Microdermabrasion was first introduced in 1985 by Marini and Lo Brutto as a less aggressive alternative to chemical peels and dermabrasion. Today, it’s one of the most common and widely available cosmetic procedures performed in the United States. In fact, the global microdermabrasion devices market is estimated to grow at a CAGR above 8.6 % over the forecast time frame of 2019 to 2026 and reach the market value of around USD 650 million by 2026. The main driving force behind this statistic is that consumers are continually seeking out the best anti-aging procedures.
Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a slightly abrasive tool to gently remove the stratum corneum — the outer layer of the epidermis — though it’s been proven to affect the deeper layers of the epidermis and dermis as well. This popular treatment can improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage, age spots, melasma, acne scars, and other skin concerns.
The average cost per treatment is between $75 and $100. However, patients typically need between five and twelve sessions (spaced two to three weeks apart) to achieve their skincare goals, and microdermabrasion results vary from person to person. However, since the skin regenerates itself every 30 days, microdermabrasion effects are only temporary, so they’ll have to be repeated over time. Since it’s a cosmetic procedure, insurance typically doesn’t cover the costs.
Additional costs include after-care, such as specific cleansers, masks, and moisturizers. Between the financial commitment as well as the need to make regular in-office visits, it’s no wonder there’s been a growing popularity for microderm at home. But is it as effective as a professional treatment — and how is it conducted? All the answers you need lie ahead.
Several notable anti-aging benefits are associated with microdermabrasion, especially to the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer. Eventually, it becomes thicker since new skin cells are being generated at an expedited rate. These cells are larger, thus giving the skin a more plump appearance. Even more, the cells in the deeper layers of the epidermis intertwine together much like a basket weave, so they can better support the skin. Collagen and elastin fibers are also increased, which gives the skin more tone and resiliency. Additional microdermabrasion benefits include:
- Intense exfoliation resulting in fresh, glowing skin
- Softened fine lines and wrinkles
- Reduced pore size
- Elimination (or improved appearance) of blackheads
- Effective treatment for acne*
- Reduction in the appearance of acne scars
- Improved appearance of hyperpigmentation and age spots
*Note when it comes to microdermabrasion for acne, the procedure should be reserved for mild breakouts and comedonal acne only. It’s not a good option for inflammatory acne because it can exacerbate the condition.
Is Microdermabrasion Safe?
As with all cosmetic procedures, there are some risks to consider, but yes, generally, microdermabrasion is deemed to be safe. Common side effects include moderate tenderness, swelling, and redness, all of which typically dissipate within a few hours after treatment. Though less common, minor bruising can occur due to the suction action during the procedure.
Is At-Home Microdermabrasion Effective?
Here’s the thing: Despite microdermabrasion’s popularity as an in-office treatment, there still isn’t substantial research on its effectiveness. It’s still a widely debatable topic amongst skincare professionals, including cosmetic surgeons. With that said, there’s even less research on the efficacy of at-home microdermabrasion. Even so, of the small number of viable studies, microderm has been proven to have a clinically significant impact on revitalizing the skin’s appearance. Research also demonstrates that at-home microdermabrasion is an efficient exfoliation technique, though still less effective than an in-office treatment.
Microdermabrasion Results: Professional VS At-Home
As much as most of us would like to dodge an ongoing financial commitment and having to pencil another appointment on our calendars, there’s no doubt that professional microdermabrasion is advantageous over at-home scrubs and tools. For starters, the procedure is conducted by a licensed, experienced dermatologist or esthetician who can craft the perfect treatment plan to target your skincare goals and concerns effectively. With at-home microdermabrasion, you’re accountable for performing the treatment correctly. Next, the tools used during the procedure are more powerful, which means you’ll see both immediate and cumulative results.
The intensity of the procedure depends upon the pressure applied on the handpiece, along with the duration of time the suction (safely) remains on the skin. There are a few different devices used during a microdermabrasion treatment, including:
- Crystal Microdermabrasion: This type of MDA relies on the power of a handpiece that gently mists fine crystals (typically aluminum oxide and sodium bicarbonate) on the skin to remove the outer layers. The dead skin cells are immediately suctioned off.
- Diamond-Tip Microdermabrasion: In this case, a diamond-tip handpiece tool gently exfoliates the skin, and again, dead cells are instantly suctioned off. This method is typically used on sensitive areas such as by the eyes.
- Hydradermabrasion: Newer to the scene, this method merges dermal infusion of skincare products and crystal-free exfoliation at the same time to encourage collagen production and increase blood flow.
Additionally, professional microderm can be combined with other treatments, such as chemical peels, dermabrasion, and dermaplaning, to improve their effectiveness.
Microdermabrasion VS Chemical Peel
Chemical peels are solutions that are applied to the skin by a dermatologist or esthetician to reduce the appearance of age spots and wrinkles via chemical exfoliation. There are various peel grades depending on whether you’re looking for a light, medium, or deep exfoliation. Some peels just target the epidermis (outer layer of skin), while those targeting wrinkles like marionette lines go deep into the dermis, the middle layer of skin.
The peeling process typically begins 48-72 hours after your treatment and can last anywhere from 2-5 days. It’s imperative not to pick at your skin as you can cause damage such as scarring. Applying a gentle moisturizer regularly is the best thing you can do to keep flakes at bay while protecting delicate skin. As with microdermabrasion and other dermatological treatments, you have to keep up with your peels if you want to maintain the results, so plan on getting a peel monthly.
Microdermabrasion VS Dermabrasion
Make no mistake: Microdermabrasion is not the same as dermabrasion, a more aggressive procedure that requires significant downtime and aftercare. While the benefits are similar to a chemical peel, the method is different. Dermabrasion requires a high-speed, hand-held revolving brush to remove the top layer of skin.
Microdermabrasion VS Dermaplaning
Dermaplaning is a popular procedure for treating deep acne scars. It involves a hand-held device called a “dermatome,” which looks a lot like an electric razor. A vacillating blade gently shaves off the top layers of skin that harbor around the craters that reside due to a bad breakout.
While a microdermabrasion facial treatment at-home may not be as effective as an in-office procedure, it doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time. Just make sure you don’t have lofty expectations for the results you can achieve — a microdermabrasion scrub is pretty much like a glorified version of an exfoliant. Here are some of the best topical treatments and tools to help revitalize your skin’s appearance.
Formulyst Microdermabrasion Exfoliator, $75
A skin-refining superstar, Formulyst’s Retexturizing Microdermabrasion Exfoliator is formulated to gently exfoliate built-up layers of dead skin to expose the younger, more vibrant-looking skin beneath. Fine aluminum oxide crystals effectively remove dirt, excess oil and dead cells, while nutrient-rich Jojoba Oil, Red Tea Extract, Apricot Kernel Oil, Squalane and Hyaluronic Acid deeply nourish and soothe newly exposed skin, optimizing renewal and revealing smoother, perfect-looking skin with less visible lines and wrinkles.
Carrot & Stick The Brightening Pads, $40
Reveal a fresh, smooth, and radiant complexion with these pre-saturated pads. A concentrated blend of salicylic, lactic, and mandelic acids sweeps away the build-up of dead skin cells, gently exfoliating to promote clarity, refine texture, and rid pores of impurities. Herbal extracts fight visible photodamage and help keep the appearance of redness in check. Resurfaced skin is smoother, brighter, and more receptive to products. Formulated with love for normal, dry, oily, and combination skin.
Derma E Microdermabrasion Scrub, $26
This award-winning dermatologist favorite is formulated with a blend of sea salt and fine crystals that sweep away dead skin cells to help diminish the appearance of roughness, fine lines, acne scars, and dullness. Found in high-end spas and dermatologist offices, you can give yourself a professional-like treatment at-home.
DERMADoctor Physical Chemistry Facial Microdermabrasion + Multiacid Chemical Peel $75
Remember how we said one of the benefits of professional microdermabrasion was the ability to combine it with another treatment such as a peel? Well, this at-home treatment tries to mimic similar results (on a less robust level, of course.) Formulated with glycolic and lactic acids, botanical extracts, and azelaic acid, fine lines, large pores, texture, and discoloration are improved with regular use.
Neutrogena Microdermabrasion Starter Kit, $20
Inexpensive yet effective and highly rated, this at-home microdermabrasion facial system includes12 single-use puffs filled with pre-dosed ultra-fine crystals and purifying ingredients to encourage a radiant complexion. There’s also a hand-held massage applicator that relies on micro-vibrations to help the skin look and feel firmer, brighter, and healthier.
Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Age-Defying Exfoliator, $79
Formulated for all skin types, this microdermabrasion scrub targets everything from dullness and uneven texture to fine lines and wrinkles to acne and blemishes, thanks to aluminum oxide crystals’ power and lactic acid. The addition of aloe vera and chamomile extracts helps soothe and calm the skin.
Dr. Denesse Firming Facial Microdermabrasion Cream, $49
This dual-phase delivery cream works like a chemical peel (glycolic acid) and a physical microdermabrasion scrub/micro-polish all in one. A more fresh, radiant complexion is evident with immediate use, in which fine lines, uneven skin tone, and large pores are diminished over time.
Darphin Age-Defying Dermabrasion, $85
An impressive 91% of the ingredients in this microdermabrasion scrub are of a natural origin (think pearl, lava, silica). The formula is creamy, so it’s gentle enough for even those with sensitive skin to tolerate. Along with minimizing the appearance of fine lines and large pores, it also detoxifies the skin and restores radiance.
At-Home Microdermabrasion Machine
PMD Personal Microderm Pro, $199
The PMD microdermabrasion machine combines a patented spinning disc technology with a correctly measured vacuum suction to mimic in-office procedures (including their results) as best as possible. It comes with a full range of caps to target specific areas of the face and body. You’ll see a reduction of enlarged pores and fine lines when (regularly) used every week.
Michael Todd Beauty Sonic Refresher Wet/Dry Sonic Microdermabrasion System with MicroMist Technology, $99
What makes this at-home microdermabrasion machine stand apart from the others is the wet mode that releases a hydrating mist during the exfoliation and powerful suction processes. The system includes three different treatment heads that vary in size and strength and three-speed settings that you can choose depending upon your skin type and condition. It’s USB rechargeable, which makes it convenient for both home and travel.
Trophy Skin RejuvadermMD Handheld Microdermabrasion System, $199
This exfoliation and suction system promises softer, more radiant skin in just five minutes and reduces sun damage, age spots, and mild acne scars with time. While results vary from person to person, clinical studies have shown a reduction of wrinkle depth, pore size, blemishes, and texture with regular use.
Silk’n ReVit Microdermabrasion Device, $99
The ReVit device touts results in as little as one week, depending on your skin’s current condition. Its gentle microdermabrasion exfoliation and vacuum techniques effectively remove dead skin cells, improve texture and tone, fade discoloration and minor acne scars, and soften fine lines over time.
Microderm GLO Diamond Microdermabrasion Machine and Suction Tool, $199
The GLO system claims to be the only at-home microdermabrasion machine with a patented “Diamond Safe 3D Suction Technology” to ensure you won’t experience any facial cuts or bruising. The company even offers a “softer skin in four minutes” guarantee — to the point that you can receive a full refund if you’re not satisfied. Does it really work? Close to 1,600 near five-star reviews say yes.
While there’s little to no downtime after professional and at-home microdermabrasion, be sure to keep your skin hydrated and protected during the day by wearing sun protection with a minimum SPF of 30 since it will be more sensitive to the sun’s rays.
The Bottom Line
Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a slightly abrasive tool to gently remove the stratum corneum (the epidermis’s outer layer). In many cases, the deeper layers of the epidermis and dermis as well. This popular treatment can improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage, age spots, melasma, acne scars, and other skin concerns. As much as most of us would like to dodge an ongoing financial commitment and to pencil another appointment on our calendars, there’s no doubt that professional microdermabrasion is advantageous over at-home scrubs and tools. While a microdermabrasion facial treatment at-home may not be as effective as an in-office procedure, it doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time. Just make sure you don’t have lofty expectations when it comes to the results you can achieve
“Microdermabrasion,” NCBI, May 2020.
“Microdermabrasion Devices by Market,” Acumen Research and Consulting.
“How Much Does Microdermabrasion Cost?,” CostHelper Health.
“Microdermabrasion,” National Library of Medicine, September 2005.
“Dermabrasion and Microdermabrasion,” National Library of Medicine, December 2009.