- Microdermabrasion uses a diamond-tipped handpiece or a spray of crystals to exfoliate dead skin cells and resurface the outer layer of skin.
- Microdermabrasion treatments are effective for a number of skin conditions, including photoaged skin, acne, scarring, fine lines, melasma and uneven skin tones.
- Results of microdermabrasion facials are immediate but mild, and typically require multiple sessions for the most effective results.
- Side effects following treatment are mild and clear up within hours.
Microdermabrasion is a noninvasive cosmetic procedure that rejuvenates the skin and treats a number of unwanted skin conditions to help the skin look younger and unblemished. Despite being a form of physical exfoliation, microdermabrasion is a less abrasive skin resurfacing technique than chemical peels and other alternatives
Microdermabrasion is considered a safe and effective procedure for those desiring smoother skin or to treat a variety of common skin conditions.
What Is Microdermabrasion?
During microdermabrasion, the stratum corneum, or the top layer of skin, is sanded or ablated. This process is done using either an abrasive tool or a spray of fine crystals that gently exfoliates the skin to stimulate skin remodeling, an increase in the production of collagen, a protein responsible for giving your skin its elasticity and firmness.
As your skin heals, a new and improved epidermis forms to reduce or eliminate signs of aged skin, scars or other blemishes.
- Photoaging, the damage to the skin caused by aging and sun exposure
- Uneven skin tone and texture
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Enlarged pores
- Scarring, including acne scars
- Stretch marks
- Melasma, the gray or brown patches that appear on skin
- Scales and red skin due to seborrhea
Because microdermabrasion remodels the skin through the reparative process of wound healing, the resulting new skin tissue is thicker, smoother and less wrinkled.
Microdermabrasion also reduces sebum production, an oil that can clog your pores and contribute to acne breakouts. Melanization—the process in which melanin, the pigment that darkens your skin—is slowed down, reducing the likelihood of hyperpigmentation developing.
Although research is ongoing into the benefits of microdermabrasion on drug delivery, the peeling away of the stratum corneum is believed to make it easier for drugs to enter into and spread throughout the rest of the epidermis.
The exfoliation and increased blood flow caused by microdermabrasion and subsequent skin remodeling results in immediately visible effects on a patient’s skin. Facial microdermabrasion results in mild improvement in the appearance of scars, melasma and overall skin rejuvenation. As a result of skin resurfacing, the stratum corneum is left more uniform in appearance.
Who Is a Candidate for Microdermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion can be safely performed on most individuals regardless of their skin type, with a few exceptions. Individuals with active skin infections, such as herpes, chickenpox, shingles, HPV or impetigo, should not undergo microdermabrasion treatment.
Those who are allergic to aluminum should forego microdermabrasion that makes use of aluminum crystals and instead opt for another type of microdermabrasion treatment.
Individuals with a prevalence for scarring or who experience rosacea or telangiectasias should inform their dermatologist before undergoing microdermabrasion.
How Microdermabrasion Works
Before a microdermabrasion facial, the area to be treated is cleansed and the eyes are protected with eyewear. The microdermabrasion procedure does not require sedation or anesthesia and is performed in one of two ways: either using a device with a diamond tip or by projecting fine crystals against the skin.
Procedures using a diamond-tipped device exfoliate dead skin cells and sand the stratum corneum from your skin. Debris and waste are suctioned into an attachment and vacuumed from the surface. Your dermatologist or aesthetician will control how deeply your skin is penetrated based on how much pressure is applied to the handpiece.
Treatments using crystal-based devices project fine crystals—usually made from aluminum oxide, but also sodium chloride, magnesium oxide or sodium bicarbonate—against your skin.
A vacuum suctions up dead skin cells from the stratum corneum into the device as it passes over the treatment area. The operator of the device controls the crystals’ flow rate to maximize the device’s effectiveness and depth of penetration.
A single microdermabrasion session usually involves up to three passes with the handpiece. At the session’s conclusion, any debris and remaining crystals are wiped away before moisturizer and sunscreen is applied to the treatment area.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
The entire procedure takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the area to be treated.
Although results are immediately visible following a procedure, desired results typically require between four to six individual microdermabrasion sessions depending on your specific skin condition. Those with severe photodamage or other skin conditions may require upwards of 16 treatments.
Microdermabrasion results in immediate and mild, but clinically significant improvements to the skin following treatment. Beneficial results may be increased by combining microdermabrasion with topical retinoids. In addition to a reduction in wrinkles, fine lines, skin dullness, large pores and pigmentation, your skin’s complexion is left brighter and less sallow, or yellow, following multiple treatments.
Post-treatment results also demonstrate an increase in collagen, protein and other beneficial components.
The vast majority of patients who undergo microdermabrasion facials are pleased with the results. Patients who follow proper skin care routines and adhere to their aftercare regimen are more likely to remain satisfied with their post-treatment results, but will require follow-up treatments to maintain results.
Before & afters
Microdermabrasion Safety and Side Effects
Microdermabrasion is considered a safe cosmetic procedure that only impacts the superficial layers of the skin. As a result, patients without contraindications are not likely to be impacted by any severe side effects.
In general, patients may experience some tenderness, swelling, bruising or redness on the skin following treatment, all of which fade within hours. There may also be some petechiae, or colored spots indicating bleeding beneath the skin, after treatment. Again, this can be expected to clear up within a few hours.
Microdermabrasion may reactivate dormant viruses, such as herpes, in individuals where the disease has been present.
There is no downtime required following a microdermabrasion facial. However, because the stratum corneum has been removed, the skin is more sensitive to photodamage. Proper aftercare involves keeping the skin hydrated by moisturizing, avoiding any harsh skin care products, such as exfoliants, and stopping the use of topical acne products for at least one day.
Additionally, you should avoid direct sunlight for 24–48 hours after treatment. For about three weeks after treatment, or as long as it takes your skin to heal, apply liberal amounts of sunscreen to your skin prior to sun exposure.
Prices for a single microdermabrasion session vary because it can be performed in salons, spas or your dermatologist’s office. Microdermabrasion costs are also dependent on location and in general, range in price from $75 to $200 per session.
Because microdermabrasion makes it easier for drugs and ingredients to pierce the skin, it may maximize results and patient satisfaction. Microdermabrasion is sometimes combined with:
Patients are usually offered a discount or package deal for combination microdermabrasion treatments.
At-home Microdermabrasion Machines
Microdermabrasion may be performed from the comfort of your own home using a number of commercially-available skin care products and kits. In contrast to professional devices, at-home devices massage a moisturizing cream, made with aluminum oxide crystals, into the surface of your skin—more comparable to an exfoliating scrub than a professional microdermabrasion treatment.
Although at-home machines are less intense and provide a less immediate result than professional treatments, they have been demonstrated to increase cell proliferation and renew the skin. As a result, at-home microdermabrasion machines can provide similar benefits, but they are less immediate, dramatic or long-lasting.
Microdermabrasion is an effective skin resurfacing technique to improve aging skin and blemishes caused by acne, scarring, wrinkles, fine lines, melasma, stretch marks and uneven skin tones.
The results of microdermabrasion are immediate, but often require multiple treatment sessions to achieve the desired improvements to the skin. The effects are temporary, as the skin will continue to age naturally and remain subject to future breakouts of acne, scars and other skin issues.
Microdermabrasion is a noninvasive cosmetic procedure that is safe for all skin colors and types and requires no recovery time. However, proper aftercare must be followed to include moisturization and sun protection.
Individuals may elect to schedule consistent treatments to maintain their renewed appearance, especially considering the relatively low cost of the procedure. At-home microdermabrasion treatments have been demonstrated to have a positive effect on the skin, although the results are less effective and long-lasting than professional treatments.
- Andrews, S. N., Zarnitsyn, V., Bondy, B., & Prausnitz, M. R. (2011). Optimization of microdermabrasion for controlled removal of stratum corneum. International journal of pharmaceutics, 407(1-2), 95–104. doi:10.1016/j.ijpharm.2011.01.034
- Karimipour, D. J., Kang, S., Johnson, T. M., Orringer, J. S., Hamilton, T., Hammerberg, C., … Fisher, G. (2005, February). Microdermabrasion: a molecular analysis following a single treatment. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15692465
- Shah M, Crane JS. Microdermabrasion. [Updated 2019 Mar 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535383/
- Karimipour, D. J., Karimipour, G., & Orringer, J. S. (2010, January). Microdermabrasion: an evidence-based review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20048628
- Freedman, B. M., Rueda-Pedraza, E., & Waddell, S. P. (2001, December). The epidermal and dermal changes associated with microdermabrasion. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11849265/
- Tan, M. H., Spencer, J. M., Pires, L. M., Ajmeri, J., & Skover, G. (2001, November). The evaluation of aluminum oxide crystal microdermabrasion for photodamage. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11737128
- Shim, E. K., Barnette, D., Hughes, K., & Greenway, H. T. (2001, June). Microdermabrasion: a clinical and histopathologic study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11442587
- Andrews, S., Lee, J. W., Choi, S. O., & Prausnitz, M. R. (2011). Transdermal insulin delivery using microdermabrasion. Pharmaceutical research, 28(9), 2110–2118. doi:10.1007/s11095-011-0435-4
- Kołodziejczak, A., Wieczorek, A., & Rotsztejn, H. (2019, August). The assessment of the effects of the combination of microdermabrasion and cavitation peeling in the therapy of seborrhoeic skin with visible symptoms of acne punctata. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30300026
- Alkhawam, L., & Alam, M. (2009, December). Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20024871
- Spencer, J. M., & Kurtz, E. S. (2006, November). Approaches to document the efficacy and safety of microdermabrasion procedure. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17083587
- Lloyd, J. R. (2001, April). The use of microdermabrasion for acne: a pilot study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11298700
- Briden E, Jacobsen E, Johnson C. Combining superficial glycolic acid (alpha-hydroxy acid) peels with microdermabrasion to maximize treatment results and patient satisfaction. Cutis. 2007 Jan;79(1 Suppl Combining):13-6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17455889
- Sidney Hornby, MS, Neutrogena Corporation, Los Angeles, CA, United States; James Leyden, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, United States; Niki Batchvarova, PhD, Curt Cole, PhD, Johnson & Johnson Consumer & Personal Products Worldwide, Skillman, NJ, United States. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2004.10.134