Comparing Microneedling vs. Microdermabrasion: What’s The Difference?

Microneedling vs. Microdermabrasion - What's The Difference | Aesthetics by Stephanie

Key Takeaways

Table of Contents

Let’s dive into the ins and outs of microneedling vs. microdermabrasion. We’ll break down their differences, benefits, potential risks of these cosmetic treatments, and help you figure out which one could be your ticket to smoother, healthier skin.

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What is Microneedling?

Microneedling, also known as collagen induction therapy, involves using fine needles to create hundreds of tiny, invisible puncture wounds in the top layer of skin. This minor injury triggers the body to heal itself by producing new collagen and elastin.

  • Step 1 – The skin is cleansed and numbing cream may be applied.
  • Step 2 – The microneedling device is rolled or moved across your skin to make tiny holes.
  • Step 3 – Your skin’s healing process results in cell turnover and increased collagen and elastin production.
  • Step 4 – A calming serum may be applied post-treatment.


Microneedling Healing

Immediate Aftermath (First 24 Hours): Right after the procedure, it’s common to experience redness and mild swelling, like a mild sunburn. These symptoms are most intense in the first few hours and gradually subside. The treated area may feel tender or sensitive to the touch and many patients report a sensation of tightness and warmth in the treated area, which is a normal reaction to the skin’s healing process.

First Few Days (24-72 Hours Post-Treatment): While the initial redness starts to diminish, some lingering effects may remain for a couple of days. As the skin begins to heal, there might be some peeling or flaking. This is a natural part of the rejuvenation process as new skin layers form. It’s crucial to keep the skin well-hydrated and protected from the sun. Use gentle, non-irritating moisturisers and a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

One Week Post-Treatment: The skin continues to heal, and any redness or sensitivity should significantly reduce. It’s still important to avoid exfoliating agents, retinoids, or other potentially irritating skincare products.

Two Weeks to One Month: The skin’s appearance continues to improve as collagen production increases. If the treatment was for scars or wrinkles, these may start to diminish. Most people can return to their normal skincare routine, but continued sun protection is essential.


How Many Microneedling Sessions are Required

Depending on your skin’s condition and desired results, you’ll typically need multiple treatments to see significant improvements. Microneedling often requires 4-6 sessions spaced four weeks apart with each session taking 30 – 45 minutes.

Remember that individual responses vary. You’ll likely notice progressive results after each treatment but achieving optimal outcomes takes time and patience.


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Pros of Microneedling

  1. Stimulates Collagen Production: One of the primary benefits is the stimulation of collagen and elastin production, leading to firmer, smoother, and more youthful skin.

  2. Reduces Scars and Hyperpigmentation: It can significantly reduce the appearance of acne scars, surgical scars, and hyperpigmentation.

  3. Improves Skin Texture and Pore Size: Regular treatments can improve skin texture, reduce pore size, and give the skin a more radiant appearance.

  4. Effective for Various Skin Types: Microneedling is generally safe for all skin types and tones, with a lower risk of hyperpigmentation compared to some other treatments.

  5. Minimally Invasive with Short Recovery Time: It’s less invasive than plastic surgery, with a relatively short recovery period. Most people experience only minor redness and irritation for a few days.

  6. Enhances Product Absorption: The procedure can increase the absorption and efficacy of topical skincare products.


Cons of Microneedling

  1. Not Suitable for Everyone: It’s not recommended for people with certain skin conditions, like active acne, eczema, or rosacea. Pregnant women are also advised against it.

  2. Multiple Sessions Required: For optimal results, multiple sessions are typically needed, which can be time-consuming and increase the overall cost.

  3. Discomfort: Some individuals may experience discomfort during the procedure, although topical anaesthetics can be applied to minimise this.

  4. Varied Results: Results can vary greatly depending on the individual’s skin type, the severity of their skin issues, and the expertise of the practitioner.

  5. Downtime Required: Although minimal, there is some downtime associated with redness and skin sensitivity.

  6. Sun Sensitivity: Post-treatment, the skin is more sensitive to the sun, requiring rigorous sun protection to avoid damage.


What is Micro-dermabrasion?

This non-invasive procedure works by gently exfoliating your skin using a mechanical device for exfoliation alongside adjustable suction to sweep away the outermost layer of dead skin cells from the epidermis. Following each session, your skin initiates a rapid healing process that stimulates collagen production and rejuvenation.

The microdermabrasion treatment includes:

  • STEP 1 – A small vacuum-like tool sprays tiny crystals onto your skin to break apart and sand away the dry, damaged layers.
  • STEP 2 – The same device then sucks up the debris and used crystals. This reveals smoother, more youthful looking skin underneath.


With repeated procedures, microdermabrasion can even improve fine lines and minor scars. It’s an effective way to stimulate collagen production and enhance your overall complexion without any downtime or significant discomfort.


Microdermabrasion Skin Healing

After the procedure, it’s important to know that healing and recovery is just as crucial for achieving visible results.

Immediate Post-Treatment: Immediately after the procedure, the skin may appear red and slightly swollen. This is a natural response to the abrasion and suction process used during treatment. The skin may also feel tender or sensitive, similar to a sunburn.

First 24 Hours: It’s crucial to keep the skin hydrated. Applying a gentle, non-comedogenic moisturiser can help. Additionally, it’s important to protect the skin from sun exposure by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Avoid using topical acne medications or any harsh skincare products that might irritate the newly treated skin.

First Few Days: The redness and swelling should diminish within the first few days post-treatment and your skin may feel smoother and appear more even in tone.

One Week After Treatment: Continue to use gentle skincare products and protect the skin from the sun. Some patients may experience mild peeling as the skin rejuvenates. It’s important not to pick or scratch at the skin during this process.


Number of Sessions Required

Depending on the skin’s condition and desired results, it’ll often require multiple treatments to see significant improvement. Everyone’s skin reacts differently. Some people may see noticeable results after a few sessions, while others might take longer.


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Pros of Microdermabrasion

  1. Non-Invasive: Microdermabrasion is a non-surgical procedure that doesn’t require incisions or anaesthesia, making it less risky than more invasive procedures.

  2. Suitable for Multiple Skin Types: It can be effective for various skin types and can help address issues such as dull skin, mild acne scars, sun damage, fine lines, and enlarged pores.

  3. Quick Procedure with Minimal Downtime: Treatments are relatively quick (often referred to as a “lunchtime facial”) and don’t require a significant recovery period. Most people can immediately return to their daily activities.

  4. Improves Skin Texture and Tone: It can enhance the texture, tone, and clarity of the skin, giving a fresher, brighter appearance.

  5. Enhances Skincare Product Efficacy: By removing the surface layer of dead skin, microdermabrasion can improve the skin’s ability to absorb skincare products more effectively.

  6. Safe: When performed by a qualified professional, it is known to be a safe procedure for most people.


Cons of Microdermabrasion

  1. Limited Effectiveness for Deep Skin Issues: It’s not effective for deeper skin problems like deep wrinkles, scars, or deep hyperpigmentation.

  2. Inconsistent Results: Results can vary based on the individual’s skin type, the severity of the skin issues being treated, and the skill level of the person performing the procedure.

  3. Sun Sensitivity: The skin becomes more sensitive to the sun immediately following the procedure, necessitating diligent use of sunscreen to prevent sun damage.

  4. Not Suitable for Everyone: It’s not recommended for people with certain skin conditions, like active rosacea, eczema, or severe acne.


Microneedling vs. micro-dermabrasion for Acne Scars

When it comes to treating acne scars, there’s a significant difference between the effects of microneedling and microdermabrasion. Microneedling involves puncturing the skin with tiny needles, stimulating collagen production for skin rejuvenation. On the other hand, microdermabrasion employs a device that exfoliates your skin surface, removing dead cells.

Induces collagen productionRemoves dead skin cells
Can reduce deep acne scarsBest for superficial scarring
Mild to moderate discomfortMinimal discomfort

You’ll find that microneedling can be more effective in reducing deeper acne scars because of its ability to reach deeper layers of your skin. Microdermabrasion is best suited for less severe scarring or hyperpigmentation as it mainly addresses issues on the surface layer of your skin.

Microneedling with SkinPen

Microneedling vs. Micro-dermabrasion for Fine Lines and Wrinkles

In terms of reducing fine lines, microneedling stimulates collagen production, promoting skin rejuvenation and reducing the appearance of lines. On the other hand, microdermabrasion exfoliates dead skin cells and improves skin texture.

Here are key points to consider:

  • Microneedling is particularly effective for fine lines as the boost in collagen and elastin can plump up the skin, reducing the appearance of these lines.
  • Microdermabrasion can be effective for very superficial fine lines by smoothing out the skin’s surface. However, it may not be as effective as microneedling for more pronounced lines.


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Risks and Contraindications

While these procedures are generally considered safe when performed by a skilled professional, they’re not without potential risks and contraindications that you should understand before proceeding.


Microneedling Safety

  • Skin Irritation: Redness, swelling, and mild discomfort are common immediately after the procedure, resembling a mild sunburn. These usually subside within a few days.

  • Bruising and Bleeding: Minor bruising and bleeding can occur, especially in treatments involving deeper needle penetration.

  • Infection: There’s a low risk of infection if the procedure isn’t performed in a sterile environment or if aftercare instructions aren’t followed properly.

  • Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation: Rarely, the procedure may trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, especially in individuals with darker skin tones.

  • Scarring: Very rarely, microneedling can cause scarring, particularly if the procedure is improperly performed.


Microdermabrasion Safety

  • Skin Irritation: The most common side effects include mild tenderness, swelling, and redness, which typically subside within a few hours to a day.

  • Temporary Dryness or Flaking: The skin might feel dry or flake a bit after treatment, necessitating moisturising.

  • Bruising: In rare cases, the suction process used during microdermabrasion can cause bruising.

  • Infection and Scarring: While rare, improper technique or aftercare can lead to infections or scarring.


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Am I Suitable?

Determining suitability for microneedling or microdermabrasion depends on various factors, including skin type, skin concerns, and overall health. Each treatment targets different skin issues and has its own set of considerations:


Suitable Patients for Microneedling

1. Skin Concerns:
  • Fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Scarring (such as acne scars).
  • Uneven skin tone or texture.
  • Enlarged pores.
  • Mild to moderate skin laxity.
  • Stretch marks in some cases.


2. Skin Types:
  • Generally safe for most skin types.
  • Particularly effective for those who want to stimulate collagen production.


3. Health Considerations:
  • Should not have active skin infections, active acne, or other acute skin conditions.
  • Not recommended for individuals with a history of keloid scars.
  • Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding are usually advised to avoid this treatment.


Suitable Candidates for Microdermabrasion

1. Skin Concerns:
  • Dull complexion.
  • Uneven skin tone or texture.
  • Age spots, sun damage, or hyperpigmentation.
  • Superficial acne marks.
  • Enlarged pores.
  • Superficial fine lines.


2. Skin Types:
  • Suitable for all skin types, but especially beneficial for individuals with superficial skin concerns.
  • Good for those looking for a non-invasive procedure with minimal downtime.


3. Health Considerations:
  • Should not have active skin infections, severe acne, or other acute skin conditions.
  • Not suitable for individuals with eczema, rosacea, or highly sensitive skin as the treatment might exacerbate these conditions.


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Microneedling vs. Microdermabrasion

Your skin’s health and aesthetic goals are pivotal in determining whether microneedling or microdermabrasion is right for you. Both procedures have their unique advantages and considerations as we’ve outlined in our comparison chart.

Collagen induction therapy for scarring, wrinkles, and pigmentation issuesExfoliation treatment for superficial skin concerns like dullness or minor texture irregularities
Approximately 30 minutes to an hourRoughly 30 minutes
Generally, one to two days days of mild rednessMinimal; maybe slight redness for a few hours post-treatment
Can be more effective on deeper skin issues due to dermal collagen stimulationMore suitable for surface layer skin refinement with immediate results



Frequently Asked Questions

Usually, you’d need microneedling every 4-6 weeks for best results. For microdermabrasion, it’s typically every 2 – 4 weeks. Remember, everyone’s skin is different and responds uniquely to treatments.

It’s not typically recommended. Both procedures are intense on your skin and combining them could cause undue stress. Microneedling uses tiny needles to stimulate collagen production, while microdermabrasion exfoliates the skin. It’s best to space these treatments out to allow your skin time to heal and rejuvenate between sessions.

Yes, both microneedling and microdermabrasion aren’t just for your face. Microneedling can improve the appearance of scars or stretch marks on areas like your stomach or thighs. Microdermabrasion is great for exfoliating rough areas such as elbows and knees.

You’ll typically start seeing results from microneedling and microdermabrasion within a few weeks. However, it’s important to note everyone’s skin reacts differently.

For microneedling, you might see initial results in a week, but full effects can take up to 4 – 6 weeks. Microdermabrasion usually shows quicker results, often after just one session, but best results are seen after multiple treatments. It’s essential to have patience and follow your skincare professional’s advice for optimal outcomes.

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