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Microdermabrashion | In Office vs At Home

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Microdermabrasion at home or in the office can have some benefits for your skin! Read more to understand the procedure as well as how to navigate at-home kits and devices.



What is physical exfoliation?

Physical exfoliants are products that work by manually removing excess oil, sebum, dirt, and debris of the skin with an abrasive or gritty quality. This can be achieved through the addition of granules, sugar, seeds, or nutshells to a cleanser or devices such as loofahs, brushes, or microdermabrasion kits. The goal is to help shed or remove the buildup on our skin directly.

What is microdermabrasion?

The term microdermabrasion is intended to refer to a closed loop vacuum-assisted abrasive procedure.

How does microdermabrasion differ from other physical exfoliation options?

Most physical exfoliants work by solely by accelerating the process of shedding the superficial layers of skin. Microdermabrasion is considered a minimally invasive procedure. Although there are different ways the word microdermabrasion is applied by the industry, there is a true distinction that ought to be acknowledged from other methods of physical exfoliation. Microdermabrasion is meant to encompass both physical exfoliation and some element of suction.

Microdermabrasion = Physical Exfoliation + Suction

The added element of suction helps create a polished appearance by vacuuming debris from the skin. It also assists in the process of exfoliation by potentially dislodging or disrupting the superficial layers of skin more effectively to help in the process of exfoliation. The actual process of exfoliation is usually achieved with crystals circulating through the device or with an abrasive diamond tip.

What is microdermabrasion used to treat?

Microdermabrasion alone is focused on exfoliation of the most superficial layer of the skin, the stratum corneum. This process can either directly assist in managing some skin conditions OR it can assist in helping topical therapeutics penetrate the skin more effectively to accelerate or facilitate delivery of the medication to the skin.
Microdermabrasion has been studied to benefit the management plan when added for a variety of skin conditions that include:
  • Striae distensae (Stretch marks)

  • Acne / Acne scars

  • Melasma

  • Actinic damage (Sun damage/Photoaging)

Have there been any actual changes to the skin after microdermabrasion at a microscopic level?

Interestingly, in spite of the focus of this procedure at the level of the stratum corneum, there have been some notable changes in the skin noted after this procedure.
  • Increased collagen density

  • Less pigmentation and evenly distributed melanosomes

  • Decreased oil or sebum

How is microdermabrasion performed?

Although minimally invasive, microdermabrasion does involve a disruption of the cutaneous surface. The following steps are taken:

  1. Gently cleanse the skin

  2. If the device uses crystals, moist gauze is placed over the eyes to avoid contact of the crystals with the eyes. The newer devices use a diamond tip to minimize the risk of crystals irritating the skin or potentially the eyes.

  3. The machine is turned on building a vacuum in the tip. The tip is applied to the skin creating negative pressure to gently pull the skin to make direct sustained contact with the device tup.

  4. The skin debris is suctioned into a collection unit as the tip is gently glided over the skin. Three passes are generally made if the skin can tolerate it.

  5. A wet washcloth or gauze is gently wiped across the skin followed by a moisturizer to add hydration to the skin. I tend to prefer lightweight moisturizers such as hyaluronic acid.

Treatments can be performed every 4 to 6 weeks.

Are there any risks to microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is generally regarded as a safe and well-tolerated procedure with very little to no downtime.

Remembering that this is an abrasive procedure, there is a risk for infection. If you have had a history of fever blisters or cold sores or herpes simplex, it is important to pre-medicate with an antiviral.

There is a case report of a woman developing an infection with Mycobacterium abscessus after the use of an at-home device.

Is there a difference between in-office and at-home microdermabrasion?

When having microdermabrasion in a dermatologist or spa you can generally be assured that the procedure is likely true microdermabrasion with vacuum assistance.
At-home kits are challenging to navigate as there are several topicals and devices that reference themselves to be microdermabrasion, however, there is no vacuum assistance in the process.
  • This is technically not microdermabrasion if you come across a cream that references itself as microdermabrasion. It is physical exfoliation with a gritty product but if there is no vacuum or suction that is all it is.

  • This is technically not microdermabrasion if you come across a device without suction or vacuum that references itself as microdermabrasion. It is physical exfoliation with a device (similar to using a skin brush or loofah) but if there is no vacuum or suction that is all it is.

However, there are several at-home vacuum-assisted devices to consider. The benefit of at-home microdermabrasion is the frequency at which this procedure can be performed. This could assist in the management of medications for acne, melasma, and photoaging.



Are there any at-home microdermabrasion devices you would recommend?

I was recently asked to offer some of my top recommendations for at-home microdermabrasion kits.
I’m a fan of these as several studies have shown that these kits are effective and can be used safely. The most important thing to look for with these kits is the vacuum aspect of the system to ensure that there are elements of both exfoliation and suction to enhance the removal of dead skin cells from the surface.


This device has the benefit of multiple tips for various skin sensitivities. It also has a couple of speeds that can assist your exfoliation experience!


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