Glycolic Acid Chemical Peels vs. Microdermabrasion: What’s the Difference?

glycolic peel vs microdermabrasion

If you’ve been considering glycolic acid chemical peels or microdermabrasion treatments, there are several things you should consider before doing either. These treatments are designed to improve mild skin damage, fine lines, tiny wrinkles and other mild complexion problems and both of these treatments can be done in the comfort of your own home.

First, let’s discuss what each procedure consists of and how they work.

Table of Contents

What’s Involved

A glycolic acid peel is just what it says. It’s a chemical face peel that uses glycolic acid to remove the surface layer of the skin. It is derived from sugar cane and breaks down the outer skin layer so it peels off to leave new, fresher skin showing. The whole process will take a few days to a week to complete and may require you staying indoors while your skin is peeling off.

Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive procedure that uses tiny crystal like particles to gently remove the surface layer of the skin. There is no peeling with this type of treatment and the only real side effect is slightly pink skin. It can be used a few hours prior to a special engagement whereas a chemical peel needs to be done at least one week prior to a special occasion.

Uses and Benefits

Both glycolic acid skin peels and microdermabrasion are exfoliating treatments. A glycolic peel not only exfoliates but infiltrates the pores which can allow your moisturizer to sink in easier. However, microdermabrasion will stimulate the production of collagen and elastin in your skin making it look more vibrant and alive after treatment. It will take a few weeks for the skin to produce the collagen and elastin so the effects may not be overly noticeable after the first treatment or two.

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Microdermabrasion is often gentle enough that it can be used every week or two. Most chemical peels can only be done once a month. You can use both treatments for maximum results. Use a chemical peel one week and then weekly microdermabrasion treatments for a week or two following the glycolic acid peel.


TIP! Glycolic acid peels and microdermabrasion both address common skin problems like fine lines, rough texture and even hyperpigmentation. It’s up to you to decide which is the best treatment for you or if you want to rotate between each treatment and use them both.


Recovery Time

Microdermabrasion is often done before a facial. It helps to remove dead skin while boosting the effects of the facial product’s ability to penetrate the skin. Since there is no down time when getting this type of treatment, you can go about your normal daily routine or even go to a party later that night.

A glycolic acid peel will require some down time. It can take up to a week before the whole process is complete. However, it does offer more noticeable results in the end. If you have the convenience of time on your hands and can spare a few days from work or other activities, it is well worth having this procedure done.

Side Effects

Some side effects may occur with the use of glycolic acid especially when used in higher concentrations. The most commonly experienced side effects include scabbing and leaving traces of dark and brown spots. Redness, skin inflammation and itchiness or irritation may also occur. Also, the skin can become more prone to damage from the sun. But this can be avoided by using an excellent quality moisturizer with adequate sunscreen.

Related:  Avoid Harsh Skin Peels With an At-Home Glycolic Acid Peel

Microdermabrasion is a safe procedure since it only affects the outermost layer of the skin, therefore side effects resulting from treatment are usually mild. Some of the more common reactions include redness, skin irritation and skin tightness. Most of these side effects are temporary and should disappear after a few days.


Glycolic acid peels for at home use can cost upwards of $20 per peel (depending on if you’re buying a kit or a standalone bottle) and you’ll need to repeat the treatment every six weeks or so for best results.

The cost of at home microdermabrasion products varies widely and that’s because you can choose between a cream-based treatment or a machine. An at-home kit like the ZenMed Skin Eraser Kit costs around $60, with some brands costing over $100. On the other hand, a machine like the Timepeel Natural Diamond Home Microdermabrasion System costs around $200 (at the time of this writing).

Many people do combine using a glycolic acid peel along with microdermabrasion treatments, but you do want to space these out and not use them the same week. It’s best to space them at least two weeks apart. Most people are happy with their results from using these two methods alternately.

The convenience of doing these treatments at home is an added benefit and will save you time and money. Microdermabrasion is the safest alternative if you have mild skin conditions and are unsure if getting a chemical peel is right for you.

5 thoughts on “Glycolic Acid Chemical Peels vs. Microdermabrasion: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Hi, I believe diamond microdermabrasion is safeer than glycolic acid as the process was on the skin surface without making a scratch on the skin at all.

    This is the reason I chose to use diamond type and will never ever use microderm oxyde crystal anymore since a year ago. It actually hurts my skin and it take about 3 months to fully recover.

  2. glycolic acid hmmm never heard before. but i must say microdermabrasion is a lot safer than glycolic acid. nonetheless after microdermabrasion, you’re skin becomes more sensitive and you need to give it more care until it heals

  3. Thanks! Now, I found the solution and I decided to take microdermabrasion treatment, it removes age spots, black heads, fine line and much more without any side effects. It’s an awesome invention to get rid of all the skin problems.

  4. I used a glycolic acid toner daily with no problems and my skin is amazing vs having a microdermabrasion few years ago n ended up breaking out


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