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Find out how you can improve the surface of skin with microdermabrasion.

Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic particle resurfacing procedure designed to improve the appearance of skin by reducing fine lines, sun damage, acne and uneven pigmentation. This nonsurgical, nonchemical procedure is a relatively new procedure that has become quite popular in the United States. It has been used in Europe since the early 1990s and first became available in the United States in 1998.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), in 2007 microdermabrasion was among the top ten surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures among women and men alike, with more than 800,000 procedures performed that year. Microdermabrasion has been known by a number of names, including power peel, derma peel and the brand name Parisian Peel. Because a microdermabrasion treatment generally takes 30 minutes to an hour, it has also been called a "lunchtime peel."

Microdermabrasion Procedure

The procedure is generally considered safe, effective and painless. Microdermabrasion can be performed at dermatologists' and plastic surgeons' offices or even by aestheticians in spas and salons. Patients undergoing microdermabrasion don't require anesthesia, as the only sensation they'll experience during the treatment is mild tingling. The person performing microdermabrasion uses a handheld electronic device that applies fine crystals to the client's skin. The abrasion removes the dead surface skin cells and dirt, which are then suctioned away by the device along with the used crystals.

After microdermabrasion, patients experience only mild redness, which subsides after a few hours. They can return to their normal daily activities and start wearing makeup immediately.

Microdermabrasion exfoliates the skin and cleans the pores, leaving the skin with a healthy glow. For best results, however, anywhere from five to ten treatments are typically recommended. Sometimes additional periodic treatments are needed to maintain the skin's healthy appearance. In some cases, microdermabrasion is prescribed along with other cosmetic treatments like light chemical peels.

Conditions Treated by Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is usually performed as a facial treatment, but it can be used to rejuvenate the skin on other parts of the body, including the neck, chest, hands and shoulders.

Be aware that microdermabrasion isn't a cure-all for all type of skin conditions. Microdermabrasion is an effective method for treating and preventing acne. Generally, microdermabrasion is an effective treatment for the following conditions:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Sun-damaged skin
  • Enlarged pores
  • Acne
  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Mild acne scars
  • Superficial age spots
  • Broken capillaries
  • Mild hyperpigmentation
  • Oily or dry skin patches

Some doctors recommend microdermabrasion for reducing skin bumps known as keratosis pilaris and to improve the appearance of stretch marks.

Conditions Untreatable through Microdermabrasion

There are several conditions that microdermabrasion can't treat. Typically, microdermabrasion isn't effective at eliminating deep acne scars, extreme discoloration, or deep wrinkles around the mouth or on the forehead. It is also not recommended for treating fine lines around the eyes, as the skin surrounding the eyes is too delicate for the crystals used in microdermabrasion. Microdermabrasion is not effective at removing skin growths.

Just about anyone with any skin type can undergo microdermabrasion. Patients with certain skin conditions, like some keratoses or evolving dermatosis, shouldn't have microdermabrasion, however. The same holds true for patients who are taking the acne drug Accutane. While microdermabrasion is safe, it's always a good idea to consult with a doctor or dermatologist before scheduling microdermabrasion treatment. A doctor can review a patient's medical history and might recommend a practitioner who can design an individualized treatment plan.

Microdermabrasion Costs

The cost for microdermabrasion varies depending on where the procedure is performed and how many treatments are prescribed. The cost for one microdermabrasion treatment can range from $75 to $200. Sometimes, microdermabrasion is sold as a package of sessions at a discounted price rather than one session at a time.

Microdermabrasion might be a good choice for people looking for a relatively safe and effective way to treat acne or improve the overall look of their skin. For more information on microdermabrasion, check with a doctor or other healthcare professional, or contact professional organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology or the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

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