Reviewed by Steven H. Dayan, MD
If your facial skin has lost its youthful glow and become fettered by mild acne, sun damage, large pores, uneven texture or even fine lines and wrinkles, microdermabrasion may be an option worth considering.
A non-invasive skin-freshening technique for your face, microdermabrasion uses mild abrasives to remove the top layer of your skin, including surface dead skin cells. The result is invigorated, smoother-looking skin that is virtually blemish free.
To perform microdermabrasion, also known as a power peel, your physician uses a device that sprays tiny crystals across your face to lightly abrade the surface while suction is performed to remove the dead skin cells and the remaining crystals. Microdermabrasion is largely recommended for the treatment of superficial skin conditions, including:
- Mild non-inflamed acne, white heads and black heads
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Large pores
- Light scarring
- Age spots
- Uneven skin texture or tone
- Milia (tiny cysts) prevention
- Sebaceous hyperplasia (A condition that causes enlargement of the sebaceous glands on your face, resulting in yellow lesions)
- Certain skin lesions such as actinic keratosis
Dermabrasion, chemical peels or other treatments may be more appropriate for more severe skin conditions. After examining your skin and listening to your aesthetic goals, your doctor should be able to determine which treatment(s) is best for your skin.
Not everyone is a candidate for microdermabrasion. This procedure is not recommended for individuals with:
- Keloid or raised, red scars
- Undiagnosed skin lesions
- Recent herpes outbreaks
- Active acne
- Rosacea (red, inflamed patches on the cheeks, nose, forehead and around the mouth)
- Uncontrolled diabetes or autoimmune system disorders
Your Microdermabrasion Treatment: What to Expect
Microdermabrasion does not hurt; however, it may cause a little discomfort under the eye area where tissues are more delicate. Your technician should turn down the controls in this area. Microdermabrasion should never be performed on the eyelid.
Microdermabrasion treatment to the face typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes. In general, you will need about four to eight treatments, depending on the skin condition you are trying to treat, and these treatments are spaced at two-week intervals. Maintenance microdermabrasion every one to three months is also suggested.
Expect some redness after a treatment session. This typically lasts a few hours and feels like a mild windburn or sunburn. The technician will apply moisturizer to your skin followed by a sunscreen.
Avoid direct sun exposure for one week after your microdermabrasion treatment. Always apply sunscreen that blocks Ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) waves and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of more than 30. Steer clear of skin exfoliation scrubs, as well as products containing alpha hydroxy acids or retinols, for a few days before and after your microdermabrasion treatment. Makeup may be applied immediately after the treatment; mineral makeup is most often recommended.
Risks of microdermabrasion may include:
- Pinpoint, round spots that are the result of bleeding under the skin (petechiae). This bleeding causes the petechiae to appear red, brown or purple.
- Infection (if the machines are not sterile)
These risks are minimized when you choose a qualified professional who performs microdermabrasion in a sanitary environment such as a medi-spa or doctor's office.
Professional microdermabrasion treatment sessions cost about $75 to $150 per visit depending on where you live, who is performing it, what area or areas of your body are being treated and the type of machine used.
There are also some do-it-yourself microdermabrasion kits available commercially that can be helpful and may be more affordable, although the results do not compare to those you can get by having the procedure performed by a professional. Make sure you read and follow the directions carefully if you choose to use any of these store-bought microdermabrasion products.
About the Reviewer of this Article
Steven H. Dayan, MD, is a facial plastic surgeon based in Chicago, where he founded and serves as a medical director for a skin care center (True Skin Care), a state-accredited educational center for estheticians. He also is founder and medical director for a DeNova Research. Dr. Dayan is board certified in otolaryngology and a member of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He is also a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois, and participates in laboratory and clinical research in minimally invasive medical procedures and plastic surgery. He serves on the editorial board of the Facial Plastic Surgery Journal and has written and published extensively in the field. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Dayan attended the University of Illinois Medical School. He completed a residency at the University of Illinois and a facial plastic surgery fellowship.