We have been sloughing away dead skin from our bodies for centuries. Exfoliating has long been (and still is) revered as one of the best ways to give skin a healthy glow. But nowadays, women are turning to ever-more advanced methods of exfoliating. One is microdermabrasion.
Microdermabrasion sounds kind of harsh – after all, it has the word "abrasion" built right into it. But in reality, is it just a different method for removing dull skin. Here's what you need to know about this new skincare treatment that has been called an "instant facelift" – with none of the surgery!
How does microdermabrasion work?
Microdermabrasion works by buffing away the top layer of skin using tiny, rough grains. The skin is has two main layers – the epidermis and the dermis. The dermis is the deeper part of your skin that houses things like sweat glands and even hair follicles. The epidermis is the outer layer of skin, which has a number of layers. The outermost layer is dead, and lies on top of of another layer of cells that are in the process of maturing.
That top layer is called the stratum corneum, and it is home to wrinkles, dark spots and other blemishes. It absorbs anything you put on your skin and many products travel even deeper into the younger levels of your epidermis. During microdermabrasion, the stratum corneum gets removed, which means the wrinkles, blemishes and other surface imperfections within the layer also get scrubbed away.
How is it different than regular exfoliating?
There are thousands of products that exfoliate – face washes, body washes and scrubs – containing everything from walnut shells to microbeads. Exfoliation will remove any clumps of dead skin or buildup on top of the stratum corneum but will not actually remove this outer layer.
Because exfoliating is gentler, it can be done regularly – even every day. Microdermabrasion, whether at home or at a spa, should be done much less frequently to prevent irritation and raw-feeling skin.
It can also be compared to a chemical peel. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion both remove that top layer of skin, but but the difference here lies in the substance used. Microdermabrasion uses an abrasive material, whereas chemical peels use a chemical like glycolic acid or salicylic acid to remove the skin.
What can I expect afterward?
When the outermost layer of skin is removed from your face, your body essentially treats it like an injury and rushes to replace the skin cells with new ones. That is why you might experience redness or swelling in the first hour after treatment.
After that, you can expect brighter skin that looks and feels smoother. Along with that top layer of skin went fine lines and some sun damage. You can also expect your night creams, eye creams and topical skin medications to work better, because they no longer have to travel through that top layer.
At the spa or at home?
Microdermabrasion first became mainstream as a treatment you could get at a spa, much like a peel or facial. However, now you can buy microdermabrasion kits and products to use at home.
At the spa or clinic, a professional would use a tool for the microdermabrasion process that shoots out tiny crystals to break up the outer layer of skin, then sucks up the dead cells and used crystals off your face.
When you use a microdermabrasion scrub at home, it can be just as effective. Essentially, these products use the same crystals or minerals, you just need to rinse away the dead cells and the crystals afterward. There are also brushes that help you get a spa-like outcome at home.