Glycolic peels and microdermabrasion are two skin resurfacing techniques that can help you correct and prevent many of the early signs of aging, such as crow's feet, age spots and skin dullness. If you have aging skin, each procedure uses a different method to accomplish the same task -- the removal of dull skin cells that make up the top layer of the epidermis. Some dermatologists recommend alternating the two procedures to enhance their anti-aging benefits.
For a microdermabrasion treatment, a dermatologist uses a special wand that sprays abrasive aluminum oxide crystals at the surface of the skin, which loosens and removes the top layer of cells. The wand also incorporates a suction component that vacuums the excess cells as well as the crystals off of the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a series of six to 13 microdermabrasion sessions for optimal anti-aging results. As of 2014, professional microdermabrasion treatments ranged between $125 and $200 per session.
Glycolic Peel Treatment
A superficial glycolic peel uses a low concentration glycolic acid peeling agent to penetrate the top layer of the skin, causing it to peel away. Bleaching agents, such as hydroquinone or kojic acid, can be included into the chemical mixture to enhance the procedure's skin discoloration benefits. Superficial glycolic peel recipients can experience skin redness and flaking for up to a week following the procedure. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends three to five superficial peels, which range between $150 to $588, for optimal results.
Both procedures restore vibrancy to the skin by removing the outer layer of dead cells, which unveils the healthier, younger skin cells that lie directly underneath. The skin also responds to the treatment by increasing cell production, allowing a fresh batch of healthy, new cells to quickly reach the skin surface in the weeks following the procedure. Microdermabraion and glycolic peels also stimulate the production of collagen, the skin's structural protein, which helps to smooth fine lines and wrinkles.
Dos and Dont's
Both procedures will cause the treated area to be extra sensitive to the sun, so use a high SPF sunscreen while outside. If you have recently taken the acne medication isotretinoin, if you are prone to scarring or cold sores or if you have keloid scars, let your doctor know before undergoing either treatment. Microdermabrasion can induce some mild side effects such as bruising or a slight stinging sensation, which will subside without treatment. On rare occasions, glycolic peels can cause scarring, infection or unwanted changes in skin pigment in some skin types. However, the likelihood of experiencing these adverse effects are reduced by closely following your doctor's post-procedure care instructions, says the American Academy of Dermatology.
Several cosmetic retailers have microdermabrasion and chemical peel kits available for purchase. These home versions may not deliver as powerful a treatment as their professional counterparts, but they provide a lower cost option if professional sessions are not within your budget. If you use a home treatment, be sure to follow the enclosed instructions closely and do not apply the treatment more frequently than recommended to avoid adverse effects.
- "Cutis;" Combining superficial glycolic acid (alpha-hydroxy acid) peels with microdermabrasion to maximize treatment results and patient satisfaction; E. Briden; January 2007
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