Microdermabrasion risks are typically minimal. This non-invasive cosmetic treatment consists of a gentle exfoliation of the skin and does not penetrate into the dermis. In fact, the procedure is only designed to remove the very outer layer of dead epidermal skin cells (stratum corneum). This is the layer of skin that tends to accumulate readily visible signs of sun damage such as dullness, age spots and fine lines. This layer is shed on a regular basis anyway, so abrading it away simply speeds up the natural process. However, microdermabrasion complications do sometimes occur. Some skin types are more sensitive than others and certain medical conditions can increase microdermabrasion risks. Here are some of the potential side effects of this procedure.

Microdermabrasion Risks During Treatment

Microdermabrasion uses either a spray of powdered aluminum oxide crystals or a diamond-tipped buffing tool to remove dead skin. The procedure may cause some mild discomfort or itching in especially sensitive areas of skin. However, pain during the procedure is not normal and may be a sign that the crystals are penetrating too deeply into the skin. This can cause minor bleeding under the skin from tiny, broken blood vessels (petechiae). These injured areas may look like tiny red, purple or brown spots under the skin.

Harsh treatment may also result in scrapes, burns and bruises. These complications may occur if the machine is set to a higher level than is appropriate for your skin type and the area being treated. Other procedural risks include infection from improperly sanitized equipment or injury from crystals getting into the eyes. These problems only occur when the procedure is not performed correctly. Having your treatment done at a specialist's office (either a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon) decreases the risk of these microdermabrasion complications. Staff in medical offices may be more likely to receive proper training and supervision than those working in spa environments.

Post-Procedure Microdermabrasion Risks

Redness and dryness similar to a mild sunburn are normal after microdermabrasion. However, these symptoms should fade over the next 24 to 48 hours. Patients with very sensitive skin may experience ongoing or severe redness accompanied by irritation and discomfort. The risk of hyperpigmentation (prolonged redness or the development of brown spots) is highest if you don't use appropriate sun protection after the procedure. It's best to stay out of the sun completely for the first two days after treatment. Use a UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF over 30 daily to reduce the risk of unwanted pigment changes. Exfoliating scrubs and skin creams like Retin-A that increase the sensitivity of the skin can increase the risk of irritation. You should not use these in the days leading up to your microdermabrasion treatment or the week after.

Who is a Poor Candidate for Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion risks are highest for patients who have pre-existing skin conditions. If you tend to get keloid or hypertrophic (raised and deeply pigmented scars), you should avoid this treatment. Viral infections in the skin like herpes (cold sores) or HPV (warts) could be triggered or spread by microdermabrasion. The risk of irritation and potential bacterial infection is higher for patients with moderate to severe acne if treatment is done during an outbreak. Patients with rosacea, eczema or psoriasis may be poor candidates for microdermabrasion.