Originally, microdermabrasion was a medical procedure used to rejuvenate skin, lessen the signs of scarring, and remove fine lines and the effects of acne. The top layer of dead skin is removed during treatment, while promoting the production of new cells in the deepest layer of skin. This reduces the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, acne scars and many other blemishes. In the medical procedure, the technician or dermatologist uses an expensive dermabrasion machine, sandblasting the skin with aluminum oxide crystals.
The technician controls the level of the blast, and the patient wears goggles to protect the eyes. Because treatments are relatively painless, anesthesia is generally not administered. Treatments last about 20 - 30 minutes if only the face is being treated, and can last up to an hour if the neck and upper chest are included. Courses of microdermabrasion consist of 6-8 treatments, usually every 2 weeks. All treatments are done at a doctor's office, salon, or spa. Treatments can cost up to $200 each.
There are over a hundred different microdermabrasion machines available. Some are designed for salons while others may require a physician's license to operate, depending on local state laws. More recently, many so-called home microdermabrasion products have become popular. Infomercials featuring well known celebrities promote skin creams with "crystals" and application machines.
Most of these at-home microdermabrasion products, however, are really just a fancier exfoliation method, not true microdermabrasion. Some microdermabrasion creams do contain aluminum oxide crystals like the microdermabrasion machine uses, but the creams lubricate the skin, and therefore are not very effective at applying the crystals. When using microdermabrasion creams, you cleanse your skin, apply the cream and massage it in, rinse, and apply your moisturizer. Over time, you will notice some superficial improvement in your skin's appearance.
The problem is that professional microdermabrasion relies on the friction, or the abrasion, of the crystals to remove a layer of dead, damaged skin cells, and creams, though easy to apply, actually reduce friction as well as reducing the effectiveness of the product. A couple of home microdermabrasion products provide a means to safely apply aluminum oxide crystals directly to the skin, more accurately emulating office microdermabrasion systems. The Dermanesse Professional Microdermabrasion System, for example, uses patent-pending DermaSponge applicators embedded with aluminum oxide crystals, and can be safely applied at home with results comparable to a visit to the doctor's office.
After microdermabrasion, you typically experience a slight irritation and skin may be slightly reddened, as if sunburned. This can last for a few hours, and up to a day or so if you have sensitive skin. Most people have no complications associated with microdermabrasion.
With the more powerful, medical grade machines, there is a slight possibility of excessive irritation and infection if the machine is improperly sterilized or the application wand isn't used properly. It is important to make sure your dermatologist or aesthetician is properly trained and certified in the type of machine they are using. Using at-home microdermabrasion systems that apply aluminum oxide crystals directly to your skin, you should be careful not to spend too much time on any on area to avoid problems, though they are rare with at-home systems. However, if your skin does experience a little more irritation than usual, it will heal in a few days and you should still enjoy great results. Next time, use a little less pressure or apply the product for a shorter time. As your skin adjusts to the treatments, it actually gets stronger and more able to handle them without irritation.
The little bit of irritation you may feel is a sign that the microdermabrasion is actually working just as well as it does with an office type of treatment. Good candidates for microdermabrasion have minor surface scars, wrinkles, fine lines, slight pigmentation or acne scars, and want to enjoy younger-looking, healthier skin.
Kathleen Williams is the developer of the Dermanesse Professional Home Microdermabrasion System. She is an expert on microdermabrasion.