That old acne scar from high school, newly forming or lingering wrinkles, or even the dreaded "crow's feet" look can take hours and hundreds of dollars of makeup to cover up — and with limited success. However, a rapidly growing trend among many Americans is a simple procedure known as microdermabrasion, which has been proven effective in reducing the appearance of these and many other unpleasant skin problems. Not to be confused with dermabrasion, or a chemical peel, microdermabrasion is non-invasive, quick "lunch-hour" procedure that almost always requires little to no recuperation time.


Clinical acceptance of this procedure has grown since microdermabrasion machines were approved by the FDA in 1996. With virtually no side effects or lifestyle interruptions, the availability of the process has multiplied, and centers providing this treatment have begun popping up in many cities. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported that microdermabrasion was the fourth most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure in the United States in 2009, with as many as 825,000 Americans choosing to have this minimally-invasive cosmetic procedure in 2010.

What to Expect During a Microdermabrasion Treatment

The technique itself is quite simple, and there is no anesthetic needed. A hand-held device uses aluminum oxide crystals, or even in some cases, bits of diamonds to lightly remove the surface of the skin, hence the "abrasion" nomenclature. Historically, the crystals have been placed on the patient with a special pressurized nozzle and then removed, however, some physicians are moving toward using devices that suction the debris from the patient to provide a more targeted approach to problem areas. The outer layer of the skin is exfoliated, leaving a new, almost pink-colored facade, which can have a similar appearance to that of a sun burn. Similarly to a burn, the skin may peel slightly following the procedure. This irritation typically can take anywhere between two and 24 hours to subside completely. According to a study out of the Archives of Dermatology, the microdermabrasion procedure works because it encourages the growth of collagen, skin's main structural protein, and is needed for any type of molecular change.

The individual microdermabrasion treatment can take between 30 minutes to an hour, making it easy to fit into a busy schedule. It's also an extremely cost effective cosmetic procedure, costing around $80 to $200 per session.

Who Does Microdermabrasion Work For?

It has been proven that microdermabrasion is effective on all skin colors and types, but it is most effective on people who already have good skin tone. It is also extremely helpful for anyone with sensitive skin or who cannot have or does not want a chemical procedure, as most people have little-to-no reaction to the microdermabrasion procedure.

Frequency of Treatment

Patients should not expect to see immediate results following the initial treatment. Each patient normally needs between five and 12 sessions to see her desired results and will need to adopt new individualized skincare regimens that can include daily moisturizers, cleansers and sunscreen. These factors can be viewed as major drawback to the procedure and can spread the process out over many weeks until the skin achieves the desired effect. It is important to keep these dates adequately spread out to allow the raw skin an adequate amount of time to heal. To keep the fresh-faced glow that's achieved during this first batch of treatments, regular maintenance sessions can be needed thereafter.

Ultimately, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, this is a temporary fix. While there are many businesses offering this type of procedure, when handled incorrectly, microdermabrasion can actually increase skin damage, so it is best to see a licensed dermatologist or skin-care professional.