What is microdermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion is a very popular, modern, machine assisted gentle skin exfoliating treatment. Other names include “microderm”, lunchtime peel, Parisian Peel, and Diamond Peel.
It is a fairly simple, easy, painless, non-invasive, skin rejuvenation procedure using a combination of a fine abrasive tip or crystals and vacuum suction applied to the skin. Typically there are no needles or anesthetics required for microdermabrasion. The vacuum pressure and speed are adjusted depending on the sensitivity and tolerance of the skin. Microdermabrasion is often compared to the feeling of a cat licking your face- a rough but gentle texture.  Typical microdermabrasion sessions can last anywhere from 5-60 minutes. Minimal to no recovery time is required after microdermabrasion and most people immediately return to daily activity after a session.  Makeup and non-irritating creams can usually be applied right after microdermabrasion.
Often called “Microderm” for short, it is a procedure to help exfoliate or temporarily remove a few of the top layers of the skin called the stratum corneum. Much like brushing your teeth, microderm helps to gently remove “plaque” and skin debris. Since human skin typically regenerates at approximately 30 day intervals, skin improvement with microdermabrasion is temporary and needs to be repeated at average intervals of 2-4 weeks for continued improvement.  Multiple treatments in combination with sunscreen, sun avoidance, and other skin care creams yield best results.
Microdermabrasion is a skin resurfacing procedure which has advantages of low risk and rapid recovery compared to the other more invasive resurfacing methods such as dermabrasion, chemical peeling, and laser resurfacing. Since microdermabrasion produces only a very superficial depth of removal, it works best on improving superficial skin conditions such as early photoaging (sun damage), fine lines, age spots, enlarged pores, acne, and superficial scarring. Usually multiple treatments (6 – 12 sessions) are recommended to see a significant improvement. Initially, people choose weekly treatments, and then gradually extend to monthly or bimonthly maintenance or touch up treatments.
Who should get microdermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion is very useful for people with dull or sallow skin, mild acne, acne discoloration, pick marks, and very superficial acne scars. Individuals with deeper acne scars may expect a much longer series of treatments or likely benefit from physician performed surgical dermabrasion or laser resurfacing.
Microdermabrasion is a noninvasive (no needles, no surgery) procedure with essentially no downtime. Treatment risks are very minimal and may include temporary skin discoloration- darker or less commonly lighter skin areas ( called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation)/ or scarring are very low compared to other more traditional resurfacing approaches. Therefore, microdermabrasion may be a good treatment option for patients with superficial skin problems and busy lifestyles.
Microdermabrasion should not be confused with dermabrasion which is an invasive surgical procedure performed typically by dermatologists or plastic surgeons under local or general anesthesia. This was a very popular procedure for deeper acne scars. Dermabrasion requires anesthesia and would be too painful otherwise. Dermabrasion has been performed with sand paper like products and machine rotary devices to sand down the skin. Layers of epidermis are usually removed and the resulting open wounds may take from 5-20 days to fully heal. The risk of infection is much higher with this type of invasive procedure. Dermabrasion is also performed for certain types of deep scars. It should not be performed by non-specialized physicians fully trained in this highly technical procedure.
How does microdermabrasion work?
Traditionally, crystal microdermabrasion system contains a pump, a connecting tube, a hand piece, and a vacuum. While the pump creates a high-pressure stream of inert crystals, such as aluminum oxide, magnesium oxide, sodium chloride, and sodium bicarbonate, to abrade the skin, the vacuum removes the crystals and exfoliated skin cells. Alternatively, the inert crystals can be replaced by a roughened surface of the tip in the diamond microdermabrasion system.
Unlike the crystal microdermabrasion system, the diamond microdermabrasion machine does not produce particles from crystals that may be inhaled into patients’ nose or blow into eyes. Hence, diamond microdermabrasion is safer for use on areas around the eyes and lips. Generally, the slower the movement of the hand piece against the skin and the more numbers of passes over the skin, the deeper the treatment.
What are different types of microdermabrasion?
Crystal Microdermabrasion
Diamond Microdermabrasion
Home Microdermabrasion
Cream Microdermabrasion
Article by
Orange County Dermatologist