Microdermabrasion ultimate guide

Microdermabrasion is one of the most commonly performed minimally invasive aesthetic procedures. With time, factors like aging, genetics, solar damage or acne, can result in altered cutaneous texture and facial imperfections. Microdermabrasion helps to reduce these damages, providing smoother and younger skin. Nowadays, there are products on the market that allow you to quickly perform a microdermabrasion at home that does not cause pain nor require anesthesia and is associated with rare complications.

The technique involves the use of a kit with a hand-held device that releases pressurized crystals which exfoliate the stratum corneum, the outside layer of the epidermis, constituted mostly by dead skin cells. By removing this layer, skin instantly appears younger and brighter, with a renewed texture. Read the article below to understand all about the technique, benefits, and limitations associated with this procedure.

Facial dermabrasion

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. How it works
  3. Indications
  4. Procedures and materials
  5. Benefits and results
  6. Best “at home” machines and kits
  7. Chemical peel vs. microdermabrasion
  8. Professional microdermabrasion treatments
  9. General costs
  10. Steps to perform after
  11. Precautions
  12. Side effects
  13. Conclusion

What is microdermabrasion

The number of aesthetic procedures has been increasing over time due to patient demand and development of new products and technologies. While in the past treatment options were limited to surgical interventions, nowadays, minimally invasive aesthetic procedures have rapidly become the treatment of choice for facial changes caused by the aging process. According to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in the past ten years, aesthetic procedures have increased nearly five-fold, and microdermabrasion is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures in the United States, with more than a half million treatments performed annually.

Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, which was developed in the 1980’s to reduce the appearance of large pores, fine lines, wrinkles, and superficial scars. Microdermabrasion damages the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, by bombarding it with abrasive particles, such as alumina or sodium chloride, under vacuum. This mechanism induces an inflammatory response that results in increased collagen remodeling and proliferation, which produces the positive cosmetic results seen after the treatment, such as noticeably firmer skin. The interest towards this technique can be explained by the fact that it is a minimally invasive aesthetic procedures that reliably achieve good outcomes, have minimal recovery times, low incidence of side effects, and is associated with high patient satisfaction.

How does it work

The stratum corneum is a non-living layer of corneocytes and lipids which serves as a barrier against injuries, microbial pathogens, and environmental irritants. Constant epidermal renewal is necessary for the epidermis to maintain its integrity and function effectively. In healthy, younger skin, this natural renewal process takes approximately one month, where keratinocytes migrate from the living basal layer of the epidermis to the stratum corneum surface, until they are shed.

Skin rejuvenation through dermabrasion

In aged and photodamaged skin, keratinocyte maturation is slowed, and there is abnormal retention of cells at the surface, leading to a thickened and rough skin appearance. Photo-damaged skin appears dull, dehydrated and frequently exhibits uneven pigmentation. Additionally, dermal thinning with loss of collagen and elastin contributes to the formation of fine lines.

Microdermabrasion stimulates cell renewal in the epidermis and dermis, giving a brighter appearance to the skin and uniformizing skin tone. While dermabrasion completely removes the epidermis and penetrates the dermis, inducing remodeling of the skin’s structural proteins, microdermabrasion is a more superficial variation of dermabrasion which only removes the outer layer of the epidermis, accelerating the natural process of exfoliation smoothly.


Microdermabrasion is used mainly to improve the skin’s appearance and texture in the following conditions:

  • Aging skin: fine lines and wrinkles are typically produced during the aging process, but can be exacerbated by sun exposure, stress, smoking and other factors.
  • Hyperpigmentation marks
  • Melasma: a condition characterized by the appearance of tan to brown to gray patches symmetrically distributed on the cheeks, upper lip, and forehead, which are worsened by sun exposure. Sun exposure and hormone changes can worsen melasma, but severe skin dryness, some cosmetics, and inflammation are other precipitating factors.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: pigmentation that follows trauma to the skin, such as a cut, burn, abrasion or surgical incision, or inflammation in the skin, such as after a rash, acne or severe skin dryness;
  • Solar lentigines: also known as “age spots”, are a common form of hyperpigmentation that occurs due to sun damage, usually on areas frequently exposed to the sun such as the face and hands.
  • Superficial acne scars: acne scars are usually the result of inflamed blemishes caused by skin pores engorged with excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. In acne lesions, the pore swells, causing a break in the follicle wall. If there is a deep break in the wall of the pore, infected material can spill out into surrounding tissue, creating deeper lesions. As acne wounds heal, the skin attempts to repair these lesions by forming new collagen fibers that usually aren’t as smooth as the original skin, originating scarring and irregular skin texture.
  • Scars or rough texture of the skin
  • Reduce or eliminate enlarged pores
  • Lessen the appearance of stretch marks
  • To enhance penetration of topical products on the skin

Procedures and materials

Microdermabrasion can be performed at spas or by cosmetic surgeons or dermatologists, but there are also microdermabrasion kits that can be used at home safely. The procedure is noninvasive, painless, short, and requires no downtime for recovery.


The procedure is done using a specific microdermabrasion kit. The microdermabrasion machine works by placing a hand piece on the skin, which occludes the opening of the plastic tip to create a vacuum. Upon tip occlusion, the crystals flow from the machine and abrade the skin. At the same time, the used crystals are shunted back to the machine and collected in a waste container, to prevent contamination. The depth of the treatment depends on the strength of flow of the crystals, the rate of movement of the hand piece against the skin and the number of passes over the treatment area.

There are different types of microdermabrasion machines, which include mechanical abrasion from jets of zinc oxide or aluminum oxide crystals, fine organic particles or a roughened surface. Crystals are available in different sizes, and many of the newer microdermabrasion machines offer the facility to use more than one method.

  • Aluminum oxide crystal machines: The most commonly used abrasive in microdermabrasion is aluminum oxide. It is an effective abrasive because of its rough and uneven surface. Since it is not chemically reactive and not absorbed by the skin, it won’t cause allergic skin reactions, such as eczema or itching. Additionally, it has bactericidal properties, which is an advantage while treating acne, as it is associated with bacterial proliferation.
  • Other crystal machines: Other crystals can be used for microdermabrasion, including zinc oxide, sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and magnesium oxide. These crystals are cheaper, but not as abrasive as aluminum oxide and slightly less efficient.
  • Crystal-free machines: Instead of crystals, dermatologists or other professionals often use diamond-tipped devices that abrade the skin. These wands have their tips made of diamond chips of varied size and coarseness for different types of skin and levels of resurfacing. Dead skin cells are sucked up at the abrasive tip of the wand into a waste filter. The significant differences between the other crystal treatments are improved hygiene, shortened procedure time and lower maintenance costs.

A microdermabrasion session may take between 20 and 60 minutes, depending on the size of the area, and is performed through the following steps:

  • The patient is put in a comfortable position and the area to be treated is cleansed.
  • The microdermabrasion machine is moved over the target area, applying even and steady pressure to remove the stratum corneum without affecting the lower skin layers. You’ll notice a vibrating sensation similar to a massage, and a suction mechanism used to lift off the dead skin.
  • A standard session can consist of one to three passes with the microdermabrasion machine, depending on the severity of the skin problems of the patient.
  • After the treatment is finished, the patient is informed of the necessary aftercare and precautions, since the skin will remain sensitive for two to three days until healing occurs.
  • The patient is asked to apply specialized lotions and creams to the affected area, to rehydrate and promote healthier new skin.

Benefits and results

Microdermabrasion is a non-aggressive and continuous treatment, in which, by removing superficial skin layers in a controlled manner, cell renewal is stimulated, with regeneration of a healthier epidermis and dermis. Results from microdermabrasion treatments are cumulative and not usually clinically evident after a single treatment – a typically a series of 6 to 8 treatments is recommended, performed every 7 to 10 days. However, patients who have had little or no skin care previously may report immediate improvements in skin appearance.

Facial microdermabrasion before and after pictures

After a series of treatments, the epidermal layers are removed gently and safely. Histologic changes in the skin are evident: a compacted stratum corneum, smoother epidermis, increased dermal thickness with fibroblast production of new collagen and elastin and increased skin hydration with improved epidermal barrier function. The result is a clinical improvement in skin pigmentation and texture, and possible improvements in fine lines, pore size, skin imperfections and superficial acne scars.

Brighter and rejuvenated skin

By removing the dead cells from the stratum corneum, microdermabrasion speeds up the rate at which the skin would usually renew itself, resulting in skin that feels instantly smoother and fresher. The vacuum action also works to stimulate the circulation and promotes increased blood flow to the area. The production of collagen and elastin is stimulated, which results in a firmer, more youthful looking skin. Over the course of treatments, the skin will be left glowing and rejuvenated. Once your skin has been properly exfoliated with microdermabrasion products, other skin products such as moisturizers or serums will also work more efficiently, because the skin will quickly absorb them.

Prevention of acne and reduction of acne scars

Acne has a prevalence of over 90% among adolescents and persists into adulthood in approximately 12%–14% of cases, having psychological and social implications. All body areas with high concentrations of pilosebaceous glands can be affected but in particular the face, back, and chest. Inflammatory acne lesions can result in permanent acne scars, which may have a negative psychological impact on social life and relationships. The pathogenesis of acne scarring is still not fully understood but is currently attributed to multiple factors, such as increased sebum production, alteration of the quality of sebum lipids, androgen activity, the proliferation of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes within the follicle and follicular hyperkeratinization.

Microdermabrasion works by removing the top layers of dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, making it particularly useful in the treatment of superficial acne scars and also in the prevention of acne. Eliminating the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin unclogs pores, preventing the development of new spots.

Reduce fine lines and wrinkles

Through the aging process, elastin and collagen production starts to slow down. The vacuum action of the microdermabrasion treatment stimulates the production of collagen in the skin. The combination of collagen stimulation and increased skin renewal will improve the condition of the skin’s surface, smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles.

Reduce enlarged pores

Fix enlarge pores

The exfoliating action and the vacuum function of most devices used in microdermabrasion help to clear oil, dust and other impurities which may clog the pores. This way, the oil in the glands can again reach the skin surface, helping pores return to their natural shape and size.

Reduce appearance of stretch marks

Stretch marks are a common cutaneous physiological change which frequently occurs during growth or pregnancy, caused by the ripping of the dermis when the skin is overstretched. Stretch marks can vary in quantity and severity, commonly affecting the abdomen, breasts, and thighs where there is the greatest stretching of the skin. The exact etiology of stretch marks remains unclear, but possible explanations lie on stress or stretching of the skin tissues and hormonal factors. At a micro level, it is suggested that changes occur in collagen and elastin, which contribute to the strength and elasticity of the skin. Although stretch marks are not considered a significant health issue, they result in cosmetic alterations which can affect and cause distress in women, altering their perception of themselves and their quality of life.

Microdermabrasion can vastly improve the appearance of stretch marks and associated alterations on pigmentation. The microdermabrasion treatment stimulates the targeted area to produce more collagen and speeds up the skin renewal process, improving skin condition and diminishing the appearance of stretch marks and discolouration of the skin. However, microdermabrasion treatment cannot eradicate the stretch mark. Regular treatment will help improve the appearance of stretch marks creating a blending effect to the surrounding scar tissue, reducing pigmentation and making the stretch mark less noticeable.

Reduce hyperpigmentation marks

Hyperpigmentation on the skin is caused by an increase of melanin, the brown pigment that is responsible for the various shades and colors of the human skin. It can be caused be certain conditions, such as Addison’s disease, pregnancy, or the oral use of certain medications such as antibiotics, birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Repeated sun exposure or over exposure is one of the leading causes of hyperpigmentation, as wel,l as inflammation or trauma caused to the skin.

Regular microdermabrasion treatment will show significant benefits to sun-damaged skin and help remove unwanted pigmentation marks. It will help the trapped pigment move up through the epidermal layers to be shed in its normal and organized way. However, several treatments may be needed to improve the affected area.

Best at home microdermabrasion machines

A variety of microdermabrasion kits and products are available for home use. A microdermabrasion performed at home is much milder than a professional treatment done in clinics and spas. However, it has the advantage of being less expensive and providing similar results in the privacy of your own home.

The content of a personal microdermabrasion system for home use can vary. Some kits include a microdermabrasion machine with a pump that generates a stream of aluminum oxide or salt crystals with a hand piece and vacuum to remove the crystals and exfoliate the skin. But there are also abrasive scrubs for topic use, with exfoliating crystals on their composition, in which you massage the cream with your own hands and the friction applied provides a deep exfoliation, not requiring the use of a machine.

Just like a professional microdermabrasion, these home systems use micro-crystals to peel the skin and involve before and after care (a mild cleanser beforehand and a moisturizing and nourishing cream with UV-block afterward). They provide an overall improvement in complexion and help with fine wrinkles, scars, age spots, and have the same contraindications and side effects. Although you will need several sessions before you see any results, never perform a microdermabrasion several days in a row, because you need to let your facial skin heal until the next facial procedure. It is advised to wait for 7 to 10 days before doing another microdermabrasion.

We present reviews of a few dermatologically tested products available on the market:

Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System

Price: $21.99

Neutrogena microdermabrasion system

Neutrogena ® Microdermabrasion System is a simple, convenient at-home treatment clinically proven to deliver real anti-aging results. This kit features a microdermabrasion applicator with single-use, disposable puffs. Each puff is pre-dosed with ultra-fine crystals and mild purifiers to perform the perfect degree of gentle exfoliation. The massaging micro-vibrations boost surface cell turnover for firmer, younger-looking skin. Right after the first use, it will provide softer and more luminous skin. Over time, a younger-looking skin will appear, as fine lines and wrinkles will be visibly reduced in just three uses, and you’ll see firmer skin in just twelve applications.

A dermatologist clinical study showed that Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System delivered excellent results and helped reduce multiple signs of aging:

  • 91% had smoother, more luminous skin instantly;
  • 88% had visible improvement in the look of fine lines after one week;
  • 88% had significantly reduced appearance of wrinkles or age spots after four weeks;
  • 72% had substantially firmer-looking skin after eight weeks.

Olay Microdermabrasion Plus Advanced Cleansing System

Price: $34.99 – $39.99


Olay Microdermabrasion Plus Advanced Cleansing System

The Olay Microdermabrasion Plus Advanced Cleansing System was designed by dermatologists to transform skin and deliver proven results at home. Using the microdermabrasion setting up to twice a week, you will experience exfoliation seven times better than a scrub alone for visibly brighter, more even skin tone.

This system provides three different speeds, so you can control how the cleansing brush treats your skin and customize your facial care routine.

  1. Speed 1 provides a daily gentle cleansing.
  2. Speed 2 a daily deep cleansing.
  3. Speed 3 performs a deep microdermabrasion.

This way, the Olay Microdermabrasion Plus Advanced Cleansing System combines the power of deep cleansing, exfoliation, and microdermabrasion in a single device for a truly superior clean. Each rotation cleanses away hard-to-remove makeup and gently exfoliates for a visibly brighter, more even skin tone. Since the first use, there is a noticeable improvement in the appearance of fine lines, radiance, brightness, and pores. With continuous use, visibly improved texture and more even skin tone appear. Over five days, 90% of women noticed silkier, smoother-feeling skin, and a visible improvement in dullness and overall appearance of skin.

For best results, the Microdermabrasion and Advanced Cleansing System brush heads should be replaced every three months.

PMD Personal Microderm

Price: $159.00

PMD Personal Microderm Kit

Personal Microderm is a patented, safe, and effective at-home skin care tool that provides the same brilliant results as professional, in-office microdermabrasion treatments. It combines the power of patented spinning disc technology with a perfectly calibrated vacuum suction to brighten, smooth, and even skin tone and texture. It reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, blemishes, and enlarged pores—allowing makeup to glide on smoother and skin care to penetrate deeper. The exfoliation action removes dead skin cells barrier and supports healthy, natural cell growth, revealing younger-looking, softer, rejuvenated skin.

Personal Microderm is a top-rated product and the most expensive of this list. It’s been classified by dermatologists as being as close to a professional microdermabrasion treatment as you can get at home, and to vacuums up dead skin cells just like a professional tool. It comes with a set of exfoliating heads and the larger scrubbing heads, and more intense suction provided make it easy to exfoliate rough or scaly areas, with an additional set of disks designed for feet.

The Personal Microderm kit features three different versions:

  1. Plus
  2. Pro
  3. Men

Once you find the right level of scrub for your skin, it can be a good alternative if you’re looking for a long-term maintenance treatment without the time or money it takes to get a professional microdermabrasion.

Dr. Brandt

Price: $79.00

This high rated exfoliator refines the look of skin’s texture and softens imperfections for a radiant, smoother, brighter complexion in minutes. It comes in a cream form that should be massaged slowly and gently onto skin for one or two minutes, avoiding the eye area, without requiring the use of a machine. It is suited for all skin types and sulfate, phthalate and paraben free.

Inspired by dr. Brandt’s in-office microdermabrasion, this breakthrough at-home solution, offers transformative brightening and smoothing effects in minimal time. Lactic acid and perfectly rounded aluminum oxide crystals gently remove dead skin cells. The chemical exfoliant penetrates the skin to a deeper level, helping eliminate dryness and signs of aging, like fine lines and discoloration. As fresh skin is revealed, its luminosity is instantly revived, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles is diminished.

Boots No7 Total Renewal Micro-dermabrasion Face Exfoliator

Price: €15.00

Boots No. 7

This dermatologically tested microdermabrasion exfoliator has been developed by Boots skincare experts for your use at home. It contains aluminium-oxide micro-crystals that smooth, refine and renew sweeping away dull cells for incredible radiance from the first use. Within four treatments, it stimulates skin cell renewal to work against fine lines and uniformizes skin tone, leaving instantly fresher, clearer and younger looking skin. It also helps against the appearance of dark areas, sun damaged or blemish prone skin.

Boots No7 Face Exfoliator is a scrub that should be massaged for 1 minute, twice a week, following the instructions on the leaflet carefully. A body exfoliator scrub is also available for use in chest, shoulders, arms, and hands.

Kiehl’s Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion

Price: $41.00

Kiehl's epidermal kit

Kiehl’s Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion is an epidermal skin-texturizing treatment with an advanced formulation that has a highly effective abrading quality on skin’s surface. This formula affords an immediate skin-smoothing effect and with regular, tri-weekly use, helps to visibly minimize discolorations and small marks on face, hands, and neck. Over time, the look of facial lines is reduced, and skin texture is significantly smoother and clearer, while the appearance of pore size is diminished. As skin is re-texturized, this formula helps to facilitate the absorption of topical skin treatments to maximize their efficacy.

This polishing cream is formulated with crushed micro shells derived from ocean sand – as well as a powerful ingredient used by dermatologists to perform micro-dermabrasion procedures. The formula further helps to soothe skin with a blend of Willow Herb and nurturing sea alginates.

The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Boosting Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Face Scrub

Price: $20.00

The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Boosting Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Face Scrub

The Body Shop products are inspired by the diversity of nature and customs of people around the world. 100% of the natural ingredients included in products are traceable and sustainably sourced. This best-selling exfoliator with micro particles and crushed garnet stones removes dead skin cells to reveal a brighter, more radiant complexion. It leaves skin feeling soft and smooth and improves skin texture and tone. Adding Vitamin C into your daily skin care routine will help refreshing dull, tired, and grumpy skin, making it feel bright, happy and healthy.

This product contains Amazonian camu camu berry, which is known to have one of the highest contents of Vitamin C in nature. Vitamin C encourages production of collagen, improves elasticity and protects against damaging environmental aggressors. Aluminum silicate is used as an abrasive and shea butter softens and refines the skin.

Sesderma Abradermol Microdermabrasion Cream

Price: 22,50 €

Sesderma Abradermol Microdermabrasion Cream

This facial and body scrub is composed of 20% aluminum oxide crystals, 5% nicotinamide, and 3% shea butter. The aluminum oxide crystals cause exfoliation of the upper epidermal layers which exfoliates the dead skin cells, removing impurities from the skin and stimulating cell renewal, increasing the production of collagen and thus improving skin elasticity. Shea butter moisturizes, protects and regenerates the skin. Nicotinamide improves the barrier function of the skin, moisturizing and preventing water loss, irritation, dryness and redness of the skin. Performing a skin exfoliation with this scrub can also help improve the action of other treatments, such as the application of products for prevention of wrinkles, skin aging, oily skin and acne-prone skin, scars, stretch marks and facial hyperpigmentation.

The exfoliation should be done by applying a small amount of the product on the cheeks, chin, and forehead, massaging in a circular motion from the cheek area of the face with outward motions, avoiding contact with the eyes, lips and nostrils. Continue on the chin area, front and ending, not exceeding more than 2 minutes, and wash the whole area with water. By performing this skincare regime continuously, you will remove impurities and obtain a smooth and flawless skin with improved texture.

Derma E Microdermabrasion Scrub

Price: $29.99

Derma E

Derma E Microdermabrasion Scrub is an award-winning treatment, ideal if you’re looking for immediate results from a salon-perfect treatment in the privacy of your own home. It instantly buffs skin, helping to diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and acne scars.

This formula uses an exclusive fine-textured crystal blend with Dead Sea Salts that helps buff away dull surface cells, diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and acne scars, and absorb excess skin oils, providing a healthier and youthful radiance. Enriched with natural astringents from lime and lemon peel plus, and antioxidants grape seed and Vitamin E, this pro-grade treatment re-textures skin, leaving it soft, smooth and younger-looking. It may also be used on your hands, elbows, knees, heels or any part of the body to promote soft, smooth and healthy skin.

It is recommended to be used twice a week, through gently scrubbing the desired areas in a circular motion for up to one minute, and rinsing with water afterward. For sensitive skin, applying less pressure is recommended.

Derma E formulas are 100% vegan, cruelty-free, and do not contain parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, petrolatum, mineral oil, artificial colors, gluten, soy or genetically modified organisms. Additionally, the crystal blend used in this product is a large molecular structure and is therefore not bio-available to the body, so there is no possibility of absorption through the skin.

Please notice that these approximate prices have an oscillatory characteristic according to the distributors and the date at which this article was written. Please consult several retailers before purchasing a product from a brand of your choice.

Chemical peel vs. microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion and chemical peels are both exfoliation procedures used to resurface the skin superficially. The difference between microdermabrasion and chemical peels is that they are two different types of exfoliation: Microdermabrasion is a physical exfoliation, and a chemical peel is a chemical exfoliation. Microdermabrasion is a method of mechanical exfoliation where the stratum corneum is removed using a refined abrasive element across the skin. A chemical peel is a form of chemical exfoliation that uses a chemical solution to dissolve the connection that holds dead skin cells together on the epidermis. Standard chemical exfoliating agents include alpha hydroxy acids (e.g., glycolic and lactic acids) and beta hydroxy acids (e.g., salicylic acid). The concentration of active ingredients, pH, time, and method of the application determine the depth of skin injury and define the procedure as superficial, medium, or deep exfoliation.

  • Glycolic Acid: Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from fruit and milk sugars, which acts by thinning the stratum corneum, promoting epidermolysis and dispersing basal layer melanin. It increases dermal hyaluronic acid and collagen gene expression. The procedure is well tolerated, but glycolic acid peels are contraindicated in contact dermatitis, pregnancy, and in patients with hypersensitivity.
  • Salicylic Acid: Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid and one of the best peeling agents for the treatment of acne scars. It removes intercellular lipids that are covalently linked to the cornified envelope surrounding cornified epithelioid cells. The side effects of salicylic acid peeling are mild and transient and include erythema and dryness.
  • Jessner’s Solution: Formulated by Dr. Max Jessner, this combination of salicylic acid, resorcinol, and lactic acid in 95% ethanol is an excellent superficial peeling agent. Resorcinol disrupts the weak hydrogen bonds of keratin and enhances-penetration of other agents. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid which causes corneocyte detachment and subsequent desquamation of the stratum corneum. As with other superficial peeling agents, Jessner’s peels are well tolerated. General contraindications include active inflammation, dermatitis or infection of the area to be treated, isotretinoin therapy within six months of peeling and delayed or abnormal wound healing.
  • Trichloroacetic Acid: The use of trichloroacetic acid as a peeling agent was first described by P.G. Unna, a German dermatologist, in 1882. Trichloroacetic acid application to the skin causes protein denaturation, resulting in a readily observed white frost. The degree of tissue penetration and injury by a trichloroacetic acid solution is dependent on several factors, including the percentage of acid used, anatomic site, and skin preparation. Selection of appropriate trichloroacetic acid concentrated solutions is critical when performing a peel. Trichloroacetic acid in a percentage of 10%–20% results in a very light superficial peel with no penetration below the stratum granulosum, while a concentration of 25%–35% produces a light superficial peel with diffusion encompassing the full thickness of the epidermis. However, levels of trichloroacetic acid between 40%–50% can produce injury to the papillary dermis, and greater than 50% result in damage extending to the reticular dermis. Unfortunately, the use of trichloroacetic acid concentrations above 35% can produce unpredictable results such as scarring and, consequently, concentrations greater than 35% should be avoided.

Chemical peel

Both types of peelings are used for similar clinical indications, such as reversal of signs of skin aging and the treatment of skin lesions as well as scars, particularly acne scars. The biggest difference between the two treatments is how the dead skin cells are removed from the skin. Chemical peels are available in different strengths, from mild to deep, and can penetrate the skin deeper, treating skin conditions more aggressively. With chemical peeling treatments, clients can expect a longer downtime with some redness, followed by moderate shedding of the skin.

A series of peels is usually required to obtain the best results performed at intervals of 2 to 4 weeks, and you’ll need to avoid the sun for several months after a chemical peel since your new skin will be fragile. Microdermabrasion does not vary in strength and the recovery takes only a few days. In contrast to other methods, microdermabrasion is a well-established clinical technique used routinely for cosmetic applications, which is quick, painless, safe, minimally invasive, and requires no down time. This characteristic makes it a useful alternative for patients whose skin is too sensitive to perform chemical peels or use anti-acne drugs like tretinoin.

Recent advances in microdermabrasion technology combine exfoliation with simultaneous application of topical products. In some skin types, a combination of superficial peels alternating with microdermabrasion is claimed to give better results than each of these methods alone. Consult your physician to help you select a procedure that will work best for your skin and to help you accomplish your rejuvenation and skin-improvement goals.

Professional microdermabrasion treatments

If you are not confident or do not wish to perform a microdermabrasion by yourself, you can search for a professional treatment. Microdermabrasion is usually performed by dermatologists, plastic surgeons, or in salons and non-medical spas by technically trained staff.

Professional dermabrasion treatment

A correctly performed skin care treatment by a fully qualified professional has an excellent safety record. Professional microdermabrasion is much more efficient than a microdermabrasion done at home, due to the precision and depth of the abrasion. More effective machines which go deeper into the skin are only available in doctor’s offices and can only be operated by trained professionals.

You can reduce your risk for side effects by having microdermabrasion performed by a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon. When choosing a professional, don’t hesitate to ask about their background, training, and experience, especially the one related to the treatment you are considering. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons provides a list of professionals who are highly trained in plastic and reconstructive surgery and certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. You can also search for a dermatologist’s office near you who can provide this kind of treatments.


According to 2016 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a professional microdermabrasion is $138 per session, and a full treatment can take up to 10 sessions until you start seeing results. Be sure to ask about all costs involved in your microdermabrasion treatment, since it can vary, based on the expertise and qualifications of the professional performing the treatment, type of microdermabrasion procedure performed, time and effort the method requires and the geographic location of the office.

However, you can replace an expensive dermatologist treatment and obtain similar results performing a microdermabrasion at home. Dermatologically tested and effective at home microdermabrasion products with an average price range of $30 to $50, can provide noticeable results at a fraction of the cost of a professional treatment. You could also try these products before considering a professional microdermabrasion, to get an idea of the whole procedure and what it can do for your skin.

How to care for your skin after microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion recovery time is short, but patients can experience sensitive skin, mild erythema and dryness for some days after treatment. Therefore, the skin should always be kept clean, moisturized, and protected with sunblock, and the following precautions should be taken:

  • Avoid topical skin care products that may cause irritation, such as retinoids (present in anti-ageing creams) alpha-hydroxy acids or benzyl peroxide;
  • Do not use exfoliating or astringent products, since the newly abraded skin is susceptible to any products applied;
  • Avoid skin care products that contain a high percentage of botanicals and essential oils, since some of these ingredients may cause an allergic reaction;
  • Avoiding direct sun exposure for one week and use a daily full spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater (containing zinc or titanium);
  • If scabbing occurs, avoid picking, because since it can result in scarring;
  • Do not apply depilatories or undergo waxing;
  • Do not wear make-up;
  • Avoid swimming in pools, since chloride can irritate the skin;

Precautions and contraindications

Before a microdermabrasion procedure, patients should avoid chemical peels, dermal filler injections, waxing, and direct sun exposure for two weeks. The use of products containing retinoic acid or alpha-hydroxy acids (e.g., glycolic acid) should be discontinued for one week.

During the procedure, caution should be taken to not apply the machine too deep or intensely, especially on very fair or sensitive skins. The lip area is particularly susceptible to bruising, and the eyelids should never be treated with microdermabrasion.

Workers who routinely inhale hard metal dust are at risk of pulmonary and respiratory complications. Hence, the operator must use a protective mask while performing the treatment, and the patient must wear protective eyewear.

Microdermabrasion is not recommended for patients in the following situations:

  • Pregnancy and nursing: An increase in hormones can affect the skin during pregnancy and cause pigmentation. For this reason, microdermabrasion is not recommended during this period, as the skin could react unexpectedly, making the condition worse. This procedure is also not recommended for pregnant and nursing women because hormonal changes during this period may reduce its effectiveness;
  • Melanoma or lesions suspected of malignancy;
  • Isotretinoin use in the past year: It is essential to conduct a thorough investigation of the patient’s pharmacological history to ensure that the patient has not taken isotretinoin in the previous 6–12 months since it causes delayed reepithelialization and development of hypertrophic scars;
  • Active viral or bacterial infections in the treatment area, such as herpes simplex or widespread acne with pustules and papules;
  • Autoimmune diseases (e.g. lupus erythematosus);
  • Diabetes mellitus: Diabetes affects the nerves and circulation and the skin can take much longer to heal than normal. Clients must consult their general practitioner before treatment can be carried out;
  • Dermatoses (e.g., eczema and psoriasis);
  • Active rosacea, fragile capillaries, vascular lesions;
  • Sunburn;
  • Warts, erosions, ulcers.

Microdermabrasion may be performed with caution in some adolescents with parental and dermatological consent, but is otherwise contraindicated in pediatric patients.

Side effects

Local side effects are uncommon and transient. The most frequent are symptoms of the superficial abrasion, including pain or temporary discomfort, burning, sensitive skin and photosensitivity. In some situations, prolonged irritation or erythema may occur. If done incorrectly, professional microdermabrasion can discolor the skin. If you have any severe or persistent symptoms after a microdermabrasion procedure, consult a dermatologist.

Should you consider microdermabrasion?

People have a variety of reasons for performing microdermabrasion, whether they are physical, emotional or social. If you are looking for a fast and easy way to improve the appearance of your skin, then you might consider using microdermabrasion, since as long as you follow the right safety instructions, it is a safe procedure with few side effects.

Although you can opt for a professional service, you can do this treatment at home with the right equipment, using one of the best microdermabrasion machines available on the market or a scrub with abrasive properties which will provide similar results. Finding a product that works best for you skin, along with a treatment schedule, will have a direct impact on your confidence and enhanced self-esteem.

Including microdermabrasion on your skin care routine will help to reduce the signs of wrinkles, age spots, acne scars, and acne breakouts that may cause discomfort, and you will enjoy improved appearance after the use of these treatments on a regular basis.