Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive, mild exfoliating procedure that is done on an outpatient basis at doctor's offices, cosmetic surgery centers and beauty spas. If you've never had a microdermabrasion session, you may be wondering what's involved and why so many people choose this skin exfoliation treatment. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions that can help you decide if this procedure is right for you.

How much skin does microdermabrasion remove?

Done properly, this treatment should take off only the very outer layer of the epidermis. This layer is called the stratum corneum. It is made up of dead skin cells. Since no little or no living tissue is removed during this type of skin exfoliation, it is not as irritating to the skin as deeper treatments like laser resurfacing or chemical peels.

What skin problems can microdermabrasion treat?

The main skin issues microdermabrasion addresses are:

  • Dull skin tone
  • Age spots
  • Uneven skin coloration
  • Rough skin texture
  • Fine lines

A thick layer of dead skin cells on your face can make these signs of sun damage and aging more apparent. Exfoliating the dead skin reveals fresh, new skin underneath.

Can microdermabrasion shrink my facial pores?

Some patients report that their pores appear smaller after microdermabrasion. This treatment doesn't actually shrink pores, but it can help unclog them. This makes skin look clearer and more even.

I have acne. Am I a good candidate for microdermabrasion?

Many patients do use this treatment for skin flaws such as mild acne. Microdermabrasion is only suitable for treating acne patients with an outbreak of white heads and black heads but not too many red and infected pustules. The procedure could make moderate-to-severe acne worse by increasing skin irritation and spreading the surface bacteria (p. acnes) that cause outbreaks.

What are the different kinds of microdermabrasion?

There are two basic categories of equipment used for this procedure. Traditional machines blow a stream of tiny crystals (usually aluminum oxide) onto the skin. These crystals gently scrape away the dead skin. A wand is used to vacuum up the skin debris and used crystals. As an alternative, some cosmetic surgeons use a small tool that spins a diamond encrusted buffing attachment to exfoliate dead skin. The outcome is similar for both types of equipment, although some providers prefer to use the diamond tipped equipment for patients with sensitive skin.

Is microdermabrasion only for patients with light skin?

No. Unlike many chemical peels, this skin exfoliation treatment is used successfully on patients of all skin tones. You do need to tell your cosmetic surgeon if you have a history of:

  • Sensitive skin
  • Rosacea
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Hypertrophic or keloid scarring

These issues may make you a poor candidate for this procedure since microdermabrasion can increase inflammation and lead to unwanted pigment changes.

Can I have microdermabrasion at any time?

It's not necessarily a good idea to just walk into a salon and ask for this treatment. It's best to have a professional consultation first. Depending on your daily skin care regimen, you may need to make a few changes to prepare your skin. This could include temporarily stopping the use of harsh exfoliating scrubs or retinol and glycolic acid products that can make your skin sensitive. Sun exposure and waxing are other activities to avoid prior to treatment.

Can I wear makeup after treatment?

Yes. Patients can typically apply makeup immediately after their skin exfoliation session since the skin has not been broken. You may find that mineral-based makeup is most comfortable since it can be brushed onto the skin rather than being rubbed in.