health, you may not be an appropriate candidate for microneedling if you:
- are pregnant
- are prone to scarring skin
- have active acne
- have certain skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis
- have had radiation or chemotherapy recently
- have keloid scarring (scars that look like large bubbles on the skin)
- have open wounds or broken skin
- use certain acne medications.
The primary risk is post-procedural skin irritation. Other side effects could include:
- discomfort at the site
- flaking of the skin
More serious side effects are rare but include:
- allergic reactions to the topical medications or serum used during treatment
- bleeding is an uncommon reaction though it’s more likely to occur after a deeper treatment. There is an increased risk for people with bleeding disorders or those on blood-thinners. It’s important to inform your doctor before receiving this treatment.
- infection due to improperly sterilized equipment or exposure to germs after the procedure
- skin pigment changes
Some devices involve additional risks. Those using energy or heat may increase the chance of getting burnt.
Some things to consider before booking your appointment:
For a few days, products with irritants such as makeup, moisturizers or soaps should be avoided to accommodate the tender skin. Your skin will have increased sun sensitivity so sunscreen is vital.
As microneedling is a cosmetic procedure, insurance doesn’t cover it. Costs depend on the number of treatments needed, so it’s best to consult your doctor in advance
- Healing time.
It might take weeks for you to heal, depending on how deeply the needles perforate your skin Additionally, it takes time and several treatments to see results.
- Pain, peeling and redness.
Minor pain after the procedure is expected, and your skin may remain red for the following week. Your skin may also feel tight and flaky, and peel as it heals.
- Warding off Infection.
As microneedling pierces the skin, the tiny cuts could allow germs to enter, especially if the equipment isn’t well sterilized. However, while the risk of infection is very low, care should be employed to keep your skin clean, like staying away from places that are breeding grounds for germs such as swimming pools, or other bodies of open water such as lakes, rivers, and oceans.
When comparing the cost-benefits of the two procedures, prices vary. The cost determining factors are common—it usually depends on:
- the area treated
- the expertise of the specialist
- the number of sessions and combination treatments
- the subtype of microdermabrasion or microneedling
- The geographic location of the clinic
- provider’s fees
Typically, the cost of microdermabrasion can range from $75 to upwards of $300 per treatment. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of microdermabrasion in 2018 was $137.
On the other hand, microneedling costs from $100 to $700 per session, according to estimates by Dermapen. Facial treatments amount to around $300 per session.
Based on user reviews accumulated on RealSelf.com, an average microneedling treatment costs about $100-$200. It’s usually more expensive than microdermabrasion which averages at $131, but far less costly than laser treatments, which can cost four times as much.
These procedures are usually not covered by health insurance. In some cases, skin resurfacing procedures for medical reasons may be partially covered. Check with your provider’s office and the insurance company.
Microdermabrasion and microneedling are commonly used skincare treatments for similar skin conditions. Their procedural process may be different but results are similar.
Microdermabrasion improves the appearance of your skin by the gentle removal of the top layer. It is usually done either through a crystal-based scrub or a diamond-tipped wand to exfoliate your skin and rejuvenate it. Results are apparent once the irritation clears.
Microneedling is self-explanatory, tiny punctures on your skin cause increased collagen and elastin production for new tissue and healthier, firmer skin. Results appear within a couple of weeks of treatment.
Microdermabrasion is generally a safer procedure as it works only on the top layer of skin, while microneedling acts just below the skin’s surface and has an increased chance of infection. Ideally, both procedures should only be offered by trained medical professionals. At-home microdermabrasion and microneedling procedures are not recommended, due to potential complications.
It is important to clarify that neither procedure has permanent results, although marked improvements are possible. In order to maintain those results, you may require multiple sessions and perhaps repeated follow-ups. Based on your individual goals, your doctor will advise you on the best course of action.
Prior to opting for either treatment, you should talk to your dermatologist or aesthetician about your expectations and skincare goals so you have a better base of knowledge. This ensures greater satisfaction on both ends.