A Comprehensive Comparison Between Professional & At-Home Skincare Treatments

You’ll find an array of chemical peels, microdermabrasion and facials at your local salon, medical spa or dermatologist office. And, you’ll also find many of these treatments bottled up for at-home use. But, does this mean you should exclusively adopt at-home options or stick with the pros? Decide for yourself by learning the differences between professional and at-home skincare treatments.

Treatment 1: Glycolic acid peels

Glycolic acid is commonly used in chemical peels to rejuvenate the face. A type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), glycolic acid is derived from fruit acid.

How it works

  • It exfoliates. Glycolic acid breaks down connections between dead cells in skin’s topmost layer, which can cause a dull complexion. Then, it sloughs away dead skin, revealing fresher, smoother and younger-looking skin.
  • It improves hyperpigmentation. UV damage from sun exposure can cause hyperpigmentation, such as brown spots or sun spots. As glycolic acid takes off the outermost skin layer, it also removes sun spots.
  • It minimizes lines. When used regularly, glycolic peels stimulate deeper skin layers and fine lines become much less evident.

What concentrations are available

At-home

The highest glycolic acid concentration found in over-the-counter products is usually 10 percent.

Professional

Higher concentrations are between 20 to 50 percent. They are available through your dermatologist’s chamber. Not surprisingly, these treatments are more effective at removing dead, dull skin and producing dramatic results.

Number of treatments and cost

Professional

Professional peels usually start around $150 per treatment. You might need five to eight chemical peels to get the best results, writes dermatologist Leslie Baumann, M.D., for Yahoo Health.

At-home

You can repeat home peels once or twice a month, but pay particular attention to each product’s instructions. The kit should last about five treatments. Cost typically starts at $50.

Possible side effects

Following the peel, you might experience redness and irritation. Make sure to let the practitioner know if you’re using retinoid treatments, because these strengthen the peel’s results.

Post-treatment care

After any chemical peel, sunscreen is a must! Skin will be more sensitive to sun damage and sun burn. Look for sunscreen that soothes and calms tour skin.

Helpful hints for at-home use

  1. Start with a low concentration for your first peel. If you can tolerate that without irritation, then increase the concentration with successive peels.
  2. Don’t let the peel solution accumulate in creases by your nose and lips. Wipe the peel solution from this area with a damp cloth.
  3. Rinse the peel solution thoroughly. Any remaining solution may irritate the skin.
  4. Apply a non-glycolic acid moisturizer and sunscreen after rinsing off the peeling solution.

Treatment 2: Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion refers to various devices that remove the outermost layer of the skin. Some devices spray aluminum oxide crystals or use a paddle.

How it works

  • It exfoliates. Microdermabrasion’s effect is similar to glycolic acid peels. The goal is to remove superficial dead skin, revealing fresher, smoother skin underneath.
  • It improves acne. Microdermabrasion takes away dead cells, oil and bacteria from the skin’s surface, all of which can lead to acne, writes dermatologist Brian Zelickson, M.D., on The Patient’s Guide to Microdermabrasion.
  • It improves penetration of other products. Removing the outer layer of dead skin cells also removes a barrier, making “the delivery of topical therapies much easier,” notes dermatologist Eric F. Bernstein, M.D., on The Patient’s Guide to Microdermabrasion. If products are able to penetrate the skin more effectively, then these treatments can work better at improving your skin.

Number of treatments and cost

Professional

Sessions last about 20 minutes to an hour. One session can cost between $75 and $300, depending on your location. To receive optimal results, you might need between five and 12 sessions every two to three weeks, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Many factors affect the ultimate results of professional microdermabrasion, including:

  • Depth of microdermabrasion — the deeper the treatment, the more skin is removed.
  • Speed at which the crystals move.
  • The number of times the device goes over the same area of skin.

At-home

Unlike professional treatments, home kits are unable to get deep into the skin and only superficially exfoliate dead skin cells. So, you won’t see the same dramatic results.

How often you use your at-home treatment depends on the particular product. Make sure to read the instructions carefully. Prices for at-home kits range between $10 and $200, but remember that you get multiple treatments from one kit, reports Janet Cromely in the Los Angeles Times.

Possible side effects

You may experience some redness and sensitivity, but microdermabrasion has virtually no side effects.

Post-treatment care

Just like glycolic acid peels, microdermabrasion makes skin super-sensitive to the sun. So, apply sunblock after any microdermabrasion session and limit sun exposure.

Helpful hints for at-home use

  1. Cleanse skin thoroughly before applying microdermabrasion cream.
  2. Gently massage the cream on and rinse off well.
  3. Avoid sun exposure after treatment and apply sunblock.

Facials

Facials deep cleanse your skin to remove impurities, exfoliate dead cells and hydrate the skin. But there are many types of facials. To determine what facial you’ll need, practitioners take into account your skin type and particular needs (i.e, acne; dull complexion).

How it works

Though there are various facials, they generally follow the same steps, including:

  • Cleansing
  • Opening of pores
  • Treatment mask
  • Exfoliation
  • Blackhead extraction
  • Moisturizer and antioxidant application
  • Massage
  • Optional steps, like chemical peels or oxygen treatments

Number of treatments and cost

Professional

Anitra Brown, esthetician for About, advises a facial every four to six weeks, or each time the seasons change, at the very least. Facials start at $65 and can get much more expensive with additional steps (like chemical peels or oxygen facials).

At-home

To recreate a facial at home, you’ll need a series of products. Prices for these products vary widely. But, fortunately, you already own most of the products you’ll be using, including a cleanser, scrub, mask and moisturizer. Try your at-home facial once a week.

Possible side effects

Side effects may result from improperly sanitized tools or products that are too harsh for your skin. In Allure, dermatologist Tina S. Alster, M.D., explains that you might experience irritation, breakouts and bacterial infection.

What you shouldn’t do yourself

Leave blackhead extraction to the pros. A professional has the proper tools and training to extract blackheads without damaging your skin. At home, however, you can cause irritation, scabbing, scarring or even pimples to form.

Post-treatment care

For about a week, “avoid harsh scrubs, alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids, and wash with a mild cleanser,” notes Dr. Alster. Also, be sure to protect skin with sunscreen.

Helpful hints for at-home use

  1. Thoroughly cleanse the skin with a gentle face wash. If you need to exfoliate your skin, use a scrub after washing your face.
  2. Steam pores open by taking a shower or standing over a sink full of hot water.
  3. Choose a mask suited to your skin’s needs and follow the label’s specific instructions on how long to keep it on your face.
  4. Splash face with cool water.
  5. Finish off with a gentle moisturizer to soothe and hydrate the skin. 

The Bottom Line

Both at-home and professional treatments can produce beneficial effects. However, professional treatments offer more dramatic results (and with a higher price tag). If you’re having a professional treatment, make sure you see a reputable, experienced practitioner and discuss your options in great detail.

  • Leave Comments