Chemical Peels vs Microdermabrasion and Laser Resurfacing

While chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser resurfacing can address some of the same concerns and conditions, they differ significantly in efficacy. Be sure to speak with your doctor or dermatologist to decide which treatment is best suited to your unique needs.

For a more in-depth look at chemical peels, read: Chemical Peels: How They Work, Types, Recovery, Risks

Chemical peels vs microdermabrasion

Both microdermabrasion and chemical peel treatments use exfoliation to maintain healthy skin by keeping it free of dead skin cells and other materials. The main difference between the two is the method of exfoliation.

Microdermabrasion uses physical exfoliation to literally scrub away dead skin cells, oil, and other debris from the surface of the skin. Chemical peels, on the other hand, rely on a chemical process that breaks down the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing the outer layer of skin to flake and peel off on its own.

In general, peels are able to penetrate into the deeper layers of the dermis, allowing them to treat certain conditions more efficiently than resurfacing techniques like microdermabrasion. Chemical peels treat and exfoliate thick, oily, and acne-prone skin more effectively. They also tend to provide better results for stubborn or deep hyperpigmentation, sun-damaged skin, and skin lacking collagen.

Blackheads and enlarged pores are common skin concerns that are usually most noticeable around the forehead, nose, and cheeks. Unfortunately, neither microdermabrasion or chemical peel treatments actually shrink your pores as their size is determined by the genes you inherited from your parents. However, both treatments can make them less prominent, while also clearing up any clogging and removing extra oil and other debris.

In the end, the treatment that is most appropriate for you is something you can determine by having a conversation with your provider. It really depends on what you want to achieve and your budget.

Chemical peels vs laser resurfacing

Both chemical peels and laser resurfacing will help refresh the appearance of your skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines, minimize scarring, and fix skin discoloration issues caused by sun damage.

Either treatment is able to greatly improve the appearance, tone, and texture of your skin. The most significant difference between the two is the technique used, but there are several other important differences as well.

Rather than using a chemical reaction, or even physical exfoliator like microdermabrasion, laser resurfacing uses a specialized medical laser to break up dead skin cells, removing them from the surface of your skin. This causes the skin to immediately contract and tighten, which also helps encourage the production of collagen.

Over the course of 6 to 12 weeks, the skin continues to improve on its own. The treatment usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the surface size of the area to be treated. Multiple treatments are typically needed for the best results. Recovery usually takes about 5 days, during which time you need to stay indoors, and should avoid using any makeup.

Other things to consider when deciding between these two treatments include the price, treatment flexibility, their ability to treat acne, and the final results you can expect.


Light chemical peels usually cost several hundred of dollars, with the price increasing proportionally to the level of penetration each chemical can provide. Financially, this can reach into the thousands for the deepest peels, but the deeper the peel, the fewer treatments are usually needed.

Laser resurfacing, on the other hand, can cost between $1,500 and $3,000 and may also require multiple treatments to reach your goals.

Treatment flexibility

When it comes to the flexibility of these treatments, laser resurfacing has the advantage. Laser resurfacing is able to penetrate the skin to a very specific depth in one area, and a very different depth in another. This results in less pain during the treatment, and often a quicker recovery period.

As for chemical peels, different strength acids cannot usually be combined for different parts of the face, and the depth of the acid’s penetration cannot be altered or adjusted during treatment.

Anti-acne efficacy

Chemical peels can treat acne well, especially medium and deep peels. Laser resurfacing can’t. In fact, patients suffering from cystic or serious acne are poor candidates for laser resurfacing as it can aggravate infections.


Both deep chemical peels and laser resurfacing offer amazing and dramatic results. Patients of both treatments are usually very satisfied with their outcomes. Laser resurfacing has the added benefit of continuing to improve the skin over the course of the new few months. This is due to the laser’s ability to promote collagen production in the skin.

Light and medium peels can also give fantastic results, but they usually require more than one treatment to correct certain skin imperfections or to maintain results.