Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive treatment that exfoliates dead skin using crystals or diamonds via a vacuum-powered wand. Microdermabrasion may increase collagen production while reducing wrinkles, acne, and dark spots. Microdermabrasion is a very popular, minimally-invasive procedure. According to the 2017 Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Statistics Cosmetic Procedure Trends report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 740,287 microdermabrasion treatments performed in 2017.

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Medically Reviewed by William A. Kennedy III, MDLast Reviewed 01.23.2019

What is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a skincare treatment that involves physically exfoliating the skin to reveal a fresh complexion and enhance long-term collagen production providing the patient with an instantaneous facelift of sorts. Microdermabrasion techniques include using a diamond tipped abrader or crystals blown and vacuumed in a stream across the skin that exfoliate the outer epidermis layer. There are also "microdermabrasion creams" that tout the benefits of sloughing away dead skin to reveal fresher skin, although they are not as effective as the treatments provided by an in-office medical specialist with professional experience in the practice.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, microdermabrasion helps treat brown spots and uneven pigmentation on the outer layer of the skin when the diamond tip of the handheld device or crystals blown onto the skin sand away dead cells to create skin rejuvenation. The non-invasive procedure addresses uneven skin tone in a variety of skin types in a much less invasive process than other resurfacing techniques such as with lasers or deep chemical peels.

The Target Areas Microdermabrasion Treats

Microdermabrasion can brighten and rejuvenate tired skin by treating hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and large pores. The procedure also refreshes the skin by sloughing off dead skin cells primarily on the face and neck. However, microdermabrasion treatments are also performed on other areas of the body such as the chest or back. While most microdermabrasion treatments are indeed face-focused sessions, not all of the exfoliation areas are strictly for the face, neck, and decolletage. A facial for the butt also involves using the microdermabrasion handpiece tool in the process of improving skin and reducing the appearance of stretch marks. The butt exfoliation facial also exists to help rid patients of rough and dull skin on their buttocks.

What is it Like to Get Microdermabrasion?

#1 - Microdermabrasion with Crystals Crystal microdermabrasion is the oldest type of microdermasion, which employs the use of aluminum oxide or sodium bicarbonate crystals. When microdermabrasion involves crystals, fine non-toxic fragments are typically propelled through heated air that is forced against the skin and suctioned up again, along with dead skin. Crystal microdermabrasion machines use compressors to vacuum the particles through wands made of glass or stainless steel. ‘Ablation’ takes place during crystal microdermabrasion, which is defined as the surgical removal of skin tissue. In the instance of crystal microdermabrasion, the combination of heat and friction that occurs when the crystals are blasted against the skin causes the removal of dead skin tissue.

#2 - Microdermabrasion with a Diamond Tip Wand Microdermabrasion with diamonds has grown in popularity. When real or strong synthetic diamond fragments are used to perform microdermabrasion, the process is similar to crystal microdermabrasion, but can be more accurate because the fine diamonds are adhered to the end of a microdermabrasion wand and not blown loosely through the air.

Diamond tip microdermabrasion is a treatment more akin to abrasion, with the diamonds being scraped across small sections of the skin to grate away dead and damaged skin, like a grater gently grating away the skin of a cucumber. Once the skin has been exfoliated away, a vacuum tool is used to suction away dead cells.

#3 - Microdermabrasion by Scrubbing with Creams A variety of creams on the market are dubbed microdermabrasion creams, such as cream scrubs by The Body Shop, the Microdermabrasion Scrub by Derma E and others found on Amazon. The microdermabrasion creams boast a “crystal blend” of ingredients like Dead Sea salt, volcanic sand or other micro-sized garnet exfoliating particles that seek to thoroughly exfoliate dull skin, buff away imperfections and improve the uneven pigmentation found on various skin types.

While some creams and scrubs are well reviewed and are generally less expensive than visiting a spa or cosmetic treatment center, the results will not be as dramatic as a real microdermabrasion session administered by a skincare professional. Be wary of any topical products that claim to achieve the same results as a professional, in-office treatment.

#4 - Do-it-Yourself Microdermabrasion at Home Machines Several microdermabrasion tools are available for DIY home use, which can offer a less expensive and more convenient option to address uneven skin color. A plethora of “microderm” - another name for microdermabrasion - equipment can be found on Amazon designed for home use.

However, the microdermabrasion tools designed for home use many times do not contain the suction power as strong as the microdermabrasion machines available at cosmetic centers and in the offices of a plastic surgeon or dermatologist, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Therefore, performing microdermabrasion will not result in reaching deeper levels of the skin’s epidermis to help improve the appearance of dark pigmentation from sun damage, age spots, and other skin color conditions and ailments.

#5 - Microdermabrasion with Bristles Instead of using crystals or diamonds, some microdermabrasion machines use bristles at the end of the wand to exfoliate the skin. The bristles can range from coarse fibers to softer ones, including polyester, satin, silk or nylon. Microdermabrasion with bristles differs from the other processes because the vacuum suction reverses to allow the skin to be both suctioned and blown against in order to help encourage collagen growth and improved circulation with the reversed flow of air.

While the bristles can help deliver acne creams like salicylic acid or hyaluronic acid directly to the freshly exfoliated outer layer of skin, the fibers may not penetrate the skin as deeply as crystals or diamonds for skin rejuvenation.

Does Microdermabrasion Hurt?

Microdermabrasion abrades or ablates the skin in a gentle massage-like procedure that addresses wrinkles, skin discoloration and other ailments on the surface of the skin by removing the top layer in an attempt to reveal healthy and clear skin beneath. It is generally not painful and doesn’t require numbing the skin first. When getting a microdermabrasion treatment, only those people with low pain thresholds may feel some discomfort, but nothing unbearable.

Since microdermabrasion only treats the top layer of the epidermis, it does not penetrate deep enough to typically cause pain, unlike dermabrasion which reaches deeper levels of skin and can cause a great level of discomfort for the patient.

Microdermabrasion vs. Dermabrasion

Whereas dermabrasion is a surgical procedure performed by a plastic surgeon or dermatologist in a medical setting - at times using local anesthesia - microdermabrasion is not surgical and does not remove or penetrate as many layers of skin.

As seen in the 2017 Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Statistics Cosmetic Procedure Trends report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 84,276 dermabrasion treatments performed in 2017, in comparison to the 740,287 microdermabrasion treatments performed in 2017.

What is the Goal of Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is used to exfoliate superficial layers of damaged skin and seeks to provide patients with a smoother complexion as well as enhance collagen and elastin production for those who want to get rid of brown age spots, acne, melasma, and dull skin. By exfoliating the top dead layer of skin, microdermabrasion aims to promote clear skin by unclogging pores, getting rid of blackheads, and addressing uneven and poor skin textures.

Microdermasion also treats discolored pigmentation, sun damage, minor scars, and fine lines on the surface of the face, neck, and other body parts.

How Much Does Microdermabrasion Cost?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, insurance companies largely consider microdermabrasion a cosmetic dermatology procedure, and therefore likely will not cover the treatment cost.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported the average cost of a microdermabrasion session in 2017 as $137, but expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $800 for each microdermabrasion session. RealSelf reported the average cost of a microdermabrasion session as being $175, based on more than 200 user reviews.

Recovery from Microdermabrasion

The recovery time after a microdermabrasion session is generally minimal. Peeling of dry and dead flaky skin could happen in the wake of a treatment, but that can usually be resolved by using a gentle moisturizer. After three to seven days, most people can resume using products that are of the prescription retinoid category. Microdermabrasion treatments are mild enough for many recipients to return to work directly after the session, although makeup application is not recommended right away, and oftentimes people choose to go home after their microdermabrasion treatments.

Maximize the benefits of your recovery time after microdermabrasion and help keep your skin elastic and supple by using a cold compress and anti-inflammatory cream as needed. Do not rub, pick, or scratch the skin that has been treated with microdermabrasion so as not to traumatize the delicate skin. Take measures to not get a sunburn by limiting sun exposure and using sun protection. Avoid sunbathing, UV rays, and using tanning products for at least seven days in order to encourage the healing process - or at minimum, use broad-spectrum sunscreens that are an SPF 30 level or above to prevent sunburn.

Use cleansers that are gentle after microdermabrasion, along with moisturizing serums to keep your skin clean and hydrated. Stay away from glycolic acid, acne skin care products, and those containing benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid, retinol, and harsh chemicals for one or two days following the treatment.

Before & After Microdermabrasion Care

Prior to heading off to your microdermabrasion session, several considerations should be noted. Avoid exfoliating the area of your body where you plan to get your microdermabrasion treatment for one to three days before your treatment - and avoid using Retin-A during that time as well. Stay away from skin procedures that can have an effect upon the skin prior to your microdermabrasion treatment such as laser surgery, collagen injections, chemical peels, waxes, suntans, spray tans and the like for at least two or three weeks. Current Accutane users should not get microdermabrasion treatments.

Those healthy enough and ready to get microdermabrasion treatments should cleanse the area to be treated with a product that does not contain oil and is non-soap based before their treatment to remove substances like dirt, oil, and cosmetics.

In the wake of a microdermabrasion session, treat your exfoliated skin with extra care by employing the use of mild skin care products. Follow all of the instructions spelled out by your skincare technician to experience the healthiest recovery period.

How Long is a Microdermabrasion Session?

Expect to spend anywhere from five minutes to one hour in your microdermabrasion session, depending upon where your microdermabrasion session is performed, such as at home or in a professional location like the offices of a plastic surgeon or dermatologist. The average microdermabrasion treatment lasts approximately 30 minutes, but varies based on who is performing the procedure and what part of the body is receiving microdermabrasion.

Is Microdermabrasion Right for Me?

There are many options available for individuals seeking to enhance their skin and rid their face of minor blemishes or signs of again. Healthy adults concerned with improving the condition of their skin - such as individuals with aging skin, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, sun damage, acne and people who want to revive their skin to a youthful nature - might be good candidates for microdermabrasion. However, depending on the severity of the issue that needs to be addressed or the size of the treatment area, your skincare specialist may recommend alternative methods of skin rejuvenation.

For those seeking to treat more severe wrinkling and scarring, microdermabrasion will likely not achieve the desired results. A medium or deep chemical peel may be a better option for those who require more extensive treatment and want dramatic results in fewer sessions. Both microdermabrasion and chemical peels treat the top epidermis layer of the skin, however, microdermabrasion peels away dead skin like a buffer while the latter uses various acids to get rid of dead skin cells. Based on the level of strength of the chemical peel, the solution might help remove impurities in the skin.

For those concerned with acne, microdermabrasion can help prevent unsightly blemishes by unclogging clogged pores. It can treat existing acne on the surface of the skin, however, deeper acne scars may have to be treated by more invasive means, such as via laser resurfacing or surgical dermabrasion.

Rosacea sufferers deal with red and sensitive skin that should not be treated with physical means of exfoliation like microdermabrasion. According to Leslie Baumann, M.D., “People with rosacea shouldn’t use a facial scrub or a Clarisonic or get microdermabrasion—anything that causes friction.”

Who Should Not Consider Microdermabrasion?

Those with active skin afflictions and infections should avoid microdermabrasion and speak with their physicians prior to using a microdermabrasion handpiece tool. Individuals with active rosacea conditions or other skin irritations should consult their doctors first to ensure microdermabrasion will not aggravate their skin further. Acne sufferers taking Accutane should avoid microdermabrasion until their doctor approves.

Additionally, candidates for microdermabrasion who are pregnant, or have had other recent procedures such as a facelift, facial filler injections, Botox, chemical peels, or other treatments and medical conditions that have left their skin too sensitive to receive exfoliation should postpone the procedure until cleared by a medical professional.

What Are the Pros of Getting Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion can be beneficial because it is not invasive, has few side effects, and causes no downtime. This procedure can be generally sought out during a lunch hour, making microdermabrasion a relaxing spa treatment that might only leave you temporarily red and swollen. Over time, a series of microdermabrasion treatments may improve the look and feel of the skin, helping to reduce blackheads, age spots, wrinkles, large pores, stretch marks, and patches of dark skin.

What Are the Cons of Getting Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion treatments can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if a series of sessions are needed to treat complicated skin conditions. Those with certain serious skin conditions cannot undergo microdermabrasion and the process can even cause individuals with healthy skin to bruise as a result of the suctioning mechanism.

The treatment can also result in sensitive skin that requires avoiding the sun as well as certain chemicals following the microdermabrasion session.

How Often Should You Get Microdermabrasion Treatments?

Since microdermabrasion exfoliates and brightens the skin by gently sucking and sloughing away dead skin cells from the epidermis, it can be performed on a relatively frequent basis. Based on the sensitivity of your skin, you may be able to undergo microdermabrasion sessions as often as weekly for up to eight weeks, depending on how well your skin adapts to the process.

It may take until the third microdermabrasion treatment to begin seeing results - and since those results typically last approximately 30 days, you can practice upkeep of your skin by undergoing microdermabrasion sessions on a monthly basis to help reduce brown spots and clogged pores.

Overall, a series of microdermabrasion sessions may very well be worthwhile to a person who has suffered with dull or discolored and acne-prone skin for a period of time. The results of softer and brighter skin could be worth the costs paid for the treatments by certain participants, as long as an experienced aesthetician who is familiar with all sorts of skin types administers the procedure. Therefore, ensure you do your research and contact a professional technician who can provide the best outcome for your microdermabrasion treatment, as well as excellent follow-up care to keep your skin in tip-top shape for years to come in between sessions and in the wake of your appointments.

Different Types of Microdermabrasion

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