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Microdermabrasion Facial vs Chemical Peel: Dermatologist Explains What Works

May 21, 2023
Microdermabrasion Facial Exfoliation Guide

Microdermabrasion facial vs chemical peels? What’s the difference? This week’s installment of Biohack Beauty gives the lowdown on exfoliation…and why you absolutely must do it right. 

Microdermabrasion facial was created as a gentler alternative to chemical peels and dermabrasion in 1985. We’ve come a long way since. 

Barrier Repair Speed Guide
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    Exfoliation is one of the most misunderstood steps in skincare routines. Decades ago, facial scrubs with abrasive beads were marketed as a cure for flaky, dull skin. 

    There are several issues here:

    @drteowanlin How to exfoliate your skin Nourishing Brown Mask Peel A Bioactive Mask Peel for Skin Resilience [Aquaporin Upregulation] Intensive Barrier Repair [Adaptogenic Properties] Resilience [Anti-inflammatory] Calms Redness & Sensitivity #dermatologistskincare #sgdoctor #tiktoksg #viraltiktok #exfoliateyourskin #dermatologist ♬ original sound – Dermatologist Dr.TWL – Dr.TWL Dermatologist

    Firstly, skin cells actually “exfoliate” naturally—at its own time. The movement of skin cells from bottom layers to the surface, is also known as cell differentiation, which occurs during the skin cycle. The trouble is with aging, the skin cycle lengthens. The layer known as the stratum corneum accumulates dead skin cells—that’s when skin looks dull. 

    Skin Exfoliation Tutorial by Dr.TWL
    Microdermabrasion is the technique of removing the topmost layer of skin cells, known as the stratum corneum in order to reveal more radiant skin. Compared to chemical peels, microdermabrasion facial has certain benefits such as greater ease of control and predictability when used in skin of color. Pigmented skin tends to develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, a problem common with chemical peels which also increases photo sensitivity.

    The Wrong Way to Exfoliate 

    So beauty brands came up with ways to get rid of dead skin—literally by scrubbing it off. 

    Sadly, that’s not how skin works. By scrubbing skin down like sandpapering wood, skin actually gets irritated. It turns red, before it starts to flake and finally. It becomes angry. 

    Skin’s revenge dress (if the scrubbing goes on long enough)

    Skin Exfoliation Disaster
    Microdermabrasion facial is an alternative to chemical peels. Gentle microdermabrasion avoids common chemical peel related side effects, especially when deeper peels are performed. There can be a better outcome in pigmented skin types, when correct techniques are applied.

    That’s not the end of the story. When the dust settles (just call it dead skin)—she actually decides to grow new skin cells. But it’s not what we wanted. Instead of fresh, baby soft skin, you get layers of thickened, dark skin. What dermatologists term at first as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH for short) becomes lichenification—the development of a tree bark-like skin texture. 

    Microdermabrasion Skin Cycle
    The core principles of microdermabrasion facial relate to the natural skin cycle. As skin cells move up from the bottom layers of skin i.e. the stratum basale, they differentiate. By the time it reaches the top most layer, we refer to these cells as the corneocytes. The superficial skin cells reside in the stratum corneum. When one grows older, the skin cells are retained for longer periods of time and this causes dull skin.
    @drteowanlin How To Glow Up in 1 Day Dermatologist Edit- Let’s get to the root cause of dull skin, So we all desire skin radiance translucency elasticity clarity by the way. That’s me too. You must first understand one thing- dull skin is caused by a combination of factors. First, external factors like PM2.5 pollutants, UV damage all cause free radical stress also known as surface aging. At the epidermis,the first layer of skin, dead skin cells also accumulate, known as retention hyperkeratosis, lack of moisture can also cause dull skin. At the second layer, collagen loss and antioxidant depletion occurs with age, worsening the problem. The all-in-1 copper peel comprises of 3 stages Stage one: hydrodermabrasion with antioxidant essences, which essentially is using the power of vacuum to gently physically exfoliate and infuse antioxidants into the skin. Stage 2: You apply the peptide based gel mask included in the kit and microcrystalline copper ions begin to stimulate collagen production while resurfacing skin. The peptides also have a wrinkle-smoothing effect, as they relax the facial muscles and also act as natural Antimicrobial peptides, known as AMPS—that help build a healthy skin microbiome. Actives like vitamin C and propolis further creates the ideal skin healing microclimate for optimal results. Get my free newsletter Skincare Blueprint: Glow Up From Within & skincare routine checklists customised to your skin type 👆🏻 How to glow up in 1 day How to glow up in 1 week #instantglowingskin #sgdoctor #dermatologist #sgtiktok #instantglowing #instantglowup #homefacial ♬ original sound – Dermatologist Dr.TWL – Dr.TWL Dermatologist

    Enter Chemical Peels 

    Glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids are must-haves in a dermatologist’s office. For a good reason—these actually do exfoliate in a way that doesn’t damage skin barrier the way physical scrubs do. Chemical peel acids work at a microscopic level, which means it specifically dissolves the bonds between the surface skin cells known as corneocytes. The result? Renewed, baby soft, smooth skin that will make you glow and others too—with envy.

    The downsides to chemical peels: side effects are real

    Sun sensitivity occurs commonly with chemical peels. As does skin irritation i.e. redness, flaking—as a result of a disrupted skin barrier. The concentration of the peel acid, the duration it’s left on skin affects how intense the effects are. Hence, higher concentration peels (the most effective) must be performed under medical supervision. 

    The microdermabrasion facial miracle 

    So when microdermabrasion came on the scene, it was celebrated as a gentler alternative to medium/deep chemical peels, sans side effects. A technology based on crystal/diamond resurfacing, microdermabrasion facial combined the benefits of vacuum assisted topical delivery with skin resurfacing to enhance absorption. But boy, was it messy. It wasn’t as straightforward as the inventors had made it out to be—crystals flying around…even in the crystal-free systems aka diamond microdermabrasion, it still required skill operators in-office and took 30-60 minutes. 

    Dermatologist’s Pick

    Enter new gen microdermabrasion facial systems

    In the mid 2010s, Korean medi-facials took off with vacuum only skin resurfacing techniques which focused on minimal epidermal disruption and maximum antioxidant delivery. 

    Home Microdermabrasion Set
    Hydrodermabrasion is the technology widely used in Korean medifacials and also in the Universal Beauty Bar. The key difference with this microdermabrasion facial technology is that it does not use any abrasive handpieces at all, compared to traditional counterparts. Instead, vacuum pressure is utilised to enhance skincare absorption. This is a closed loop system which requires a filter.
    At Home Face Peels Home Microdermabrasion Set
    The Universal Beauty Bar system utilises a vortex handpiece which focuses vacuum pressure optimally at the level of the stratum corneum. Sufficient pressure is generated to enhance cosmeceutical absorption. Effective resurfacing occurs with salicylic acid the gentlest of chemical peels.

    Home Face Peel that Works:

    A microdermabrasion facial system for sensitive skin types 

    Dr.TWL Biomaterials Copper Peel System was launched in 2020 as a revolutionary copper oxide based microcrystalline handpiece with the ability to exfoliate, infuse and repair the skin barrier all at once. Designed for use with the 360 Amino Acid Gel Mask, it delivers a suite of benefits in a single application

    • Peptides for anti-wrinkle effects
    • AMPs as a natural microbiome stabiliser
    • Propolis for anti-inflammatory, antioxidant shield
    • Adaptogens for skin resilience 
    Dr.TWL Copper Peel
    The Silk Peel is a novel microdermabrasion facial handpiece features microcrystalline copper oxide instead of the traditional aluminium oxide or diamond tip. The result is an even distribution of microcrystals that is gentler on skin and enhances skincare absorption.

    Want radiant skin? Remember to exfoliate—correctly. 

    Dr.TWL At Home Face Peel Kit

    Get the Dr.TWL At-Home Face Peel Set.

    Bite-Sized Beauty features visuals, skincare hacks and skin science in short form. Written by Dr Teo Wan Lin, author of Skincare Bible: Dermatologist’s Tips on Cosmeceutical Skincare, a complete beauty bible in an easy-to-read FAQ style. Subscribe to Skincare Blueprint: Glow Up From Within for insider tips on skincare routines. Discover skincare courses by Dr.Teo Wan Lin. 

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