Microdermabrasion is becoming increasingly popular. The procedure is especially appealing, because it’s a relatively inexpensive, low-risk way to improve the skin. But, it isn’t for everyone and the benefits can be small. Here’s your 411 on this procedure.
How it works
Commonly known as the "lunchtime peel," microdermabrasion takes exfoliation to the next level. With a device resembling a sandblaster, the specialist sprays small crystals of mildly abrasive materials (like vitamin C or aluminum oxide) onto the face.
Using a combination of abrasion and suction, this 20 to 45-minute process exfoliates the top layers of skin, getting rid of dull, dead cells and superficial imperfections. In addition, microdermabrasion can also:
- Clear clogged pores, reducing acne breakouts.
- Enhance collagen production, giving skin a smoother, more even appearance.
- Minimize fine lines and age spots.
Results: The reality
While the idea of sandblasting your face doesn’t sound particularly pleasant, most people find microdermabrasion to be painless, quick and convenient. But how impressive are the results?
- What it can do: Microdermabrasion works well on superficial skin issues like dull complexions, sun damage, age spots and fine lines. Also, it's effective for most cases of acne, since pores are vigorously cleaned, and marks left from old breakouts are sloughed away.
- What it can't: If you're seeking relief from stretch marks, keloids, deep scars or deep wrinkles, you'll likely be disappointed with microdermabrasion's results. Consult your dermatologist for alternative treatments if you have these kinds of skin concerns.
- Bottom line: Plastic surgeon Mark E. Richards, M.D., tells Discovery Health that for individuals whose skin conditions don't require more invasive procedures (like laser resurfacing), microdermabrasion has the advantage of "virtually no down time for recovery and no significant risks."
In general, keep in mind that results vary depending on your individual skin issues. It might take a series of treatments before you see satisfactory improvements, and some experts believe that topical treatments like Retin-A can provide equal results to microdermabrasion.
Finding the right technician
When microdermabrasion was developed in 1985, it was the business of dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons. Now, however, you can find microdermabrasion at most salons. That's because the FDA considers microdermabrasion machines a "category 1 prescription cosmetic device."
This means that a doctor doesn’t have to operate the device or supervise the procedure. Also, it's up to each state to regulate training requirements and use. In certain states, any esthetician is allowed to perform microdermabrasion, while other states require extensive training and medical supervision. So, make sure you extensively research your state's requirements.
- Always ask the specialist about training, experience and credentials.
- Double-check certification with the appropriate licensing board.
- Ask how often he or she has performed microdermabrasion.
- Request before and after photos of past clients.
- Avoid selecting a technician based on price, whether it's the allure of an affordable option or a pricey one.
- Microdermabrasion's risks are minimal, but if machines are improperly handled, problems like infection, hyperpigmentation and bleeding can potentially occur.
- Avoid abrasive products or those containing alpha hydroxy acids for 72 hours before and after microdermabrasion. Some estheticians offer specialty procedures combining glycolic peels with microdermabrasion, but leave the mixing and matching to the experts — don't combine skin treatments on your own.
- Avoid sun exposure and slather on your sunscreen.
- After your treatment, the technician will likely apply a gentle moisturizer. Keeping your skin hydrated will soothe any redness and irritation — common, mild side effects.
- Feel free to apply eye makeup or lipstick afterwards, but skip foundation and powder for about 24 hours.
Learn everything you need to know about anti-aging skincare in our Anti-Aging Handbook.