What is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion or ‘power peel’ is a type of cosmetic skin surgery in which the outermost or most superficial layers of the skin are removed using a fine abrasive applied very gently.

It is not a one-time treatment but is usually repeated at intervals, leading to the formation of a new skin layer which is smoother. Its aim is to improve the youthful appearance of the skin.

Microdermabrasion. Image Credit: Neeila / Shutterstock
Microdermabrasion. Image Credit: Neeila / Shutterstock

Indications

Microdermabrasion is used to treat the following conditions:

  • Fine wrinkles and lines
  • Dull skin
  • Mild acne scars
  • Sun-induced photodamage leading to hyperpigmentation or age spots
  • Coarse pores
  • Stretch marks or striae distensae

Procedure

Microdermabrasion is a mechanical process aimed at rubbing off or exfoliating the dead and damaged skin layers from the face. The outermost layer of skin typically contains the greatest part of obvious blemishes, pigmentation, roughness and wrinkles.

The procedure takes about 45 minutes on average, usually without the need for anesthesia. It involves the initial cleansing of the skin to remove any make up or other extraneous matter.

Then natural diamond chips, or crystals of aluminum oxide, sodium bicarbonate or sodium chloride are sprayed over the skin to be treated. They may be sprayed against the skin surface in the form of minute crystals from a handheld sprayer, while a small vacuum simultaneously removes the dead loosened skin cells with the used chips.

Another tool is a handheld wand with a diamond tip which is rubbed over the skin in a buffing action. The procedure is performed under sterile conditions, and in most instances it is best to combine it with anti-aging creams, skin lighteners, or chemical peels.

Treatment Schedule and Recovery

The outermost epidermal layers are non-vascular which means that bleeding during the procedure is minimal. Six treatments are typically advised over the first 12 weeks at 2-week intervals to produce the maximum effect.

The repetition of this procedure every 4-8 weeks will help keep the skin healthy and fresh by encouraging the upward movement of skin cells from the lowermost or deepest layer of the epidermis.

After the procedure, the skin may appear red and there may be mild discomfort for a short while. Post-operatively, the use of sunscreen is mandatory, or the person must avoid exposure to sunlight for a few days.

Bruising or microscopic bleeding is rare and usually due to applying too much pressure for too long. Scarring is extremely uncommon, and infection practically unknown unless the patient has existing active herpes, impetigo, or warty lesions. Rosacea lesions may occasionally become active after microdermabrasion.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Microdermabrasion has the following points in its favor:

  • It is relatively comfortable
  • It has minimal risks or complications
  • Downtime is nil
  • It can be performed during pregnancy if chemical cleansing of the skin is avoided

On the other hand, microdermabrasion is not effective as a one-time treatment. It acts only on the most superficial epidermal layers and so does not improve deep wrinkles, surgical scars, pigmentation, or severe acne. Chemical peels or laser resurfacing are preferable for these indications. It is also ineffective in the case of age-related looseness of facial skin. Finally, several treatments are required for optimal effect.

Reviewed by: Dr Tomislav Meštrović, MD, PhD

References

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 31, 2017

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