Microdermabrasion: How Does it Work?

There are always new beauty trends and technologies on the market, but how many of them do you really understand? The thing is, by not researching these news things, you might be missing out on something which could really help you attain the appearance you’ve always wanted!

Not so much a new kid on the block, but a misunderstood kid, is microdermabrasion.

Not many people really understand what microdermabrasion is, and the end of the word, ‘abrasion’, tends to put people off. Don’t be put off! Microdermabrasion isn’t painful, it doesn’t involve inflicting wounds, and it’s actually extremely effective and useful for a variety of skin conditions and problems.

So, let’s discover more about microdermabrasion, including what it is, what it does, how it works, and how it might help you.

What is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion can be done either at home with a machine, or at a salon. It is the process of exfoliating the skin using very small crystals, effectively removing the top layer of dead skin cells and impurities. By doing this, you’re allowing a brighter, smoother layer of skin underneath to come to the fore, but it’s actually much more detailed than that.

Microdermabrasion doesn’t use a scalpel, no knives, no needles, no chemicals, and nothing artificial at all. Microdermabrasion is actually very natural, and that is why it is suitable for most skin types. There are the odd anomalies here, e.g. certain severe skin conditions, so it is worth having a chat with your doctor before you opt for microdermabrasion, if you do have any skin conditions you’re concerned about. Overall however, most people are able to use this treatment quite easily.

Prior to microdermabrasion, we have dermabrasion, which was quite harsh and wasn’t suitable for everyone as a result. Microdermabrasion is its much more gentle family member, and doesn’t require any anaesthetic or numbing at all.

Having been popular since the 1990s, many salons began offering microdermabrasion on their treatment menu, but this means scheduling in appointments around your busy life, and paying for treatments which have to be regularly spaced out over a period of time. Not everyone can afford this time or money, and that is why at home dermabrasion kits have become very popular over the last few years.

These machines have really developed in technology and quality, and they are now on part with salon quality machines, provided you shop around carefully and read results. Of course, you will need to pay for the machine as an outright cost, but after that you do not need to pay again, which cuts out the recurring costs from salon appointments. The downside is obviously that you need to teach yourself how to do the treatment, but these machines are so easy to use, that it is rarely a huge problem.

What Conditions Can Microdermabrasion Help With?

Microdermabrasion is, as we mentioned, suitable for most skin conditions, but there are certain conditions which it is particularly useful for. You can use microdermabrasion on the face, neck, or on the body, e.g. to target stretch marks, however it is most commonly used on the facial area.

The conditions which microdermabrasion can help with include:

Acne or Skin Prone to Blackheads

The exfoliation procedure and suctioning of debris from the skin can help to clear up skin which is prone to blackheads and acne. The procedure also boosts the amount circulation to the skin, which brings fresh nutrients and oxygen. This all helps to reduce the appearance of blackheads and pimples, as well as the excess oil which can lead to acne breakouts. Pore size is also gradually reduced, because the debris is no longer there.

Acne Scarring

Severe scarring may not see much improvement from microdermabrasion, but mild to moderate scarring could. Superficial scars, e.g. those which are on the surface and not too deep are very amenable to microdermabrasion, and the extra circulation, collagen, and elastin which is delivered to the skin as a result of the procedure, will help with healing.

Visible Signs of Ageing, e.g. Lines And Wrinkles, Sun Damage And Age Spots

This is one of the main reasons why people opt for microdermabrasion, to help reduce the signs of ageing. Fine lines and wrinkles are very treatable using this method, because the process helps to boost the amount of elastin and collagen in the skin, thus pluming out lines and wrinkles and leaving behind a more youthful, glowing canvas. Age spots can also be very successfully treated with regular microdermabrasion.

Hyper-pigmentation

If you have uneven pigment on your face or other part of your body which bothers you, microdermabrasion could help to even out that hyper pigmentation and improve skin tone overall. In addition skin texture is improved, which will add an extra dimension to your benefits. This is all yet again down to the improved collagen supply and better cell turnover, to wave goodbye to any damaged or old cells.

Stretch marks

We mentioned that you can use microdermabrasion on other parts of the body besides the face and neck, and stretch marks are the main reason for this. The appearance of stretch marks can be reduced, due to extra circulation and nutrients being delivered to the area, as well as more collagen and elastin, which helps to keep the skin more supple overall. You may need to use other creams applied in a topical manner, and have a few sessions of microdermabrasion before you see huge results, but they will come over time.

What Are The Benefits of Microdermabrasion?

We’ve talked about the conditions which can be helped with microdermabrasion and explained a little about how this comes to be, but what are the main benefits of microdermabrasion for all? You don’t necessarily have to have a specific skincare issue to make use of this technology.

These are the main benefits of microdermabrasion:

  • Removing dead skin cells and brightening up the complexion
  • Improves blood circulation to the area, as well as lymphatic circulation too (which runs below the skin’s levels). This delivers more fresh nutrients and oxygen to the skin and improves healing, cell turnover, and elasticity within the skin
  • Helps to boost the effectiveness of skincare products by up to half, by making skin more receptive to them
  • Clearing debris and unclogging pores can help to reduce the size of pores visibly, and also help with skin hygiene, due to the unblocking process
  • A quick (usually 5 minutes with an at home machine) and easy procedure which has many benefits
  • No chemicals used, and no invasive tools, e.g. needles or scalpels, which makes it a safe option overall
  • No downtime required and no medications required, e.g. anaesthetic

Is Microdermabrasion Painful?

If you find microdermabrasion painful, you’re doing it wrong! Microdermabrasion is not painful. The first time you have a treatment you may feel very slightly uncomfortable, but that it the maximum you should feel. Your skin may have a slightly tight feel afterwards, but this should relieve itself after a few hours.

Those who have sensitive skin may notice a very small amount of bruising after the first treatment, but this should disappear relatively quickly, and as the skin becomes use to the treatment, it shouldn’t occur again. This could also be a sign that the suction setting is on too high, so this is something to bear in mind if you’re using a microdermabrasion machine at home yourself.

How Does Microdermabrasion Actually Work?

To give you the most simple explanation, before going on to a more in-depth look, microdermabrasion works in a two-phased method. First, very small crystals are transferred onto your skin via a machine, and these work to exfoliate your skin’s top layer. Just like when you exfoliate the old fashioned way, these remove the dead skin cells, but to a much greater level. The second phase is a vacuum or suction setting, which will suck away the debris and old skin cells which the first phase removed, and leave behind a clear, new, gleaming canvas!

That’s the quick and easy way to explain the process, but we need to really understand how the machine works, in order for you to be able to be confident to use one at home, or to go to a salon with confidence.

Microdermabrasion machines are very high tech, and you can buy a good quality machine for home use which is on par with what you will get in a salon these days. As we mentioned before, you will need to shop around, read reviews, and know what to look for, but once you’ve done that, you can be sure of great results.

A quality machine will have several settings, and it will be easy to use too. The hand-held part of the machine should be ergonomically designed, e.g. it should fit into the palm of your hand very easily and be lightweight, so you can concentrate on what you’re doing, without feeling uncomfortable. The reason there should be several settings is because everyone has different skin. The settings are normally in the suction area, and if you have sensitive skin, and you use the suction setting on too high, you’re going to end up with bruising. Being able to turn the setting up or down means a machine is more suitable for different skin types overall.

The machine itself works just as we mentioned above, but there are two methods to the first exfoliation phase. You will find a crystal tip or a diamond tip.

A crystal tip machine will fire small crystals at your skin in a high pressure fashion, which are made up usually of aluminium oxide, or sodium chloride. A diamond tip is a probe or wand device which you literally draw over your skin. The difference is that the diamond tip doesn’t ‘fire’ crystals at your skin, so it is considered cleaner and more accurate, and you have more control over where you are going on your skin.

Once the exfoliation part is done, you will select your vacuum (suction) setting and you will remove the dead cells and debris via the machine. Again, select the level of suction to suit your particular skin type, and to avoid bruising.

Some newer, and more in-depth machine has a third phase to the treatment, which apply a product of some kind to your skin. This could be a moisturiser, for example. The idea is that after the treatment, your skin is more amenable to these types of products, however you should be careful what you use, as your skin has just undergone a treatment and may be more sensitive.

What Results Can I Expect, And How Quickly?

Everyone is different, so you should bear that in mind when measuring results. Having said that, most people notice some change after the first treatment, e.g. the skin may appear brighter, and blackheads will be gone. If you are using microdermabrasion to treat a particular skin condition, you should give it a little more time before you expect big results to come your way.

Depending upon your skin type and the condition you have, you will probably need anywhere between 5 and 8 rounds before optimum results are seen. You will probably then require the odd maintenance treatment from time to time, to keep your skin clear and blemish-free. Do not overdo microdermabrasion however!

The best advice is to go by what a salon would suggestion, and that is normally between 6 to 10 sessions, which take place over up to two weeks. Again, after that you might find you need maintenance treatments, once a month or so.

One treatment should take you around 5 minutes, however if you’re targeting larger areas, e.g. stretchmarks on the legs, it might take a little longer, with an hour being the maximum time.

Are There Any Side Effects of Microdermabrasion?

If you have any severe skin conditions, speak to your doctor before using microdermabrasion. Other than that however, there are no severe side effects of note. Your skin may feel a little tight afterwards, and if you have the suction setting on too high, you might notice slight bruising. You should also make sure that you use sun protection and moisturiser afterwards, and avoid wearing make up for the 24 hours afterwards, to allow your skin to recover.

Overall, microdermabrasion is a safe, effective, and very cost effective way to not only maintain your skin’s condition, but also help with a wide range of skin conditions, including anti-ageing.

Microdermabrasion: How Does it Work?
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Joao Vasconcelos

Joao is a health and fitness enthusiast and creator of one of the leading fitness blogs in Brazil. With a unique focus on weight loss, Joao is an advocate of functional fitness training and has his own line of natural weight loss juices.

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