What Is Microdermabrasion?

How to prep for treatment and what to expect before and after

Microdermabrasion is a dermatological procedure that gently removes the top layer of skin. It is used to even out skin tones, fade acne scars, and brighten a dull complexion. 

Microdermabrasion is commonly performed by a dermatologist or esthetician. The procedure takes about 30 minutes and may be combined with other treatments. It typically does not hurt and may require several treatments to reach your desired effects.

This article explains microdermabrasion, including types of procedures, what it is used to treat, and what to expect during treatment sessions. It also includes details about how to prepare for a microdermabrasion session and how to care for your skin after.

Woman having microdermabrasion treatment done.

Grogor Bister / Getty Images

What Are the Types of Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a professional procedure that can be done by dermatologists and estheticians. There are two main types of microdermabrasion procedures—crystal microdermabrasion and diamond microdermabrasion. Both are used to exfoliate the skin thoroughly.

During crystal microdermabrasion, microfine crystals are shot from a small tube onto your skin and simultaneously vacuumed back up. Think of this as working like a high-powered scrub.

Diamond microdermabrasion is a crystal-free version that uses a diamond-tipped wand to exfoliate instead.

Both forms of microdermabrasion have many benefits. Just one microdermabrasion treatment leaves the skin feeling soft, smooth, and radiant. A series of treatments can improve skin's texture and tone. It can also reduce fine wrinkles, sun damage, acne/acne scars, enlarged pores, and even stretch marks.


Click Play to Learn All About Microdermabrasion

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

How Long Does a Treatment Take?

The actual microdermabrasion procedure is quick—it takes just 15 to 30 minutes. Your technician will lead you to the treatment room, where you'll change into a gown and lie down on the bed.

Your technician will cleanse your face to prep your skin before doing the microdermabrasion procedure. After crystal microdermabrasion, they'll cleanse your face again to clean away any stray crystals. Follow up with an application of moisturizer and sunscreen, and you're done.

Many salons, day spas, and medi-spas will also incorporate microdermabrasion into a complete facial treatment. In this case, you'll also be treated to a mask and facial massage. For this, expect to spend about 60 to 90 minutes in the treatment chair.

How Much Does It Cost?

Depending on where you live and where you have your treatment done, the cost can range from $75 to upwards of $300 per treatment. If you go to a posh salon in an affluent area and opt for the works facial treatment, expect to pay a premium for your microdermabrasion.

If, instead, you opt for no-frills microdermabrasion at the local salon, your cost will be on the lower end of the scale. Shop around. The highest-price treatment isn't necessarily the best, but bargain-basement-priced procedures should be looked into skeptically.

How Many Treatments Are Needed?

How many treatments you will need is completely dependent on what your end goal is. As a one-off spa treatment, a session will leave your skin looking bright and feeling buttery soft.

But if you're looking for improvement of a specific skin problem, you really need a series of treatments to see any positive effects. The results you get from microdermabrasion are cumulative.

Generally, six to 10 treatments are scheduled seven to 14 days apart. The number and frequency of treatments vary depending on your skin’s needs and your skincare goals. The technician doing your procedure will let you know the best treatment schedule for your specific situation.

Does Microdermabrasion Hurt?

The thought of having crystals blasted onto your skin or a diamond-tipped wand dragged across your face seems brutal. But it really isn't as bad as it sounds. Some people liken the feeling to the rough lick of a cat's tongue. Others describe it as a gritty facial massage or report feeling just minor tugging on the skin.

However it's described, you needn't worry. Because it works on just the surface layers of the skin, microdermabrasion isn't painful.

If your technician is being a bit heavy-handed for your liking, let them know. Your microdermabrasion treatment should not be uncomfortable.

How Do I Prepare Before Microdermabrasion?

The microdermabrasion process can be hard on your skin. If your skin is irritated before treatment, your provider may want to postpone the procedure.

Do not get microdermabrasion if you currently have:

  • An active cold sore outbreak
  • Moderate to severe acne
  • An open wound or other skin irritation. 
  • A rash
  • Rosacea
  • A suspicious mole
  • Sunburn

If you have taken the acne medication isotretinoin in the past six months, you should wait to have a microdermabrasion treatment.

A few precautions to take in the two to three days before your treatment include: 

  • Avoid aspirin and aspirin-based medicine
  • Do not wax the treatment area
  • Stay out of the sun to avoid a sunburn
  • Stop using exfoliating products, Retin-A, and glycolic acid 

Unless otherwise instructed, avoid using topical treatments on the morning of the appointment. If possible, come to the appointment with a clean face without makeup.

Are There Risks to Having Microdermabrasion?

When performed by a dermatologist or certified esthetician, microdermabrasion is generally safe. If not performed properly, there is a risk of scarring. Side effects of microdermabrasion are temporary and include: 

  • Bruising 
  • Dry or flaking skin
  • Increased sun sensitivity that can last several days
  • Mild abrasions
  • A recurrence of cold sores

What Can I Expect After Treatment?

Because it works on the very surface of the skin, there are few issues in terms of microdermabrasion side effects. However, tenderness, swelling, or minor bruising can occur. Typically after treatment, your skin will be a bit pink. This usually fades within a few hours.

For a day or so afterward, it might feel like you have a minor sunburn. Otherwise, you'll be able to go about your day right after your treatment without anyone any wiser about what you've done.

Acne treatments, toners, and medicated cleansers will probably burn or sting if you apply them right after a microdermabrasion treatment. You may want to hold off using them for a day.

Makeup, moisturizers, and non-medicated cleansers can usually be used right after treatment with no problems.

You'll definitely need to use sunscreen. You'll be a bit more susceptible to sun damage after treatment. (But you're already using sunscreen daily, right?)


Microdermabrasion can improve your skin's appearance by gently removing the top layer of skin. It can be done with crystals or a diamond-tipped wand to exfoliate your skin.

The procedure usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. It can cost between $75 to $300 per session. You may just have one session or up to 10 treatments scheduled a week or two weeks apart.

Microdermabrasion should just feel like a gritty face massage or minor tugging. If it's uncomfortable, let your technician know. Afterward, you may have some tenderness, swelling, or minor bruising. Remember to wear sunscreen afterward to protect your new skin.

A Word From Verywell

Microdermabrasion is a very safe procedure for most people (although there are some people who should not have a microdermabrasion treatment). Microdermabrasion is a valuable skincare procedure, but it isn't a miracle cure for all problems. It won't treat deeper lines and wrinkles or acne scars.

Prior to treatment, talk about your skincare goals and expectations so that you and your technician are on the same page. This will ensure you walk away from your treatment happy with the results.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do microdermabrasion results last?

    It depends. Results are usually temporary, but they may last longer if you protect your skin from the sun. Follow-up treatments are usually needed to help you maintain results.

  • What does microdermabrasion do?

    Microdermabrasion removes the top layer of skin. This causes the skin to repair itself and stimulate the production of new cells. It also helps to boost collagen, a protein that helps smooth the skin.

  • How can you do microdermabrasion at home?

    You can find microdermabrasion machines as well as exfoliating scrubs either online or in cosmetics stores. These home kits help to gently remove dead skin cells. However, dermatologists' treatment can go a little deeper in the skin than home treatment.

4 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. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Microdermabrasion: FAQS.

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

  4. El-Domyati M, Hosam W, Abdel-Azim E, Abdel-Wahab H, Mohamed E. Microdermabrasion: a clinical, histometric, and histopathologic studyJ Cosmet Dermatol. 2016;15(4):503-513. doi:10.1111/jocd.12252

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