The Benefits and Limits of Microdermabrasion

A microderrmabrasion treatment being performed.

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The benefits of microdermabrasion include improvement in the skin's texture and appearance. It can also help to treat acne scars, skin discoloration, sun damage, and stretch marks.

However, microdermabrasion has treatment limitations. Specifically, it is not effective in treating severe or cystic acne, and it cannot totally remove wrinkles.

This article will discuss the procedure, its effectiveness, and the limitations of microdermabrasion to better inform your decision to pursue treatment.


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This video has been medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD.

The Procedure

A microdermabrasion treatment is done by a dermatologist or esthetician using a handheld device that gently removes the top layer of skin.

There are two different types of procedures. With one, the device releases tiny exfoliating crystals across your skin, while a vacuum device suctions the crystals back into the machine, along with the dead or loosened skin.

With the other type of treatment, the practitioner moves a diamond-tip wand gently across your skin to exfoliate it.

Each treatment lasts about 30 to 40 minutes. You may feel a mild scratching or "sanding" sensation as the procedure removes the superficial skin cells.

After the procedure, you will also be advised to use sunscreen, as your skin will be extra sensitive to the sun.

Microdermabrasion can be done by a licensed dermatologist or an esthetician. There are at-home microdermabrasion kits as well, though these are not as effective and don't go as deep into the skin.


Because it deeply exfoliates, microdermabrasion can improve the tone and texture of your skin. If you have a series of treatments done (which is what is recommended) you should notice your skin tone evening out. You may see a softening of fine lines and superficial wrinkles. Microdermabrasion can also help fight sun damage and make anti-aging creams more effective.

Although microdermabrasion isn't recommended for those with severe or inflammatory acne, a series of treatments can help reduce the formation of comedones and improve mild acne. It can also help reduce oiliness and make large pores appear smaller.

For some people, microdermabrasion can help lighten post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or dark acne marks that remain after a pimple has healed.

Most people get a series of microdermabrasion treatments. Depending on the reason for the treatments, a typical regimen includes five to 16 treatments, spaced a week or more apart.


Microdermabrasion isn't a miracle treatment, though, and there are limits to what it can treat.

For example, microdermabrasion can't treat severe or cystic acne. The process of microdermabrasion can irritate already inflamed acne, and leave it looking and feeling worse.

Microdermabrasion won't improve deep acne scars, like boxcar or ice pick scars. It can't be used to flatten hypertrophic or keloid scars, and can actually make them worse in some instances. Instead of microdermabrasion, your dermatologist can perform acne scar treatments that will give you much better results.

If you're using microdermabrasion as an anti-aging treatment, know that it will not completely eliminate lines and wrinkles, and it won't treat deep wrinkles. Another thing microdermabrasion can't do is tighten sagging skin.

What It Can Do
  • Improve mild acne scars

  • Improve age spots

  • Improve hyperpigmentation

  • Reduce fine lines and large pores

  • Improve the appearance of stretch marks

What It Can't Do
  • Treat deep lines and wrinkles

  • Tighten sagging skin

  • Treat deep acne scars

  • Treat keloid scars

Side effects

Side effects of a microdermabrasion treatment are usually minimal and short-lived. They can include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Increased sun sensitivity
  • Dry, flaky skin

Occasionally, there can be bruising from the suction device.


Before having microdermabrasion, you should tell your dermatologist or practitioner about any medical conditions you have and any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take. You may be advised not to have a microdermabrasion procedure if you:

  • Are prone to cold sore breakouts
  • Have skin that scars easily
  • Take Accutane (isotretinoin), a prescription medicine for severe acne

Before You Book Your Treatment

Talk to the person who will be doing your microdermabrasion treatment about what changes you're hoping to see in your skin. They will lay out an appropriate treatment plan for you, educate you on possible side effects, and tell you what results you can expect.

Remember, you won't get all of the benefits of microdermabrasion with just one treatment. Although your skin will likely feel softer after the first treatment, you'll need several treatments to actually see improvement.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a procedure used to treat acne scars, skin discoloration, sun damage, and stretch marks.

What does microdermabrasion do?

Microdermabrasion gently removes the top layer of skin, reducing scarring and improving the skin's appearance.

How long does microdermabrasion last?

A microdermabrasion treatment lasts around 30 minutes.

How often should I get microdermabrasion?

The recommended frequency of microdermabrasion treatments depends on what your goals are. Typically, people get anywhere from five to 16 treatments, spaced a week or so apart.

What shouldn’t I do after microdermabrasion?

There is no recovery period after microdermabrasion, so you can return to your normal activities anytime. It is important to wear sunscreen, as your skin will be more sensitive to the sun after treatments.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Microdermabrasion overview.

  2. Kravvas G, Al-Niaimi F. A systematic review of treatments for acne scarring. Part 1: Non-energy-based techniques. Scars Burn Heal. 2017;3:2059513117695312. doi:10.1177/2059513117695312

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Microdermabrasion: FAQs.

  4. Kołodziejczak A, Wieczorek A, Rotsztejn H. The assessment of the effects of the combination of microdermabrasion and cavitation peeling in the therapy of seborrhoeic skin with visible symptoms of acne punctata. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2019;21(5):286-290. doi:10.1080/14764172.2018.1525751

  5. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What are the risks of microdermabrasion?

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.