Dermabrasion was one of the earliest-developed skin resurfacing technologies, but over the past decade, there have been countless advancements and improvements made in the world of cosmetic skin care. Today, people looking to reduce the appearance of scars; achieve more youthful, radiant skin; improve acne and other blemishes; balance the color and pigmentation of skin; and treat an array of other conditions have several treatment options and alternatives to dermabrasion available to them.

Alan M. Engler, MD, FACS, says, “Dermabrasion has largely fallen out of favor because it is messier and less attractive than newer technologies, like lasers.”

Julian B. Gordon, MD, of Atlanta’s Plastikos Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, reiterates Dr. Engler’s point: “Dermabrasion as a treatment by itself is not used very much at all. Laser, ultrasound, light therapy and chemical peels have replaced it. I only use dermabrasion to treat small areas (typically scars).”

As always, before receiving any cosmetic procedure, you should discuss your treatment options with your doctor or aesthetic professional during your consultation period. Everyone’s skin type is different, and the method, or methods, of correction will need to be customized to treat yours specifically. Here are some alternatives to dermabrasion to consider.

Laser Skin Treatments

Lasers have become one of the most commonly used technologies for improving skin. Many dermatologists consider them a sexier and cleaner alternative to dermabrasion, and they are more controlled, resulting in shorter recovery periods. There are two common types of lasers – carbon dioxide and erbium. Both work by vaporizing – through pulses or beams of light – layers of damaged skin, allowing newer, fresher skin to develop. They also help to effectively generate collagen and improve an array of skin conditions, such as scars.

Laser skin treatments can improve:

  • Wrinkles and lines on the face, neck and chest
  • Freckles
  • Sun damage
  • Scars (including acne scars)
  • Pigmentation problems
  • Tattoos (if desired, lasers can be used to remove tattoos and improve the skin, or site of removal)

There are some differences between the two types of lasers, however, and your doctor will determine which is best for you. If you are trying to target deeper lines and wrinkles, or if you have darker skin tones, for example, the erbium laser may be better. If you’re hoping to see some tightening of the skin as well as improvement of its pigmentation, the CO2 laser could best serve you. Discuss your expectations during your evaluation to ensure you use the right laser alternative to dermabrasion.

Chemical Peels

Also called dermal peels, chemical peels – like lasers – work to remove the damaged surface layers of skin, encourage collagen production and allow new, unblemished skin to generate. A combination of chemicals is placed on the skin for an exact period of time, inducing a controlled dissolution of the injured layers.

The immediate side effects of dermal peels are similar to those of laser skin resurfacing treatments. A burning, stinging sensation that subsides quickly; redness and tenderness of the skin during the initial period of recovery; and eventual flaking away of the affected layers can be expected with both dermabrasion alternatives.

Ultrasound Skin Therapy

During this procedure, ultrasound wands are used on the skin to promote elasticity, improve circulation, as well as to encourage collagen production and firmness. Basically, a wand is moved around on the surface of the skin, and the ultrasound waves themselves penetrate into the tissue and muscle to achieve maximum results.

Among the alternatives to dermabrasion, laser skin therapies and chemical peels are the most common. However, there are countless approaches taken to improve the look and feel of the skin, and only you and your doctor can determine which treatment, or combination of treatments, will give you the best results.