Macro Differences between Microdermabrasion and Dermabrasion

Woman with her hand on her face

Five little letters make a big difference in describing these two treatments. The word “micro” as an adjective refers to something extremely small or minute in scope or capability. Although both microdermabrasion and dermabrasion are mechanical methods of skin resurfacing, they are two very different treatments. Microdermabrasion pales to the macro capabilities of dermabrasion.

Dermabrasion involves sanding the skin using a rotating abrasive tool. The intentional damaging of the skin stimulates the body’s repair response by producing a controlled wound that heals in a manner that is cosmetically superior to what was there originally. The treatment is aggressive and meant to remove several layers of skin to 1) remove acne scarring 2) lessen the appearance and depth of deep wrinkles or 3) remove dense sun damage and precancerous lesions. It is also effective on rhinophyma (bulbous uneven texture of the nose from rosacea.) Dermabrasion must be performed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon and the patient is sedated. Healing is lengthy requiring vinegar soaks, heavy occlusive ointments and redness that may last for 4 to 6 weeks. The average cost of dermabrasion for a segment of facial skin can cost upward of $1000.



The severity of the treatment can be seen in this intraoperative photo. Dermabrasion was performed on the glabella (the area between the eyebrows) to eliminate vertical frown lines and also around her mouth to treat lip lines. The patient also underwent blepharoplasty and fat grafting to the face and lips.




Perioral Dermabrasion1


Before and After Perioral Dermabrasion


Microdermabrasion is offered by estheticians for light exfoliation of the uppermost layer of skin where dead horny cells can accumulate clogging pores and giving the skin a dull appearance.

Microdermabrasion uses a wand to mechanically distribute fine crystals (aluminum oxide) onto the surface of the skin. In essence, it is a gentle “polishing” process. There is no sedation or pain management needed with microdermabrasion. Some patients remark that it feels similar to a cat’s lick.
There is no downtime with microdermabrasion other than a little redness which disappears in a few hours. Because it is micro in scope, multiple treatments must be done to maintain the effects.

The average price for microdermabrasion is $150.

It is important to understand the difference between microdermabrasion and dermabrasion. First is to identify the undesirable skin condition and to seek treatment that is appropriate for solving the issue. Don’t expect remarkable skin changes from microdermabrasion, and don’t seek dermabrasion when lesser treatments can give you incremental improvement.

The experienced skin professionals at Changes Plastic Surgery & Spa are happy to discuss your cosmetic goals and guide you in the proper treatment methods. Call us at 858-720-1440 or contact us at [email protected].

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