Microdermabrasion and microneedling are two skin care procedures that are used to help treat cosmetic and medical skin conditions.

They usually take a few minutes up to an hour for one session. You may need little or no downtime to heal after a treatment, but you may need multiple sessions.

This article compares the differences between these skin care procedures, such as:

  • what they’re used for
  • how they work
  • what to expect

Microdermabrasion, an offshoot of dermabrasion and skin resurfacing, can be done on the face and body to exfoliate (remove) dead or damaged cells at the top layer of skin.

The American College of Dermatology recommends microdermabrasion for:

  • acne scars
  • uneven skin tone (hyperpigmentation)
  • sunspots (melasma)
  • age spots
  • dull complexion

How it works

Microdermabrasion is like very gently “sandpapering” your skin. A special machine with a rough tip removes the top layer of skin.

The machine may have a diamond tip or shoot out tiny crystal or rough particles to “polish” your skin. Some microdermabrasion machines have a built-in vacuum to suck up the debris that’s removed from your skin.

You may see results right away after a microdermabrasion treatment. Your skin may feel smoother. It may look brighter and more even-toned.

At-home microdermabrasion machines are less powerful than the professional ones used in a dermatologist’s office or by a skincare expert.

Most people will need more than one microdermabrasion treatment, no matter what type of machine is used. This is because only a very thin layer of skin can be removed at a time.

Your skin also grows and changes with time. You will probably need follow-up treatments for best results.


Microdermabrasion is a noninvasive skin procedure. It’s painless. You might need no or very little healing time after a session.

You may experience common side effects like:

  • redness
  • slight skin irritation
  • tenderness

Less common side effects include:

  • infection
  • bleeding
  • scabbing
  • pimples

Microneedling can be used on:

  • your face
  • scalp
  • body

It’s a newer skin procedure than microdermabrasion. It’s also called:

  • skin needling
  • collagen induction therapy
  • percutaneous collagen induction

The benefits and risks of microneedling are less well-known. More research is needed on how repeat microneedling treatments work to improve skin.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, microneedling may help improve skin problems such as:

  • fine lines and wrinkles
  • large pores
  • scars
  • acne scars
  • uneven skin texture
  • stretch marks
  • brown spots and hyperpigmentation

How it works

Microneedling is used to trigger your skin to repair itself. This may help the skin grow more collagen, or elastic tissue. Collagen helps to plump up fine lines and wrinkles, and thicken skin.

Very fine needles are used to poke tiny holes in the skin. The needles are 0.5 to 3 millimeters long.

A dermaroller is a standard tool for microneedling. It’s a small wheel with rows of fine needles all around it. Rolling it along the skin can make up to 250 tiny holes per square centimeter.

Your doctor may use a microneedling machine. This has a tip that’s similar to a tattoo machine. The tip pushes out needles back and forth as it’s moved across the skin.

Microneedling can be slightly painful. Your healthcare provider may put a numbing cream on your skin before the treatment.

Used with

Your healthcare provider may apply a skin cream or serum after your microneedling treatment, such as:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin A

Some microneedling machines also have lasers that help your skin make more collagen. Your healthcare provider may also combine your microneedling sessions with chemical skin peel treatments.


Healing from a microneedling procedure depends on how deep the needles went into your skin. It can take a few days for your skin to get back to normal. You might have:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • bleeding
  • oozing
  • scabbing
  • bruising (less common)
  • pimples (less common)

Number of treatments

You may not see benefits from microneedling for several weeks to months after treatment. This is because new collagen growth takes from 3 to 6 months after the end of your treatment. You may need more than one treatment to have any results.

An animal study on rats found that one to four microneedling treatments helped to improve the skin’s thickness and elasticity better than just using a skin cream or serum.

In this study, microneedling had even better results when it was combined with vitamin A and vitamin C skin products. These are promising results but more research is needed to confirm if people can get similar results.

After-treatment care for microdermabrasion and microneedling is similar. You will likely need longer care time after microneedling.

Care tips for better healing and results include:

  • avoid touching skin
  • keep skin clean
  • avoid hot baths or soaking the skin
  • avoid exercise and sweating a lot
  • avoid direct sunlight
  • avoid strong cleansers
  • avoid acne medication
  • avoid perfumed moisturizers
  • avoid makeup
  • avoid chemical peels or creams
  • avoid retinoid creams
  • use a cold compress if needed
  • use gentle cleansers recommended by your healthcare provider
  • use medicated creams as directed by your healthcare provider
  • take any prescribed medication as directed by your healthcare provider

Microneedling safety

The American Academy of Dermatology advises that at-home microneedling rollers can be harmful.

This is because they usually have duller and shorter needles. Using a low-quality microneedling tool or doing the procedure incorrectly can damage your skin.

This may lead to:

  • infection
  • scarring
  • hyperpigmentation

Microdermabrasion safety

Microdermabrasion is a simpler procedure, but it’s still important to have an experienced healthcare provider and follow the right pre- and post-care guidelines.

Complications may include:

  • irritation
  • infection
  • hyperpigmentation

Some health conditions can cause complications such as spreading infection.

Avoid microdermabrasion and microneedling if you have:

Lasers on dark skin

Microdermabrasion and microneedling are safe for people of all skin colors.

Microneedling combined with lasers may not be good for darker skin. This is because the lasers can burn pigmented skin.


Microdermabrasion and microneedling treatments are not recommended if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. This is because hormonal changes can affect your skin.

Skin changes such as acne, melasma and hyperpigmentation may go away on their own. Additionally, pregnancy may make the skin more sensitive.

Look for a dermatologist or board certified plastic surgeon with experience in microdermabrasion and microneedling. Ask your family healthcare provider to recommend a medical professional trained in these procedures.

Your healthcare provider may recommend one or both treatments for you. It depends on the condition and needs of your skin.

Costs vary depending on things like:

  • the area treated
  • number of treatments
  • provider’s fees
  • combination treatments

According to user reviews aggregated on RealSelf.com, a single microneedling treatment costs about $100-$200. It’s usually more expensive than microdermabrasion.

According to the 2018 statistic report from the American Society for Plastic Surgeons, microdermabrasion costs an average of $131 per treatment. RealSelf user reviews averaged $175 per treatment.

Microdermabrasion and microneedling are usually not covered by health insurance. You’ll likely have to pay for the procedure.

In some cases of medical treatment, skin resurfacing procedures like dermabrasion might be partially covered by insurance. Check with your provider’s office and insurance company.

Microdermabrasion and microneedling are used to treat cosmetic skin issues and medical conditions. These include skin diseases.

Researchers in India found that microneedling combined with chemical skin peels may help improve the look of pitted acne or pimple scars.

This may happen because the needles help to stimulate collagen growth in the skin underneath the scars.

Microneedling may also help treat skin conditions such as:

Microneedling is used in drug delivery. Poking many tiny holes in the skin makes it easier for the body to absorb some medications through the skin.

For example, microneedling can be used on the scalp. This may help hair loss drugs reach hair roots better.

Microdermabrasion may also help the body better absorb some types of medications through the skin.

A medical study showed that microdermabrasion used with the drug 5‐fluorouracil may help treat a skin condition called vitiligo. This disease causes patches of color loss on the skin.

MethodExfoliationCollagen stimulation
Cost$131 per treatment, on average
Used forFine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, scarsFine lines, wrinkles, scars, pigmentation, stretch marks
Not recommended forPregnant and breastfeeding women, sunburned skin, allergic or inflamed skin conditions, individuals with diabetesPregnant and breastfeeding women, sunburned skin, allergic or inflamed skin conditions, individuals with diabetes
Pre-careAvoid suntanning, skin peels, retinoid creams, harsh cleansers, oily cleansers and lotionsAvoid suntanning, skin peels, retinoid creams, harsh cleansers; use numbing cream before procedure
Post-careCold compress, aloe gelCold compress, aloe gel, antibacterial ointment, anti-inflammatory medications

Microdermabrasion and microneedling are common skin care treatments for similar skin conditions. They work with different methods to change skin.

Microdermabrasion is generally a safer procedure because it works at the top layer of your skin. Microneedling acts just below the skin.

Both procedures should be done by trained medical professionals. At-home microdermabrasion and microneedling procedures are not recommended.