“True dermabrasion” (as I’ll call it) is going to go deeper than a chemical peel, but your recovery is going to be longer with dermabrasion. That is, more swelling, more minor bleeding, and longer recovery. That is, if true dermabrasion is done.
Many places (including other doctors, and non-medical offices/spas and even at-home kits!) are only doing “micro-dermabrasion”. This is a very superficial treatment of the upper skin layers, with a very light “sanding” of the thicker outer skin layers. This type of treatment is more analogous to the results from a chemical peel than “true dermabrasion”. While micro-dermabrasion can help with skin texture, and stimulate some collagen thickening, the results typically are much less noticeable than true dermabrasion or laser resurfacing (see below). And like many non-invasive facial treatments, they need to be repeated at regular intervals.
Confused with terminology yet?
While true dermabrasion is still used for a small variety of conditions, most plastic surgeons have replaced “true dermabrasion” with laser resurfacing, like fractionated laser treatment. Again, laser treatments can be tuned for different depths of treatments and different colors of light for different effects, with varying level of “social downtime.” This relates to the number of days that the patient will not want to go out in public because of minor bleeding, crusting, swelling, or redness.
As will nearly everything we do in plastic surgery, there is an upside and a downside to varying the levels of treatment. And nearly always, more/deeper/longer treatment results in an improved appearance and result, but comes at the cost of more downtime.
It all depends on what results you are looking for, how much you want to spend, and how much recovery time you have!
The best thing to do is discuss the details of your goals in a plastic surgery consultation.
Read more about all of the non-invasive facial skin care options at