- 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 improvements.
- Side effects following treatment are mild and clear up within hours of a procedure.
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 dermabrasion. As a result, it is 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 horny outer layer of the epidermis, the topmost layer of skin, is damaged or removed. This process is done using either an abrasive tool or a spray of fine crystals that gently exfoliates the skin to stimulate the remodeling and production of collagen, a protein responsible for giving your skin its elasticity and firmness. As your skin heals, new and improved epidermis forms without the signs of aged skin, scars or other blemishes present before the treatment.
Microdermabrasion benefits and improves skin that has been negatively impacted by:
- Photoaging, damage to the skin caused by aging and sun exposure
- Uneven skin tone and texture
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Enlarged pores
- Scarring, including acne scarring
- Stretch marks
- Melasma, gray or brown patches that appear on the skin
- Seborrheic skin, scales and red skin presents itself on your body
Because microdermabrasion remodels the skin through the reparative process of wound healing, the resulting new skin tissue is thicker and smoother. Similarly, microdermabrasion reduces the production of sebum, the oil that helps acne develop and which is overproduced by seborrhoeic skin, and flattens mild wrinkles. Melanization, the process in which melanin, the pigment that darkens your skin, is slowed down following a microdermabrasion treatment.
In addition to its effects on skin rejuvenation, microdermabrasion may also make it easier for certain drugs and ingredients, such as insulin and vitamin C, to penetrate the skin. Though research is ongoing into the benefits of microdermabrasion on drug delivery, the peeling away of the stratum corneum, which serves as a protective layer of skin, 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.
Microdermabrasion may also be combined with other treatments to improve skin conditions, most notably for the treatment of seborrhoeic skin and acne.
Who Is a Candidate for Microdermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion can be safely performed on most individuals regardless of their skin type, with few exceptions. Individuals with active skin infections, such as herpes, chickenpox, shingles, HPV or impetigo, should not undergo microdermabrasion treatment. If you are allergic to aluminum, you should forego microdermabrasion that makes use of aluminum crystals and instead opt for another type of crystal or crystal-free 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. A mask may also be placed over the eyes to protect them from any debris or stray particles. The microdermabrasion procedure does not require sedation or anesthesia and is performed in one of two ways: either crystal-free, 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 sands 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?
Microdermabrasion facials are performed by your dermatologist, an aesthetician or another skin care professional in-office or in a salon or spa. The entire procedure takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the area to be treated.
Though results are immediately visible following a procedure, desired results typically require between four to six individual microdermabrasion sessions depending on your specific skin conditions and following consultation with your dermatologist. Skin with more 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 amplified by combining microdermabrasion with topical retinoids. In addition to a reduction in wrinkles, fine lines, skin dullness, large pores and pigmentation, skin is left brighter and less 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 may 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 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 through the use of moisturizers, avoiding any harsh cosmetics and stopping the use of topical acne products for at least one day. Additionally, you should apply sunscreen to the treated area as your skin heals.
Because microdermabrasion can be performed in salons, spas or your dermatologist’s office, prices for a single session vary. Microdermabrasion costs are also dependent on the city and state where you have the procedure done. In general, prices range from $75 to $200 per session.
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.
Though 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 and 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. Microdermabrasion works by exfoliating dead skin cells and removing the stratum corneum, the outer layer of the epidermis, to trigger the body’s wound healing process. In turn, smoother skin grows in its place without displaying evidence of any unwanted skin conditions.
The results of microdermabrasion are immediate, but often require multiple treatment sessions for the desired improvements to the skin. Similarly, the effects are temporary as the skin will continue to age naturally and remain subject to future breakouts of acne, scars and other blemishes. It 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 moisturize the skin and protect it from sun damage.
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, though results are less effective and long-lasting than professional treatments.