Microdermabrasion, also known as microderm, is one of the easiest and most effective anti-aging treatments you can get. Its benefits are many: microderm softens fine lines and wrinkles, helps to smooth coarsely textured skin, decreases the appearance of scarring, decreases pore size, and reduces superficial hyper-pigmentation, also known as age spots.
Microdermabrasion also makes it easier for high-tech skin care products to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and help build collagen, which gives skin its youthful appearance.
The Changing Technology of Microdermabrasion
Microdermabrasion is essentially powerful mechanical exfoliation with an expensive machine, generally either the original crystal microdermabrasion technology or the newer diamond-tip microdermabrasion.
Both work by removing the uppermost layer of dead skin cells from the face, chest and hands.
True microdermabrasion is usually done in a day spa, medical spa or specialized skin care studio.Â It gives results you canâ€™t achieve with a home microdermabrasion kit, which is basically a scrub for the face that is often too abrasive and can even irritate skin.
The original microdermabrasion technology, which has been around since theâ€™80s, is called crystal microdermabrasion, uses a wand to both spray and vacuum up aluminum oxide crystals, also known as corundum, the second hardest mineral after diamonds. Crystal microdermabrasion might also appear on a spa menu as particle resurfacing, power peel, derma-peel or Parisian peel. Other types of crystals that are used in some machines, including salt and baking soda, but they are not very common.
Growing in popularity is the newer diamond-tip microdermabrasion. It achieves the same results but with less discomfort and without the crystal residue at the end of the treatment. However, some women still prefer the more aggressive feel of the crystal microderm machines because they can tell something is â€œhappeningâ€.
The latest technology to hit the market is the HydraFacial, which uses water to exfoliate and extract while infusing the skin with serums.
How Microdermabrasion Works
The crystal microdermabrasion device consists of a compressor that draws in air through a hand-held wand. When the wand touches the skin, a vacuum is created. Aluminum oxide crystals, also known as corundum (the second-hardest mineral next to diamonds) blast across the skinâ€™s surface, picking up dead surface skin cells along the way. The crystals and dead skin cells are quickly sucked up through a different tube in the same wand and go to a disposal bag.
When you put lotions or creams on your skin, some of the moisture passes through the stratum corneum, but not all of it. This layer is home to many minor skin imperfections like fine wrinkle lines blemishes.
All of the action in microdermabrasion takes place at the level of the stratum corneum. Since it only really targets the epidermis (and not the dermis), it is more accurate to call it micro-epi-dermabrasion. Affecting deeper layers of skin would be painful and harmful, and it would risk permanently embedding the tiny grains into the skin.
The Benefits of Microdermabrasion
Microdermabrasion can achieve dramatic results, but it is highly dependent on the skill of the esthetician. In general, itâ€™s best if you get it from an esthetician you already know and trust.
For the best results, it is generally recommended get a series of treatments. Your esthetician should be able to recommend the number that is appropriate for your skin type and condition. A typical protocal is six treatments about 10 to 14 days apart.
Because the machine can be adjusted depending on skin type and condition, even people with sensitive skin can get a treatment from a skilled esthetician. Doctors with medical spas can own more powerful machines, but more is not always better with microderm.
It is important to realize that you have taken off the outermost layer of the skin, which is also its protection, so this is not the time to go to the beach. Be careful with your skin a few days after the microdermabrasion treatment: donâ€™t do vigorous exercise and donâ€™t expose your skin to the sun. Wear a gentle physical sunscreen, even if its a cloudy day.
Donâ€™t expect to get the same results with a home microdermabrasion kit, which works more like a scrub. In fact, you can easily overdo it and irritate your skin.
Elizabeth Whitaker, MD. Microdermabrasion Clinical Assistant Professor, Division of Facial
Mahuzier, Francois, M.D. Microdermabrasion in Practice, (English Translation). SOLAL, 1995
Tsai, et al., â€œAluminum Oxide Crystal Microdermabrasion.â€ Dermatologic Surgery. Vol. 21,
Article by Laura Root, a CIDESCO Diplomate and editor of the ASEM report.
DAHL BRAVO is a Registered Nurse who also specializes in aesthetics and dermatology. Trained by the American Association of Aesthetic Medicine & Surgery, Dahl is also a member of the American Dermatology Nurses Association, International Dermal Institute. The Dalh Aesthetic Skin Care clinic in the San Fernando Valley is lcoated at 20944 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park, CA 91304. To schedule an appointment, please call 818.824.2361. â–