Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic technique that removes the surface layer of skin. Many tout this popular technique as an "instant facelift". Microdermabrasion is a viable alternative to plastic surgery and chemical peels and has soared in popularity with both women and men.

Where and How Does the Microdermabrasion Work?

The outer layer of skin is called the epidermis and microdermabrasion works at this level. More specifically, the stratum corneum is the topmost layer of the epidermis and serves as a barrier to the outside world. Because this layer is comprised of dead skin, the technique of microdermabrasion does not cause pain when removing this layer. No needles or injections are required.

The body interprets the loss of the stratum corneum as an injury and rushes to repair the damage. New skin cells are produced and migrate to replace those removed by microdermabrasion. The result is healthier looking skin and this technique even removes some of the age related discolorations that can occur. Blemishes and fine lines can literally be erased. With the outer protective barrier removed, lotions and creams can more effectively penetrate the skin. A smoother look will be apparent after the procedure.

Professional microdermabrasion is done using a specialized tool. In the procedure, tiny crystals are directed at the skin to remove the dead outer layer. The vacuum component of the tool has several functions. It pulls the skin up bringing some impurities to the surface and then vacuums off the dead skin and used crystals. Each session may cost between $100-$250 and is significantly less expensive than laser or chemical peels.

It is normal for the skin to appear mildly red after the microdermabrasion procedure. Some mild swelling may also accompany the healing process. Both of these issues can last for a few hours to a few days depending on the individual.

What Are the Effects of Microdermabrasion?

1. Beneficial Effects of Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a less invasive option to plastic surgery and less damaging to the skin relative to chemical peels. When done by an experienced practitioner, this technique can remove many of the age related changes affecting the skin. Sunspots, age related pigment deposits, fine lines and wrinkles can be removed with this technique. Microdermabrasion is also effective for treating acne scars and discoloration. This technique does not work well for deep wrinkles and large scars. The overall benefit is a smoother and healthier looking skin with a more youthful appearance. The procedure is quick without any significant recovery time.

Microdermabrasion works well for those desiring a non-surgical approach to achieving a more youthful appearance. It is also helpful for those with clogged pores and anyone sensitive to anti-acne drugs such as Retin-A.

2. Possible Side Effects of Microdermabrasion

In addition to redness and mild swelling, the skin will be sensitive to sunlight after microdermabrasion. Keep in mind that the outer protective layer has been removed and that UV radiation from sunlight can more easily penetrate the skin. The skin may be more sensitive to touch as well. Be sure to apply sunscreen to protect the skin after the procedure. Mild bruising may also appear but is generally short lived.

Several conditions are not suitable for microdermabrasion and are as follows:  warts, herpes, eczema, psoriasis, Lupus, widespread acne, fragile capillaries and active rosacea. Be sure to discuss in advance if you have any concerns about an underlying skin condition and if undergoing microdermabrasion is appropriate.

How Can We Get Microdermabrasion?

  • Professional Help - Dermatologists or trained skin care aestheticians can perform in-office professional microdermabrasion. This is carried out using a special vacuum tool or the newer diamond-tipped wand. Crystals such as aluminum oxide, sodium chloride, magnesium oxide or diamonds are passed through a pressurized tube. The stream of crystals removes the outer layer of dead skin while suction is simultaneously applied to vacuum up the debris. Treatments are repeated throughout the year to achieve optimal benefit.
  • Home Treatment - Home treatments are performed using creams and scrubs that contain small abrasive particles. The dead skin cells are removed as you rub the crystals against the skin.

What Home Remedies Can Produce Results Like Microdermabrasion?

There are a variety of home remedies than can provide a similar degree of exfoliation.

  • Pumice stone works well to remove dead skin, but use caution by choosing a finer textured stone and apply gentle pressure if using on the face.
  • Loofah or Buf-Puf pads also work well.
  • Brown sugar mixed with honey provides a natural remedy to remove the outer layer of dead skin.
  • Sea salt works quite well and many popular store bought products use this ingredient.
  • Clean beach sand and Epsom salt are also home remedy alternatives to commercial microdermabrasion products.