If you’re always wondering how some people seem to always have glowing, smooth skin, you’re not alone. (Raises hand). Is it good genes? Is it money? Is it… magic?

Turns out, they might just be exfoliating differently than you are. Have you tried all of the over-the counter (OTC) products but to no avail? Don’t worry, you’re not out of options yet. You may want to consider professional treatments like microdermabrasion and dermaplaning.

Both remove the outer dead layer of skin from your face to help rejuvenate it to give your skin a more refreshed look. So what’s the difference? And, more importantly, which one is right for you? Here’s everything you want to know.

Microdermabrasion and dermaplaning both exfoliate your skin by removing the upper layer of corneocytes (the dead top layer of skin) on your face. When too much dead skin cells hang around, it can make your skin look dull and dry.

They’re both considered minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. That means you don’t need a local anesthetic to have them performed, you don’t have to worry about long recovery times, and you’ll see results pretty quickly.

“Both treatments will result in better absorption of topical skin care products,” explains Michele Greene, a cosmetic dermatologist based in New York City. That’s why they’re both often followed by a facial treatment.

Plus, she adds, “both are safe and effective for essentially all skin tones and skin types, meaning that almost anyone may be a good candidate for either procedure.”

Microdermabrasion also might help improve the appearance of:

  • fine lines
  • wrinkles
  • pores
  • sun damage
  • age spots
  • blackheads
  • hyperpigmentation

Microdermabrasion may also help thicken your collagen. That’s a protein in your skin that helps make it look smooth and taut. (Um, yes please.)

Dermaplaning, meanwhile, will help:

  • remove peach fuzz
  • reduce appearance of acne scars
  • improves appearance of pores

These procedures are performed using different tools.

Microdermabrasion uses a handheld device along with crystals or crushed diamonds to thoroughly and gently scrub your skin and stimulate collagen and elastin production in your skin. The device will also suction off dead skin cells and any other unwelcome substances on your face at the same time.

Because microdermabrasion uses a device, the esthetician or dermatologist doing the procedure can easily adjust the intensity of the treatment depending on what skin issues you want to address.

The average cost for microdermabrasion in 2020 was $167.

Dermaplaning, meanwhile, uses a dermatome (a sterile blade) to manually remove dead skin and fine hair as it glides across the contours of your face. It kind of looks like shaving.

The cost varies depending on where you live and who performs the procedure (some states don’t allow estheticians to perform it) but you could spend up to $250 for a 30-minute session.

While you’ll see results from either procedure pretty quickly, microdermabrasion involves suction. That means that you might experience some flushing, redness, or swelling afterward. However, “this generally resolves on its own within several hours of the treatment,” Greene says.

“Some clients report a mild windburn feeling in the following days,” adds Donna Ditma, a registered nurse, certified acne specialist, and owner of the Citrus Med Spa & Acne Clinic.

Microdermabrasion can’t be used safely around your eyes because the crystals are so fine that they can get into the eye around protective eyewear. It also might not be ideal for people with active acne because it could increase inflammation.

You might notice that your skin is a little more sensitive to the sun afterward as well. Make sure to use extra SPF sunscreen in the days after either procedure to keep your skin healthy.

Microdermabrasion also isn’t recommended in a few scenarios. Do not use if:

  • you have a mole or other spot on your skin that hasn’t been evaluated by a dermatologist to rule out skin cancer
  • you’re taking the acne medicine isotretinoin or have taken it in the last 6 months (you could be at a higher risk of complications or scarring)
  • you scar easily

Dermaplaning carries a slightly higher risk of injury. “Dermaplaning uses a very sharp blade and great skill is needed around the bony areas such as the jawline,” explains Ditma. “An inexperienced practitioner can cause some knicks to the skin with dermaplaning [and it] can potentially be a much deeper exfoliation if you have a heavy hand.”

Infection and scarring from this procedure are rare but can occur. Some people also develop whiteheads on the skin a day or 2 after the procedure. It’s also possible to have patchy skin pigment.

Neither procedure is recommended if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have very sensitive skin.

It’s also important to remember, says Greene, that “the efficacy of either treatment and the final observed results will be dependent on the severity of your skin condition prior to the procedure.”

You’ll also likely have to repeat either procedure more than once to get the best results.

While both dermaplaning and microdermabrasion exfoliate the skin, choosing the right one for you depends on the skin issues you want to address. Here’s who both procedures are best for.

When to go with microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is safe for most skin types and anyone with:

  • dry skin
  • dull skin
  • fine lines or wrinkles
  • noticeable pores or blackheads
  • acne scars
  • uneven skin tone
  • hyperpigmentation
  • age spots
  • stretch marks
  • sun damage
  • melasma

“I prefer microdermabrasion for clients that may have a lot of buildup in areas that may be hard to exfoliate with a scalpel blade, such as the corners of the nose,” explains Ditma.

However, it’s not for everyone.

“Those who have sensitive skin or conditions like rosacea or eczema may find that microdermabrasion is too aggressive and exacerbates their irritation,” says Greene.

Dermaplaning

Dermaplaning can be used for any skin type and anyone with:

  • dry skin
  • dull skin
  • acne scars
  • fine lines or wrinkles
  • sun-damaged skin
  • rosacea

“Dermaplaning is a better choice for sensitive skin, rosacea, and thinner skin,” explains Ditma. As a result, it might be a better choice for older folks or those with acne-prone skin. “Without the suction, the provider has greater control over the pressure used and can work around breakouts.”

You might also prefer this procedure if you bruise easily or want to remove fine hairs on your face.

However, “dermaplaning does not address hyperpigmentation or dark spots and is not the solution for you if that is your primary skin concern,” Greene says.

Microdermabrasion and dermaplaning are both procedures that can help exfoliate your skin without chemicals and give you more glowing, soft skin. Microdermabrasion may lessen the appearance of pores, uneven skin tones, and hyperpigmentation, while dermaplaning can help with acne scars and fine lines.

If you’re not sure which procedure is best for you, have a chat with your dermatologist. They can help advise you on which procedure is best for your skin type and skin concern.