Microdermabrasion – What You Need to Know

Microdermabrasion is a strategy for removing the topmost layers of the skin’s surface to rejuvenate and brighten its overall tone. It can help with several problems, including a dull or uneven skin tone and minor pigmentary issues. Depending on the intensity of the abrasion, it might even improve the skin’s texture and help with problems like scars, wrinkles, and stretch marks. Dead skin cells are removed using an applicator with a specific abrasive surface. It has been an approved aesthetic technique since the 1990s.

Microdermabrasion seems straightforward, but dozens of devices and approaches are on the market. The instruments used by an esthetician are usually less aggressive than those used by a medical professional. The procedure can be performed as part of a facial, where a rotary device is incorporated during the exfoliation, stimulating and renewing the skin to appear brighter and smoother. This might also be done with a crystal formulation for exfoliation or with a diamond-tipped device for precision. These devices also suction away the dead skin, leaving radiant, newly exposed skin. Treatments can be spaced closer together – every 1-2 weeks, rather than monthly, as is often required for more invasive options.

Microdermabrasion devices in a medical setting offer many customized settings, attachments, and tips. With these options, the procedure can be better personalized for your skin concerns than if you were to go to a non-medical provider. The devices available in the office can even treat more complex issues such as scars and wrinkles. Another indication for microdermabrasion is comedonal acne; by removing the upper skin layers, comedones are eliminated. Observational studies measuring the effects of microdermabrasion after several treatments generally show a decrease in the roughness of treated skin.

Digging even deeper into why microdermabrasion is so effective, we see that, similarly to other interventions such as microneedling and ablative lasers, causing mild trauma to the skin triggers a cascade of effects that will ultimately improve appearance. Fibroblast production kicks in, and collagen and elastin may also be stimulated depending on the depth of treatment. Gentle abrasions are unlikely to trigger collagen generation, but as the epidermis remodels, minor imperfections become less noticeable as the resurfacing process allows a more youthful appearance. Dullness and photoaging are improved, as well as enlarged pores and rough textures.

The days following your microdermabrasion are essential to healing. Avoid UV exposure for several days, wear sunscreen outside, and use a gentle cleanser. We also recommend avoiding sun exposure and tanning for a week before the procedure. Moisturize with a fragrance-free, non-irritating product since your skin will be sensitive following the treatments. The downtime is generally less than more aggressive procedures such as laser, but you may still experience swelling, redness, and tenderness.

Are At-Home Microdermabrasion Devices Worth the Money?

This depends entirely on what you are expecting from the machines. If you want a more superficial approach to exfoliating, smoothing, and brightening the skin, an at-home device can help. At-home microdermabrasion devices can help deliver products and even medications deeper by removing the uppermost layers of the skin, which is the main barrier to our products. Appropriate moisturizers and cosmetic products are better able to penetrate the epidermis and may be more effective if applied following microdermabrasion. On the other hand, if you hope to see more significant results or wish to address acne scars or wrinkles, for example, there are other more effective options.

Cost vs. Benefit

Microdermabrasion is considered a relatively gentle approach with favorable results, and it is also relatively inexpensive compared to other interventions. However, it can still provide noticeable benefits for those looking for a simple way to improve the overall appearance of their skin. It only removes the topmost layers and does not reach down to the dermis, where collagen is located, so microdermabrasion is unlikely to stimulate collagen remodeling or significantly improve wrinkles. However, depending on the number of treatments performed and their aggressiveness, it can help maintain healthy skin.

The risks are also relatively mild. That said, we caution against doing these types of procedures too frequently. While removing the upper layers and moisturizing deeper skin layers is helpful, the stratum corneum also protects the lower layers of skin. Removing it too often might make you prone to inflammation and sensitive to products. Speak to Dr. Boger if you suffer from rosacea, inflammatory or cystic acne, have active cold sores, skin cancer, eczema, or have had a recent sunburn. You may experience unwanted side effects or aggravate these issues.

Finally, microdermabrasion should be differentiated from more aggressive approaches like dermabrasion or dermaplaning. Dermabrasion is sometimes performed with anesthesia and may need to be done in an operating room by a surgeon as it removes much more skin, causing pain and bleeding. It may be an option for severe scarring or skincare needs.

As with any facial treatment, it’s best to speak to a qualified and experienced expert on facial skin care. Dr. Boger and our aesthetician, Anna Politi, can work with you to develop a treatment plan for facial imperfections, including microdermabrasion, microneedling, facials, and laser therapy.