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Both microdermabrasion and dermaplaning are cosmetic procedures that exfoliate the skin’s surface. Though the two share some similarities, they involve different techniques.

A dermatologist may recommend one of these procedures to people hoping to improve the look of their skin or address any perceived skin imperfections.

Some cosmetic treatment packages include both microdermabrasion and dermaplaning. That’s because each offers different benefits.

Microdermabrasion can reduce the appearance of pores, for example, while dermaplaning does not.

Below, we’ll explore each procedure in-depth and offer more details about their benefits and potential risks.

Microdermabrasion removes the outermost layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum.

During the procedure, a dermatologist or other skin care professional will use a handheld piece of equipment to gently spread microcrystals across your skin. As the device passes over your skin, the rough crystals “scrub” your skin, exfoliating it and sloughing off the top layer. Think of it as a tiny skin-friendly sandblaster. The tool’s vacuum then sucks the crystals and dead skin cells back up as they’re brushed off.

The tips on these devices usually contain crystals. If you have an allergy to aluminum, it’s a good idea to ask the person performing the procedure if they can use a crystal-free tool, since the most common crystal used in microdermabrasion is aluminum oxide. Crystal-free microdermabrasion typically uses a diamond tip.

Benefits of microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion offers a number of skin care benefits.

It can help address:

It may even help your skin absorb topical medications more easily.

Another bonus? Most people find it less painful than other cosmetic procedures. You may feel some discomfort because of the grittiness of the tool, but this sensation is usually mild.

Microdermabrasion generally won’t cause bleeding or any serious side effects. Unlike dermabrasion, a much more intense procedure that removes the top layer of skin, it doesn’t require any recovery time.

Keep in mind that the results of microdermabrasion aren’t permanent. You can expect them to last several months, though.

Dermaplaning (also not to be confused with dermabrasion) removes the top layer of skin with a dermatome, a bladed tool that resembles a razor.

This procedure can leave you with a more even skin tone and texture. It’s not the same as microblading, a tattooing technique that adds pigment to the skin. You might get microblading done to fill in eyebrows, for instance.

Benefits of dermaplaning

Dermaplaning mainly helps reduce the look of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne, but the procedure can’t completely eliminate scars.

Some medical professionals also recommend dermaplaning for hair removal.

That said, most success stories are anecdotal. There’s little research to support any potential benefits of dermaplaning.

As with microdermabrasion, dermaplaning isn’t permanent. The results usually fade after several weeks.

Medical professionals consider both microdermabrasion and dermaplaning safe skin treatment options.

That said, dermaplaning may not be a good choice if you have cystic acne or hirsutism, or excessive thick dark hair on your face.

Microdermabrasion may not be right for you if you have keloids, rosacea, or spider veins. Your dermatologist can offer more personalized treatment suggestions.

You’ll also want to avoid any cosmetic procedure if you have an active skin infection, including:

If you get cold sores from time to time, you may want to ask your dermatologist to avoid the lip area — microdermabrasion could reactivate the virus and lead to an outbreak.

Whatever cosmetic procedure you choose, it’s essential to work with a trained, experienced professional.

Microdermabrasion

Most people don’t experience side effects from microdermabrasion. But it’s possible to have a reaction and increased sensitivity after the procedure.

Complications may include:

  • redness
  • tenderness
  • bruising
  • eye irritation from crystals

Also keep in mind that after a microdermabrasion procedure, your skin will be ultra-sensitive, especially to the sun.

Dermaplaning

You may experience the following side effects after a dermaplaning procedure:

  • red and swollen skin
  • difficulty moving your face and mouth
  • burning, stinging, or aching
  • scabbing

Skin sensitivity can continue for several months. As with microdermabrasion, it’s very important to use sunscreen and other sun protection in the weeks after the procedure — but you’re doing that anyway, right?

Most dermatologists perform microdermabrasion. In fact, in the United States, this cosmetic procedure is one of the most commonly performed minimally invasive procedures.

Your dermatologist may also offer skin care packages that include dermaplaning. You can get both done in the same appointment or schedule them separately — the decision is up to you.

If you do get both in the same session, they’ll probably do dermaplaning first.

If you can’t find a dermatologist that performs dermaplaning, try checking out The American Society of Plastic Surgeons website.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average microdermabrasion session cost $167 in 2020. Dermaplaning costs are usually higher — about $250 for a 30-minute session.

Of course, those costs may vary, depending on the provider. Insurance generally won’t cover either procedure since they’re cosmetic treatments.

You might feel tempted to try these procedures at home to save some cash, but any dermatologist will likely caution you against this.

DIY cosmetic procedures can easily lead to complications or injury. What’s more, doing them yourself generally won’t lead to the same results you’d get from a professional.

Both microdermabrasion and dermaplaning are safe cosmetic procedures that may help renew your skin’s appearance with minimal recovery time.

Not sure which procedure is right for you? It’s always worth talking with a dermatologist about your options. They can help you determine the best way to address any skin-related concerns.


Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.