Microneedling Microdermabrasion

Is Microdermabrasion or Microneedling More Effective for Youthful Skin? Dermatologists Explain

Updated on November 24, 2020, by Don Mehrabi

Microdermabrasion and microneedling are two FDA-approved cosmetic procedures commonly performed to restore young-looking skin.

Young skin has an ample supply of collagen, elastin and other substances that make it look smooth and radiant. Genetics, hormones, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle can keep it supple.

However, aging, sun exposure, repeated trauma, disease, poor lifestyle and even gravity can strip the skin of its youthful appearance. At BHSkin Dermatology, our experts perform various skin treatments everyday. Consequently, they encounter many patients asking if microdermabrasion or microneedling is better in rejuvenating the skin.

Here, we explain their differences and show you which procedure is superior.

The Layers of the Skin, and How They Work Together

microneedling vs. microdermabrasion

To understand the main differences between microdermabrasion and microneedling, we need to take a brief look at the skin’s layers and how they change over time.

  • The most superficial layer is the epidermis. Its outermost sublayer contains dead skin cells that have plenty of keratin. This sublayer normally protects against microbes and toxins coming from outside the body. It also keeps water from seeping out of the tissues, preventing dehydration. Dead skin cells regularly slough off, but they can also accumulate, resulting in roughness and discoloration.

Epidermal regrowth is continuous. The young cells of the inner epidermal sublayers regularly migrate outward to replace the dead skin cells. The entire epidermis is renewed every 4 weeks, but exfoliation exposes the young skin cells before the mature ones naturally slough off.

  • The dermis is thicker and deeper than the epidermis. It contains blood vessels, nerves, supporting structures and rich deposits of collagen and elastin. Collagen makes the skin tough and firm, while elastin is mainly responsible for its elasticity. The blood vessels nourish the skin and help repair it when damaged. The nerves allow people to feel pain, which is a mechanism that helps them avoid major injuries.

One needs to cut through the epidermis to access the dermis. Injury of the deeper skin structures triggers a brief inflammatory phase. Inflammation prepares the tissues for healing, which starts after a few days. Collagen is necessary for tissue repair, so the skin produces a lot of it at this time.

Additionally, increased epidermal activity accompanies the repair process to cover the injured site. Scabbing, peeling and lightening of the skin may be observed as it heals.

epidermal regrowth and new collagen

  • The deepest skin layer is the hypodermis, which is primarily made of subcutaneous fat. It is not involved in microdermabrasion or microneedling, so it will not be further discussed here.

With time, various agents acting on the skin take away its natural beauty. Excessive sun exposure darkens the epidermis, producing sun spots and uneven skin tone. Aging and sun damage cause wrinkles by depleting collagen and elastin. Recurrent acne, surgical incisions, disease, poor nutrition and toxin exposure can create scars and dermal creases. Pregnancy and weight gain can stretch the dermis and produce stretch marks.

Microdermabrasion and microneedling help address these concerns, but with marked differences in effectiveness and duration. Microdermabrasion affects only the epidermis and merely accelerates a naturally occurring process. In contrast, microneedling approaches skin defects on a deeper level. It transforms both the dermis and epidermis by stimulating tissue repair mechanisms.

Microneedling can reverse some root causes of skin aging. Compared to microdermabrasion, it can alleviate a wider variety of skin conditions, and its cosmetic effects are more enduring. You will see further from the discussion below that microneedling is superior to microdermabrasion in many ways.

“Microdermabrasion affects only the epidermis and merely accelerates a naturally occurring process. In contrast, microneedling approaches skin defects on a deeper level. It transforms both the dermis and epidermis by stimulating tissue repair mechanisms.”

What Is Microdermabrasion?

In microdermabrasion, the provider applies sand-like crystals on the skin and scrubs the area with a mechanical device. This removes the outermost epidermal layer, revealing the younger cells within. A built-in miniature vacuum cleans up the scrubbing crystals and exfoliated cells. It is a superficial treatment that can be done in less than 30 minutes.

Microdermabrasion reduces excess epidermal buildup, smoothening shallow creases. It can improve the appearance of fine wrinkles and unevenly toned areas. However, these effects do not last long because of the epidermis’ continuous renewal. Moreover, microdermabrasion does not penetrate the skin deep enough to remedy larger, more visible flaws.

Microdermabrasion requires weekly treatments initially and must be maintained every 2 weeks after the desired effect is achieved. Each session costs about $100-200, depending on the provider’s qualifications, equipment, geographic location and other factors. The procedure is not covered by insurance.

What Is Microdermabrasion Good For?

Since the treatment involves only a shallow portion of the skin, it works only on a few conditions, particularly:

  • Fine wrinkles
  • Uneven skin pigmentation
  • Blackheads
  • Coarse pores
  • Dull complexion

Again, the cosmetic effects of microdermabrasion last only for a couple of weeks, and maintenance requires frequent sessions.

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What Is Microneedling?

In microneedling, the specialist uses a handheld instrument to pass tiny, sterile needles on the skin, creating evenly spaced epidermal nicks. Those microscopic cuts initiate mild, controlled inflammation, which, in turn, stimulates collagen production and epidermal activity. Microneedling is also called “collagen induction therapy” because of its effect on collagen formation.

The procedure is minimally invasive and may take about 15 minutes. However, the needles cause discomfort, requiring numbing cream application shortly before each session.

Microneedling leads to dermal and epidermal changes that significantly improve the skin’s appearance. The newly made collagen puffs up the thinning dermal areas, which smoothens and firms up the skin. Meanwhile, epidermal regrowth patches up the remaining flaws in the site, producing a lighter, younger-looking complexion. With proper care, these results can last for months, requiring fewer maintenance treatments.

Microneedling initially requires multiple sessions 3-4 weeks apart. Once the desired cosmetic effect is achieved, treatments may be reduced to every 1-3 months for maintenance, depending on the condition’s nature and severity. Sessions start at $350, and the amount varies widely. Like microdermabrasion, microneedling is not covered by insurance.

What Skin Conditions Can Be Treated Effectively by Microneedling?

This therapy alleviates a wider range of skin conditions than does microdermabrasion.

It remedies deep lesions by enhancing collagen production. They include:

  • Coarse wrinkles
  • Acne scars
  • Stretch marks
  • Loose skin after significant weight loss

It can also improve superficial conditions by its action on the epidermis. They include the following:

  • Coarse pores
  • Skin discoloration
  • Fine wrinkles
  • Dull complexion

Additionally, microneedling may be used in certain cases of autoimmune skin disease. Examples are alopecia areata, manifesting as sudden hair loss, and vitiligo, which produces white skin patches. In these conditions, the tiny incisions help the skin absorb topical medications.

Microdermabrasion vs. Microneedling: Comparison of the Key Features

This table summarizes the critical differences between microdermabrasion and microneedling.

Points of Comparison Microdermabrasion Microneedling
Skin layers involved Epidermis only Epidermis and dermis
Mechanism Skin exfoliation Controlled induction of natural inflammation and repair processes
Level of invasiveness Non-invasive Minimally invasive
Indications Fine wrinkles

Uneven skin pigmentation

Coarse pores


Dull complexion


Fine and coarse wrinkles

Acne scars

Uneven skin pigmentation

Coarse pores


Dull complexion

Loose skin after significant weight loss

Stretch marks

Some cases of autoimmune skin disease

Duration of effects About 2 weeks Can last for several months
Frequency of maintenance treatments Every 2 weeks Every 3-4 weeks for acne scarring

Every 3 months for anti-aging

Potential costs $100-200 per session

Requires multiple sessions

Not covered by insurance

Starts at $350 per session

Requires multiple sessions

Not covered by insurance


Comparing these treatments side by side, microneedling proves to be more effective than microdermabrasion in restoring young skin. It corrects a broader range of dermatological problems, and its effects linger much longer. Maintenance treatments are fewer, so microneedling is also potentially the more cost-effective choice.

What Are the Other Upsides of Microneedling?

Compared to other in-office skin treatments, microneedling also has the following advantages:

  • The procedure is quick.

You don’t have to miss an entire workday just to get it done. You can even schedule a microneedling session on your midday break.

  • Downtime is minimal.

You may have to skip strenuous activities for a couple of days as part of your aftercare treatment. Otherwise, microneedling shouldn’t keep you from carrying out most of your office and household tasks.

  • The side effects are tolerable.

You may experience some flushing, swelling, and discomfort for a few days, which are all part of the normal inflammatory process. In healthy individuals, these side effects are barely noticeable and can go away on their own.

  • It can be used on any skin type.

The efficacy of some skin treatments may be affected by genetics. You won’t need to worry about that with microneedling.

  • It can be used on all body areas.

Microneedling can be done on sites where chemical and laser treatments are unsafe, like those around the lips and eyes. It can be performed on skin in other body parts.

  • The effects are localized.

You will not be required to take any pill or injection that can interfere with your diet and other health regimens. The effects of this procedure are limited only to the treated area.

Additionally, at BHSkin Dermatology, you’ll have added peace of mind knowing that you’re getting quality care from the best LA skin professionals.

What Should I Do to Maximize the Benefits of Microneedling?

At BHSkin Dermatology, our specialists follow the strictest health standards to ensure that every procedure they perform is completely safe and effective. So when you book your microneedling appointment, they may discuss the following with you:

  • Pretreatment care

Your BHSkin Dermatology care provider may recommend avoiding sun exposure and certain skin treatments a few days before your appointment. You may be advised to stop taking vitamin A-containing acne medications months before the procedure. All of these may render the skin more sensitive and cause complications after the procedure.

Also, if you’re receiving therapy for a chronic health condition, ask your skincare expert if you need medical clearance.

  • Posttreatment care

The skin expert will tell you that you might observe the following right after a microneedling session:

— Some flushing, swelling, soreness, and pinpoint bleeding, because of the tiny skin cuts. The pinpoint bleeding will resolve right away in healthy people.
— Minimal redness, swelling and discomfort may persist for a few days. They are symptoms of inflammation, which is necessary for collagen induction.

Additionally, the following may be recommended for your aftercare regimen:

— Use mild cleansers and sunscreen.
— Protect the area from sun exposure and harsh chemicals for several days.
— Avoid vigorous activity and staying in very warm places, which cause sweating and lead to skin irritation.
— Avoid scratching or picking on the skin.
— A special hyaluronic acid-containing moisturizer may be prescribed.

You may discuss these details and more with your BHSkin Dermatology care provider when you book your appointment.

  • The risks and contraindications of microneedling

Every treatment has its risks, no matter how harmless it may look. Though rare, microneedling may cause the following:

— Hypersensitivity
— Bruising
— Worsening of scars and pigmentation problems
— Infection

They may not happen at all if you’re under the care of the right specialist and diligently following pre- and posttreatment instructions.

Your doctor may also ask if you have the following conditions:

— The presence of active skin lesions, because they can worsen.
— Pregnancy and breastfeeding, because the hormonal changes may render the procedure ineffective.
— Cancer, lupus, immune deficiency, or uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, as patients who have them are at risk for infection and non-healing of wounds.
— Keloid-forming tendencies and collagen disease, as patients can experience worse scarring.
— A history of excessive bleeding, liver disease, or oral blood-thinner intake, because these conditions put patients at risk for significant bleeding.

Your BHSkin Dermatology care provider guarantees your privacy, so be open about any medical concerns that may impact the procedure’s effectiveness and safety. Only a licensed medical professional can reliably assess your health and tell you if microneedling or another treatment is appropriate for you.

Finally, for the best cosmetic results, you must choose the right skin specialist to perform your microneedling procedure. Targeting the right skin depth and contour requires precise equipment handling. Only a well-trained professional knows the skin and its underlying structures perfectly.


We just compared the key features of microdermabrasion and microneedling. The latter is more effective in revitalizing the skin and has longer-lasting results owing to its mechanism. It also has wider applications and is more cost-effective.

Microneedling has other advantages that make it preferable over other office procedures for certain skin conditions. However, one must entrust its performance to the right skin professional to ensure the best outcomes.

Let the Best LA Skin Specialists Quickly and Safely Erase Years Off Your Face

Having healthy skin makes people feel confident and empowered. Microneedling is just one of the many procedures that can keep you looking and feeling young and gorgeous. At BHSkin Dermatology, our medical experts can help you solve a myriad of skin conditions. You may visit us personally at our Encino and Glendale offices or use our virtual portal for telederm consults.

Book your appointment today and get superior skincare from LA’s finest dermatologists.


Author: Don Mehrabi

Don Mehrabi, MD, FAAD, is LA’s leading board-certified dermatologist who treats patients, builds the BHSkin clinics, and raises three kids. This blog builds on medical studies combined with Dr. Mehrabi's first-hand experiences from practicing in Encino-Tarzana, Glendale, and online

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