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Chemical Peels vs Laser Skin Treatment & Microdermabrasion

One common question that arises when discussing dermatological treatments that can treat wrinkles, acne, fine lines and sun damage is “which procedure is the best for me?” Typically procedures that are recommended to treat these symptoms are chemical peels, microdermabrasion or laser skin resurfacing.

The first thing to note is that chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser skin treatment all work to exfoliate or peel off layers of skin. They all help improve the texture, tone, wrinkles, scars and blemishes. There is a wide range of chemical peels and laser treatments available. This means that there is not a “one size fits all” answer to the question as to which treatment is “the best”.


Generally a chemical peel is a reliable and proven method to improve the overall texture and tone of the skin in a patient. A chemical peel is effective in removing fine lines and reducing wrinkles and minor blemishes. For individuals looking for an overall improvement in tone and texture of the skin then a chemical peel may be a good option. However, skin tone is a factor too, for instance, patients with light skin can tolerate deep chemical peels, while darker skin such as Hispanic or African-American skin tones should get mild or moderate chemical peels at most.

Microdermabrasion, a mechanical exfoliation procedure uses crystals that are passed over the skin using a handheld device and then are vacuumed away along with the dead skin. Microdermabrasion is great at improving the overall look, feel and tone of the skin. However it is not as effective at treating more significant conditions such as acne scarring.

Laser skin treatments are similar to chemical peels in that they can be used to treat a similar set of symptoms. However, one area that laser treatments are superior to both microdermabrasion and chemical peels is in how controllable it is. Laser treatments are highly targeted and can be precisely administered. For example, when using a laser to treat acne scars it is possible to just target the scars tissue itself and leave the healthy skin alone. It is also possible to use a laser to promote new collagen production. While deeper chemical peels work at the dermal layer can also promote collagen production, a laser is more targeted and can produce more collagen with faster results. Typically, with acne scarring, lasers such as Fraxel and eMatrix can promote new collagen production faster with more effective results.

Since the eMatrix is a “color blind laser” it can treat Asian skin and darker skin without the risk of hyperpigmentation or scarring. It is important to discuss your options in consultation with Dr. Michele Green to see what combination might work best for you.

Lighter skin patients that are looking to treat dark spots or sun damage may be prefer laser treatments because of the highly targeted nature of the procedure. Laser treatments such as Fraxel and the Alex-Trivantage can be the best way to treat these conditions in a timely and effective manner.

Chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser treatments are sometimes considered as various parts of an overall treatment option in order to gain improved results. Some individuals find that an initial superficial peel carried out a few weeks prior to laser resurfacing treatment can produce better results. Alternatively, microdermabrasion and superficial peels also work well together.

In terms of recovery time even superficial peels will likely require a couple days of recovery from the procedure, whereas some milder laser treatments along with Microdermabrasion require absolutely no down time at all and can even be done on one’s lunch break.

When a patient undergoes either a chemical peel or laser treatment the pain associated with the treatment can be quite mild to having some discomfort depending on the strength of the process being carried out. Patients describe chemical peel treatments as feeling as though there is some light stinging on the face. For superficial peels pain relief is not normally necessary. The stinging sensation only remains as long as the chemical peel solution is left on the treatment area. In contrast patients who undergo laser treatment say that the procedure feels a bit like an elastic band ‘snapping’ on the face. Again the pain associated with the treatment only lasts as long as it is being carried out and is in relation to the strength of the treatment being carried out. In the case of stronger treatments (for both chemical peels and laser treatments) some pain relief will likely be required to minimize discomfort to the patient. Microdermabrasion isn’t painful either. Some patients describe the process as being a little uncomfortable but no pain relief is required for this treatment.

For those looking to treat fine lines, wrinkles or even scarring the best approach is to discuss your wishes and requirements with board certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green who can provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan and impartial advice as to the best course of action in your own particular case.

For more information please contact Dr. Green to discuss your options and to set an appointment online, or via calling 212 535 3088 today.

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