Written by Shawn Candela for Avima.com

The purpose of microdermabrasion is to remove old and dry skin in an effort to give a patient a more youthful appearance. While there is universal agreement that a dermabrasion treatment can clean the skin and make it feel smoother, microdermabrasion is not an intensive procedure meant to remove wrinkles, scars, or skin discoloration. It also is important to understand that microdermabrasion done by a professional can offer significantly different results from one done at home.

What happens in professional microdermabrasion

A dermatologist might use any of several techniques to perform a microdermabrasion.

In the first, the dermatologist sands and suctions off old skin with an applicator with an abrasive surface, such as one with a diamond tip. While the amount of pressure that is applied will determine how deep into the skin the microdermabrasion is done, this form of microdermabrasion is usually reserved for more sensitive areas of the body, such as the face.

In the second type of microdermabrasion, the dermatologist sprays sodium bicarbonate or aluminum oxide particles onto the skin to cleanse it and then uses a vacuum to suction off the dead skin.

A relatively newer form of microdermabrasion is known as hydradermabrasion, which uses a high-speed influx of water and air to clean the skin. The process is intended to stimulate collagen production and blood flow to the skin.

Regardless of the type of microdermabrasion used, the dermatologist will apply a moisturizer and sunscreen after the procedure to help protect the new layer of skin. Patients will also be informed of the methods needed to protect the skin after treatment.

What happens in at-home microdermabrasion

Generally speaking, at-home microdermabrasion kits cannot offer the same intense cleaning as what is offered in a clinic or spa, but they can be helpful in a more limited extent.

At-home microdermabrasion kits typically contain cleansers, brushes and some type of suctioning option to remove the old skin. Some kits have multiple tips and filters to use on different areas of the body. The variety of options runs from simple kits to devices that mimic what is used in a clinic.

While at-home microdermabrasion does not provide the same intensity as that done by a professional, it can be beneficial to people with sensitive skin for that very reason. It also can be useful as a stand-in between clinic visits for those undertaking regular microdermabrasion treatments.

Safety concerns

As stated above, microdermabrasion works as a way to remove old skin and offer a fresher appearance, but it should not be used in an effort to do any more invasive work, such as removing scars or fixing skin discoloration.

People who scar easily need to speak to their doctor before undergoing any microdermabrasion treatment. The same is true for those taking any medication to treat severe acne.

Considerations

• Microdermabrasion treatments often cause temporary redness and/or soreness of the skin. Bruising is also possible. However, if these side effects last for longer than a few days, patients should notify their doctor.
• Treatment results can vary from one person to another, but most people can expect to undertake a series of treatments in order to get the best results. These can be undertaken weekly, every few weeks, or even every few months, depending on what the dermatologist and patient deem best.
• Dermabrasion patients will be advised to do everything they can to keep their skin protected and moisturized. Regardless, the results of a dermabrasion are temporary by nature, since skin continues to age and die. Regular treatments will be necessary to maintain a more youthful appearance of skin.