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What is Microdermabrasion?

By Kristen Williams
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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Microdermabrasion is a popular cosmetic procedure that removes the outermost layer of dry dead skin cells. It is a non-chemical, non-invasive skin treatment that requires no anesthesia. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes and can range anywhere from $50 to $200 US Dollars (USD). Either conducted alone, or paired with a facial, the treatment is often provided at a day spa or the dermatologist's office.

Many people use this process to diminish the look of fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, enlarged pores, coarse skin, or textured skin. It is also used as a treatment for acne. Best results are achieved when used regularly. Commercial microdermabrasion procedures can be performed safely on a monthly basis. At-home kits are usually mild enough to be used on a weekly basis.

There are three main types of microdermabration: crystal, diamond, and at-home microdermabrasion. Crystal microdermabrasion involves the spraying of microcrystals of aluminum dioxide, which is corundum powder, on the skin. The aluminum dioxide is a very fine but hard substance. It's somewhat similar to sand, and therefore the procedure is a sort of sand-blasting that removes the top layer of dead cells on the skin. It can sometimes be uncomfortable around the mouth and nose. After the treatment, the technician or dermatologist vacuums away the traces of the powder.

Diamond microdermabrasion is a newer microderm technology. It uses an exfoliating tool, the tip of which is covered in tiny diamond. During the treatment, the esthetician or dermatologist will rub the diamond tip against the skin to slough off the top layer of dead skin cells. The diamond machine then suctions or vacuums the loose dead skin cells off the face. In addition to increasing blood flow to the skin, the suction of the diamond microdermabrasion machine also stimulates the collagen and elastin within the skin. Increased blood flow give skin a healthy glow, while collagen and elastin promote stronger skin.

Like many popular skin treatments that start in the doctor's office, microdermabrasion has made its way into the home via at-home kits. They vary widely in price and in effectiveness. Where spa microderm treatments target all skin problems, most at-home kit fall into one of four treatment categories — complexion, pores, skin ton and skin surface.

Most at-home treatments use the same type of crystals used in the spa treatment, only these at-home versions come in the form of a cream. With some products, users use bare hands to apply the cream; with others they use a sponge or a cloth. After applying the cream, the skin is washed and rinsed. At-home microdermabrasion kits are available in face and full body versions. The face product usually contains a milder exfoliation product than the full body version.

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