Should I Have Microdermabrasion or Laser?

Many patients like you who have signs of aging and sun damage are looking for ways to improve their skin. Often they ask how they can erase the telltale signs of aging – wrinkles, freckles and age spots. One patient recently asked us if she should have q-switched laser treatments or microdermabrasion to get rid of her age spots. We wanted to share our conversation with her with you because it highlights an important fact about anti-aging treatments: many consumers are misinformed and fooled into thinking that all cosmetic treatments are alike and can accomplish the same goals.

Let’s start with the q-switched laser. This laser is a class IV medical device that can only be operated by a nurse, mid-level practitioner (NP/PA) or a physician. These lasers are designed to target and destroy excess pigment in the skin. The lasers treat tattoos, brown birthmarks, freckles or age spots.  Q-switched lasers are specifically designed to be absorbed by the target pigment and leave the lighter, surrounding skin unchanged. This controlled process creates an injury to the skin exactly where we want it by using light and heat.  The laser is an effective way to permanently get rid of excess pigmentation. Once the pigment is cleared away naturally by the body, the skin replaces the injured cells with new, healthy ones that are normal in color.

Microdermabrasion is a completely different type of treatment. The device can be operated by non-medical personnel, like an esthetician. And unlike q-switched lasers, microdermabrasion works by providing exfoliation rather than the removal of pigment. A good analogy is to think of it as sandpapering wood. By “rubbing”, microdermabrasion removes dead skin cells, forcing new ones to come up to the surface faster.

Here is the major difference: q-switched lasers can penetrate the skin down to the lower dermal layer. This distance is roughly 1/10 of an inch. Microdermabrasion can only remove the very top cell layers—about 1/100th of an inch. That’s a HUGE difference! Think about this for a moment: microdermabrasion has no way of reaching that unwanted, excess pigment. It just can’t penetrate the skin deep enough to reach it! Yes, the age spots may look lighter after microdermabrasion, but this is a temporary phenomenon, not a permanent change to the skin. And remember, microdermabrasion is a “rubbing” mechanism. Even if you “rub” harder or deeper, you can’t permanently get rid of pigment this way. In short, microdermabrasion just isn’t an effective treatment for pigmentation problems.

Our goal in sharing this information with you isn’t to tell you there is no place for microdermabrasion in our industry. Rather, our point is simply that treatments need to be matched to the primary task at hand to achieve the best outcome.  We understand that the price point of these treatments are different, but we also know that the results are as well. Why pay for something that can’t do what you want? Is that wiser than spending more on an effective treatment?

At Celibre Medical, we are committed to offering only those treatments for which we can achieve at least an 80% patient satisfaction rate.   For brown spot removal, that treatment is q-switched lasers.

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