Microdermabrasion: Proceed with Caution

?Microdermabrasion is one of the most popular services done at skin care clinics, spas, and medical spas (medspas) today.? It is an electronic form of mechanical exfoliation that uses micro-crystals or crushed diamonds to essentially ?sand? the surface of the skin.? It also utilizes strong suction which helps remove even more dead cells and debris. The suction also gives a temporary plumping effect to the skin.

Microdermabrasion vs. dermabrasion

Microdermabrasion, which is performed by trained, certified, licensed aestheticians in a salon, spa, or medspa, is not to be confused with dermabrasion.? Dermabrasion is a process that is performed only by plastic surgeons and cosmetic doctors/dermatologists.? This process is very aggressive, and uses stiff wire brushes or diamond crusted wheels to remove the entire epidermis.

The purpose of this procedure is to completely resurface the skin, and is indicated for people with severe acne scars, visible sun damage, lines and wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation (age or sun spots).? It is a long and very uncomfortable recovery.

Microdermabrasion is different because it is far less aggressive, and only affects the most superficial layers of the skin.? It is usually performed in a series, sometimes in conjunction with a chemical exfoliation treatment protocol. There is typically no discomfort, and there is rarely any downtime, if any.

Benefits of microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is so popular because if offers fast, though temporary results.? Large pores can appear smaller, skin appears plumper and tighter, fine lines and wrinkles are less noticeable, and the appearance of scars, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage are improved. These results can be maintained, and sometimes improved upon with regular treatments.

Sounds great, right?

Not so fast.? Just because microdermabrasion does not need to be administered by a doctor or nurse does not mean it is without risk, or that it is for everyone.? There are many contraindications (existing conditions a person might have that could cause complications and adverse effects if the procedure is done) associated with microdermabrasion, just like with chemical exfoliation or electrotherapy.? It is imperative that you disclose your health history, as well as what medications you have taken recently or are currently taking.? Certain skin conditions like rosacea or broken capillaries are also contraindicated.? If your aesthetician, after reviewing your history and analyzing your skin, decides that microdermabrasion (or any type of aggressive exfoliation) is not appropriate for you, do not fight about it.? Just accept it, and discuss other available treatment options.

My first microdermabrasion experience

I once got a gift card to a spa that offered microdermabrasion.? Although I was young (mid to late twenties), I had some acne scars that I wanted to improve the appearance of.? After my first treatment, I was very excited. My skin looked smooth, supple, and the scars were less apparent. I had a second treatment done, this time by a different aesthetician.? She was quite a bit more aggressive with the suction on the machine and I actually had to ask her to turn it down. She gave me attitude about it, and said that if I wanted results I needed a stronger treatment.?This is WRONG.?I didn’t feel right about it then, and I never went back to her. After going through training for microdermabrasion (and other different methods of exfoliation), I know that her approach was completely wrong and could have caused permanent damage to my skin.

When it comes to microdermabrasion, or any other type of exfoliation, LESS IS MORE.

Too much suction and an overly aggressive technique will actually cause more hyperpigmentation and broken capillaries.? It will also create too much inflammation on the skin?more than your skin?s would healing process can handle.? This will do more harm than good, and the results are not reversible except with surgical intervention.

My experience with an overzealous aesthetician is not the only one I’ve encountered. You know how when you go to people?s parties and get-togethers you generally see the same people there, but you might not see them anywhere else? I have a good acquaintance that I only know from going to parties at my friend?s house. She was not at one of the most recent parties, though her husband and child were there. I asked her husband if she was home sick and he replied ?something like that?.

I saw her a couple of months later at another party at my friend?s house. I asked her what happened the last time. Without even knowing that I was in school for aesthetics, she told me that she had a very aggressive microdermabrasion treatment that left her with crust (scabs) all over her face for days. It was so bad that she could not wear makeup or go out in the sun until it healed. And like my situation, it was not her first treatment, and the damage was not caused by the aesthetician who performed the initial treatment.

The moral of the story?

Microdermabrasion is technique sensitive, just like chemical exfoliation and many other cosmetic and aesthetic procedures. This means that the safety of the procedure, as well as the results you will have, are dependent on the aesthetican?s skill level, philosophy towards moderate vs. aggressive treatments, and overall technique.

I went into school very gung ho about microdermabrasion, and I had a couple of treatments done at school, on a very light setting. I won’t have it done anymore though.

If you are considering microdermabrasion, consult with an experienced aesthetician, and have your treatments performed by the same aesthetician each time. That really applies to all facial treatments, even regular facials.

One more thing to consider?

Many microdermabrasion machines work by spraying microcrystals on the skin, and suctioning them up. There is research out there that suggests that the aluminum dioxide microcrystals (the most popular ones), when inhaled, get absorbed into the bloodstream and can become toxic. Aestheticians often wear masks when using these machines, but the client receiving the treatment cannot.

There are microdermabrasion machines that do not use crystals. Instead, they use wands with diamond-encrusted tips, in addition to suction.? These are the machines we had at school, and after experiencing both machines personally, I feel the diamond tip machine is just as effective as the microcrystal machine; and it is much safer.? If you are considering microdermabrasion, do your research to find out what salons or spas have the diamond tip machines.

And of course, ask for recommendations from friends for a good aesthetician who specializes in microdermabrasion. Ask lots of questions, be honest about your health and medication history, and follow your pre- and post-treatment home care instructions EXACTLY.? And I cannot stress enough the importance of sunscreen after microdermabrasion or any aggressive exfoliation treatment. These treatments make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again; PLEASE stay away from those at-home microdermabrasion kits.? You will waste your money, and could potentially cause permanent damage to your skin.


11 thoughts on “Microdermabrasion: Proceed with Caution”

  1. What are your thoughts on Dermae’s microdermabrasion? It has won numerous awards and continues to get a lot of excellent feedback. I personally love it, but of course I use it ever so gently twice a month only.

  2. Ingredient-wise it is fine, and I appreciate that the crystals cannot be absorbed by the skin, but generally I am not a fan of scrubs in general for the face. Very gentle use twice monthly should be OK as long as you are not doing any other exfoliation, including using products containing acids like AHAs or salicylic…and as long as you maintain the skin’s barrier at all other times. But honestly, it’s not my favorite thing. Most people think “more is more” with at-home exfoliation/microdermabrasion kits and that could not be further from the truth. You could really injure your skin and cause irreversible damage. I prefer that exfoliation be left to the professionals, with a few ingredient exceptions. Just my opinion…and this opinion is starting to be shared by others in my profession.

    1. So you don’t think The microdermabrasion machines for home are good? Also does it work for under eye wrinkles and can it make wrinkles worse?

      1. Hi Grace, no I do not think at-home microdermabrasion machines are good at all. No microdermabrasion (or exfoliation of any kind) should be done in the eye area either–it is far too harsh for that sensitive area and could cause serious damage.

  3. Pingback: When Hormones Attack: Melasma | Holistically Haute

  4. Hi there.
    I had a friend (trained in beauty therapy) perform microdermabrasion on my face 4 days ago, it was my first ever treatment and was absolutely excruciating (somewhere in between tattoo and labour pains). I do have a very high pain threshold. That night my face was filled with red scrathes and I have been on pain medication 4 hourly since. I still feel
    Like I want to scratch my face off!
    I would say the consistent pain would be the equivalent to a blistering burn. I have been unable to administer anything but ice. I have tried aloe, sunscreen and moisturiser but are all too painful,
    The scratches have now scabbed but what is more concerning is the many large dark pigments that have appeared. That I?ve never had before!
    I?m sure the swelling and discomfort will subside, however will the pigmentation disappear too, over time? That?s what I?m more concerned about.

    1. I’m so sorry that happened. Whether or not and/or when the hyperpigmentation fades depends on a lot of factors–your body’s ability to heal, your diet, sleep, stress levels, topical regimen–lots of factors. I would recommend working with someone for personalized advice. If you’re interested in working with me, you can book a Hash it Out session HERE.

  5. Stumbled upon this article, and felt compelled to comment based on my experience.

    Anybody with a history of broken capillaries should avoid microdermabrasion like the plague. I encountered a clinician that aggressively upsold the procedure, along with an extraction. My intention was just to have just a gentle hydrating facial treatment, which I had any problems with before. At the time I wasn’t aware of the risks, based on certain skintypes. When I entered the clinic I had no complexion issues – no broken capillaries, in good condition (no blocked comedones)

    This clinician was too aggressive with the head, and the suction. The result – a blotchy mess. Broken capillaries were evident the next day, after the initial inflammation had settled down. Two years later and my face still has the appearance of a mild, pink sunburn. This can be attributed to the telangiectasia caused by a mass of deep lying capillaries that were weakened & sucked to the surface.

    I’ll be spending nearly 2k soon, on of laser sessions, to repair or reverse the damage (caused by my microderm experience).

    1. I am so sorry to hear that that happened to you! Keep in mind that laser treatments might not give you the results you’re after–be sure you’ve done your homework on the type of laser and skill level of the technician you choose. Many of them do more harm in the long-term than good, and while you might notice a temporary improvement, new damage may be caused that will show up again later on. There’s more info about lasers in this article about LED light therapy (which you might want to consider if you haven’t already). Good luck!

  6. Oh my gosh, Rachel, you are so right!

    Stay away from home treatments!

    I did an at home microdermabrasion with the PMD device. First time with any kind of microdermabrasion. Apparently the suction was too strong or I went a little too slow across the cheeks. It definitely wasn’t the disc because I used the most mild disc, which they call the training disc. Now I have these red swollen track marks on both cheeks! They are covered in thick red lines.

    Is there anything you can recommend to help me heal? I’m freaked out!

    1. I don’t blame ty for being freaked out and I’m so sorry that happened! My recommendation at this point is to stop using anything on your face at all and see a doctor or licensed aesthetician.

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