Which is better, microdermabrasion or chemical peels?

Tags:woman age 35-44 forehead nose cheeks sun spots skin tone

I have uneven skin tone and some sun spots on my forehead, nose and cheeks. What should I consider when deciding between microdermabrasion and chemical peels? Based on my concerns, what do you think would be a better option? Or are there other alternatives that I’m not even thinking about?

Amberbeam

F, 45, Florida

There are many options for reducing the visual appearance of sunspots. The most commonly prescribed treatment is IPL therapy. IPL is similar to laser treatment in that it uses heat to carefully destroy parts of the skin, but unlike laser therapy IPL uses a broad spectrum of light which can be specifically matched to target only a specific color or pigment of skin. By specifically targeting the melanin producing cells within sunspots, IPL can precisely remove only the hyperpigmented skin cells while leaving the surrounding skin untouched.

To answer your question about which is better, microdermabrasion or chemical peels: both are excellent techniques but come in at a distant second and third place behind IPL and laser therapies. While both do an excellent job of removing dead skin cells and encouraging cell turnover within the outer layers of skin, neither is as effective a treatment against sunspots as IPL.

I can't offer you any direct or specific recommendations online without conducting an in-person examination, but if your sunspots are bothering you I suggest you research IPL treatments and contact a board-certified dermatologist for an initial consultation.

Microdermabrasion is a great treatment for the removal of superficial blemishes. If you have deep wrinkles or scars, then chemical peels are usually the better choice. From your question though, it doesn’t sound like either would be the best choice in your case. Both treatments have some lightening effect on forehead sunspots, but neither work as well as light therapy.

IPL treatment (Intense pulsed light) is an extremely effective treatment for the removal of sunspots, age spots, freckles and uneven skin tones. Just how effective a single treatment is will depend on each specific presentation. In most cases you can expect to see a significant difference within just a few days of treatment. Without a direct consultation, however, I can't give you any insight into how many treatments you'll need to achieve your goals.

Fraxel laser resurfacing is also very effective at treating sun damaged skin, and improves the overall texture and tone of the skin as well. In some cases your dermatologist may also recommend therapies like cryotherapy or electrodessication to treat sunspots.

After an initial consultation your dermatologist will be able to determine which therapy (or which combination of IPL and laser therapy) is most appropriate for your specific skin issues. How many treatment sessions will be required to achieve your goals depends on the appearance of your specific sunspots. In most cases we can make a significant improvement with one to three sessions.

Microdermabrasion and chemical peels are both great treatments for exfoliating the skin. Both treatments remove the surface layer of dead skin cells and leave newer cells on the visible surface of the skin. Without a personal consultation, however, I can't tell you which one would be better in your specific case.

Generally speaking, we use microdermabrasion for superficial blemishes and fine lines. If you have deep wrinkles or acne scars, chemical peels are more likely to be the way to go.
Chemical peel treatments can penetrate more deeply, past the outer layers of the dermis, which tightens the skin and creates a more youthful appearance.

While both skin treatments will provide some level of whitening effect for dark spots, IPL is often a better alternative for correcting age spots and uneven skin tones. IPL not only does a better job smoothing out deep acne scarring and pits, but it’s especially good at correcting skin discoloration, brown spots and and uneven pigmentation.

Rather than worrying about which treatment is better, microdermabrasion or chemical peels, I recommend scheduling a consultation with a board-certified dermatologist to discuss which treatment makes the most sense for you. 

There are benefits to both microdermabrasion and chemical peels, but which one to use depends on the specifics of your skin. Both treatments do a great job of exfoliation and will leave you with a softer, smoother complexion. Microdermabrasion treatments,however, don't do much work beneath the surface layer of skin. They abrade the dead cells from the epidermis and leave your skin glowing and more vibrant looking.

Microdermabrasion is very popular because patients experience extremely minimal downtime (just a day or two following the procedure). This makes it easy to fit a microdermabrasion treatment into a weekend without missing a beat.

Chemical peels, on the other hand, are a great option if your skin issues extend below the surface, as is the case with most acne scars.

There are several different types of chemical peels. These include alpha hydroxy acid peels, glycolic acid peels, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels, phenol peels and others. Some peels penetrate more deeply into the skin than others. For example, a mild peel like a salicylic acid or glycolic acid peel won't penetrate very deeply into the skin, but will help to exfoliate the skin and encourage new cells to come to the surface.

As you said, your primary goal is to even out irregular skin tones and reduce the prominence of sunspots on your forehead. Both microdermabrasion and chemical peels will help to reduce blemishes to some extent, but a better option for evening out differences in skin tone is IPL therapy.

The light frequency in IPL treatments targets red and brown colors within the skin. Because the light only targets reds and browns, IPL is an effective option to treat sunspots and uneven skin tone.

If you're serious about treating sunspots and uneven pigmentation on your forehead, nose and cheeks, I recommend contacting an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist to discuss IPL sunspot removal.

Both light chemical peels and microdermabrasion is an excellent modalities to exfoliate the skin, allowing newer skin to come to the surface.  Deeper chemical peels have more of a tightening effect on the skin and also serve to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.  Both modalities will have some lightening effect on sunspots.  However, those would not be the recommended treatments to target sunspots.  For that, I would recommend IPL (intense pulsed light) therapy.  These devices target reds and browns in the skin based on different wavelengths.  They are extremely effective at treating sunspots.