What Happens During the Procedure?

Diamond microdermabrasion skin face therapy in beauty spa
 RobertoDavid/Getty Images

Microdermabrasion is an incredibly popular treatment at the day spa, salon, and dermatology clinic alike. Before you book an appointment and sit down in the treatment chair, though, learn more about microdermabrasion, how it works, and what to expect from your first treatment.

What Is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure used as a facial rejuvenation tool. There are two main types of microdermabrasion techniques: crystal and diamond tip. In both techniques, a technician uses a machine to rapidly exfoliate the skin's surface removing the outermost layer of skin cells. The treatment is not painful, and there is no recovery time. Your skin may be a bit pink afterward but this quickly fades. You're left with a smoother, softer face and glowing complexion.

Microdermabrasion treatments can be performed at the skin spa, salon, medi-spa, and at your dermatologist's office.

What Happens During a Microdermabrasion Treatment?

Here's what to expect during your microdermabrasion treatment: The technician gently drags a handheld wand over your skin. For a crystal microdermabrasion the machine emits fine crystals through the wand, almost like a gentle sandblasting of the face (strange imagery for sure, but it's the same concept). For diamond tipped microdermabrasion, the abrasive tip of the wand is used to physically abrade the surface cells, in place of the crystals. For both treatments the exfoliated particles are simultaneously vacuumed away using the same wand.

Although it sounds brutal microdermabrasion is a non-invasive, and a painless, procedure. You'll feel the abrasive texture and suction from the wand as it passes over the skin, but because it's only working on the very surface of the skin it doesn't hurt. People often describe the sensation as being massaged with powerful facial scrub, or even liken it to the rough lick of a cat.

The main benefits of microdermabrasion are that it's quick, it's inexpensive compared to other skin rejuvenation procedures, and there is no down-time. You can have a treatment done during your lunch hour and head back to work directly afterward.

Don’t confuse microdermabrasion with dermabrasion, though. They may have similar sounding names but the procedures are vastly different. Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure done by a physician to treat acne scars (among other problems) and works on much deeper layers of the skin.

Does Microdermabrasion Work?

The answer to this question really depends on the results you're hoping for from the procedure. Microdermabrasion has many benefits, cosmetically speaking.

Microdermabrasion originally was developed as an anti-aging treatment. Microdermabrasion deeply exfoliates, softens and revitalizes the skin. Even after the first treatment, you'll notice your skin looks and feels softer and smoother. After a series of treatments, you may notice a softening of fine lines and sun spots or age spots.

The procedure has become really popular among people with acne and uneven skin tone, too. As an acne treatment, it's best for those with mild breakouts or comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads). Microdermabrasion helps clear out the pores and reduce non-inflamed blemishes. It won't clear up moderate to severe acne, though. For that, you'll need a stronger acne medication, one that you can use every day to help get acne under control.

In fact, if your acne is inflamed, you should forgo microdermabrasion. It can make your breakouts even more irritated and inflamed.

And what about for acne scars? Microdermabrasion can also help fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. But, as far as more serious acne scars go, if you're hoping microdermabrasion will get rid of them you'll be disappointed. Microdermabrasion can't improve pitted or depressed acne scars.

So, does microdermabrasion work? Yes, as long as you're realistic about what this procedure can really do.

When you're ready for a microdermabrasion treatment, call your local salon or day spa, medical spa, or dermatologist office. The pros there will let you know if microdermabrasion is a good treatment option for you.

A Word from Verywell

Microdermabrasion is an effective cosmetic treatment that can help brighten and soften your complexion. Although it's generally a very safe procedure, there is a possibility of side effects, most commonly redness and dryness. The technician doing your procedure will let you know what to expect in the way of side effects. It's also important to answer your pre-treatment consultation questions thoroughly and honestly because some medications will make it more likely for you to experience these side effects.

No matter what, you should feel comfortable with the person doing your microdermabrasion. If you have any questions about your treatment, or if you have any discomfort during the treatment, speak up and let your technician know. Even more importantly, if you are under a dermatologist's care make sure to get the OK before sitting down for a microdermabrasion treatment. 

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Article Sources
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  • El-Domyati M, Hosam W, Abdel-Azim E, Abdel-Wahab H, Mohamed E. "Microdermabrasion: A Clinical, Histometric, and Histopathologic Study." Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2016 Dec;15(4):503-513.
  • Fernandes M, Pinheiro NM, Crema VO, Mendonça AC. "Effects of Microdermabrasion on Skin Rejuvenation." Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2014 Jan;16(1):26-31.