Obagi NuDerm and BluePeel versus Microderm Abrasion

I originally mistook Obagi Nu-Derm for an at-home microdermabrasion kit but a conversation with my friend Terry and several articles later, it struck me: Obagi is very different to microderm abrasion. The Obagi NuDerm system is a complete skincare line that uses hydroquinone and tretinoin to fight acne and photo-aging. NuDerm was the latest in a series of treatments Terry tried for her acne. She used it for a 4-week-cycle and it did wonders for her skin, but not without side-effects.

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Microdermabrasion and Obagi Nu-Derm Comparison

The Obagi Nu-Derm System is basically a pack of topical skincare products which help with many skin-related conditions when used together as a system. Some of the products use hydroquinone which, used in conjunction with the Retin-A cream, help resurface and lighten the skin.

While micro dermabrasion mechanically peels the skin off, Obagi uses chemicals to resurface the skin. But Obagi is more potent and invasive and the peeling is deeper which makes it more uncomfortable, itchy and painful. The results, however, are more dramatic and last longer than with microdermabration.

The Obagi Nu-Derm system should be used daily for 6 weeks. Best results come after 3 full cycles, scheduled a few weeks apart. Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, needs 6-12 sessions for best results. I also have a session every 2-3 months combined with at-home microderm abrasion kits to maintain the effects.

The side effects of Obagi Nu-Derm are caused by the way it works. During the first 2-3 weeks of use, the severe peeling causes facial redness, excessive dryness, itchiness, blisters, local sores and burning sensations. Many Obagi patients give up during the first few weeks. There are special online forums and groups designed to help obagians cope with the side effects and stick to the system.

Micro dermabrasion is the better option in terms of drawbacks because it has no side effects, very few risks and almost no discomfort (except for a mild redness that goes away after a few hours).

Obagi works on photo damaged, wrinkled, scarred, aged skin, with freckles, blemishes, acne spots and red marks. Hydroquinone is a key ingredient in the Obagi Nu Derm system, and a very potent ingredient at that. Inadequate use of hydroquinone can cause irreversible damage to the skin (a significant risk for dark-skinned people).

If you're set on Obagi, then I recommend that you first buy the system from a qualified doctor who can talk you through the instructions. Only then should you order it by yourself over the Internet.

While Terry was very satisfied with the results, she did not like how Obagi works. At one point, she couldn't leave the house for days at a time because of the side effects, and I understand why. Her face was red and flaky, her nasal folds were covered in blisters and her capillaries were so swollen, they seemed ready to burst. She complained of itchiness, pain and flushing. But three weeks into the treatment, her face finally began to look better.

Her acne has almost gone away. She still gets a pimple every now and then but it's nothing compared to the breakouts she had before. But she was so annoyed with the side effects, that she decided to use microdermabrasion home kits instead of Obagi to keep up the results.

How Does Obagi Work?

The Obagi NuDerm system accelerates cell turnover by using peeling agents like Retin A, phytic and AHA acids. With Terry, the peeling was severe (it used to happen several times a day) which is why it's no wonder so many people stop the treatment before results become obvious.

The severe peeling may cause pigmentation problems and that's where hydroquinone comes in (it prevents the side effects associated with hyper pigmentation). The accelerated peeling also stimulates collagen and elastin production, making the skin look younger and fresh.

NOTE: Tretinoin and 4% hydroquinone creams and gels should only be sold under prescription. For the last four years, however, the Obagi system has become available online (all you need to do is fill out a questionnaire which is supposedly checked out by a dermatologist; I personally doubt that every form is read before allowing the purchase). Practically, anyone can buy the Obagi system with little qualified advice and/or approval from a dermatologist.

How Much Is Obagi NuDerm System

The Nu-Derm system includes:

The usual Obagi kit can be bought online or from dermatologists/aestheticians for $300 minimum. The system comes in five versions:

The kits include Cleanser or Foaming Gel, Toner, Obagi Clear, Obagi Exfoderm or Exfoderm Forte, the Blender, SPF cream, travel bag and brochure with instructions.

Obagi Blue Peel vs Micro Dermabrasion

If you've heard of Obagi Nu-Derm, you must have heard of the Obagi Blue Peel System. Don't mistake one for the other. The Blue Peel is a professional chemical peel used to enhance results for patients on the Nu-Derm regimen (Terry didn't have the Blue Peel).

The Obagi Blue Peel was developed by the same team that invented the Obagi NuDerm system. It's basically an in-office chemical peel (TCA) designed to correct fine lines, superficial scars and pigmentation problems. It's suitable for all skin types and takes 1 to 4 steps to complete:

Next, a few words on home vs doctor microdermabrasion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How Can Microdermal Abrasion Help Make The Skin Look Younger?

A: Younger-looking skin needs elasticity and density, both achievable through skin cell renewal. Microderma cream abrades the outermost skin layer and stimulates skin renewal. An effective skin renewal process results in increased elasticity and density. Moreover, the vacuum function of the microdemabrasion machine sucks up dirt and hardened oil to reveal an even skin texture and tone.

Q: How To Apply Micro Abrasion On The Body?

A: Home micro derm abrasion kits can be used on your body as long as it's especially formulated as a body microderm abrasion kit. Using a facial Microdem abrasion cream on your body will not have the desired effect because it's much too mild to have a significant effect on your body. Surgeon-performed microdermabrasion is suitable for use on the body except for the feet where the skin is too thin.

Q: How Long Does It Take To See Improvement After Microdermabasion?

A: Best results are obtained after 6 to 12 professional sessions (depending on your expectations and severity of the skin imperfections), respectively one month of use for a over the counter microdermabasion kit.

Q: Does Micro Abrasion Help Improve Enlarged Pores?

A: Microderma brasion product stimulates collagen growth which is why it's effective on enlarged pores. Collagen production is stimulated through skin exfoliation. Furthermore, the vacuum function of most microabrasion machines sucks out hardened oil, dust and other dirt which may clog your pores. This way, the oil in the glands can again reach the surface of your skin and your pores can return to their natural shape and size.

Q: How Many People Use Micro Derma Abrasion?

A: According to a press release published at the end of 2006 by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, almost 1 million American citizens had in-office micro abrasion in 2005.

Q: Is Micro Derma Abrasion Good For Young People?

A: Microdermabrastion is safe for young people of all skin types but most doctors recommend it for patients aged 14 and older, mainly because they want to make sure that all major hormonal changes are over and the results of the procedure are as good as they can be.

Q: How Can Microdermbrasion Help Treat Acne?

A: Some doctors say that spa Microdem abrasion can work on mild acne without any risk of irritation or break-outs. There are a few studies published online that show that micro abrasion can be an effective treatment for mild acne. Other specialists recommend against using microabrasion as acne treatment, especially on moderate or severe acne. Acne makes the skin more sensitive and prone to breakouts and exfoliation can cause severe scarring and additional inflammation.

Q: Can You Use Facial Mask After Microderma?

A: The only type of facial mask allowed after spa micodermabrasion is a nourishing or hydrating mask -- they help skin recover quicker. Exfoliating masks are too aggressive after microderm, and anti-aging masks will have no effect for a few days while your skin is still recovering.

Q: Can I Have Microdermal Abrasion If I Have Keratosis?

A: Keratosis sufferers should not use microdermasion This procedures is somewhat invasive to the skin (any skin rejuvenation treatment is to some extent) and can worsen their condition. This applies to home macrodermabrasion as well, despite its mild effect.

Q: Can You Have Microderm Abrasion For Facial Scars?

A: Microdermasion pulverizes away the dead skin layer (the outermost layer) in order to even out skin texture and improve superficial facial scars. More severe facial scarring requires more invasive non-surgical techniques, like deep chemical peels or laser skin resurfacing.