Understanding Microdermabrasion

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 21, 2009)

Microdermabrasion—sounds scary, doesn't it? Cutting to the chase, microdermabrasion is exactly what it suggests: the removing of part of your skin (derm) by tiny (micro) abrasive items (abrasion). It is tantamount to using very, very fine sandpaper to finish wood and give it a smooth surface.

That may sound like a strange comparison, but it is very appropriate. Microdermabrasion done professionally uses very small crystals of abrasives such as aluminum oxide, sodium chloride or sodium bicarbonate to break up the topmost layer of your skin.

Your skin is made up of two general layers: the dermis and the epidermis. The epidermis is closer to the outside world (it is the part you feel when you touch your skin), and it protects the lower dermis. The top layer of the epidermis, called the stratum corneum, consists of dead cells that act as a shield and barrier to the lower layers of skin. Skin cells are always progressing from the dermis to the epidermis as they age, and they finally slough off your skin naturally.

In a microdermabrasion process, an abrasive compound is placed on your skin and then, with the aid of some sort of mechanical device (in the case of professional treatments), used to grind off the cells of the stratum corneum. This grinding may be done for practical reasons, such as removing built-up skin cells in a callous that are not sloughing off naturally. It may also be done for cosmetic reasons, in an effort to rejuvenate skin and make it appear younger.

It is this latter instance in which many beauty seekers are interested. Microdermabrasion is used to remove the stratum corneum because that is the layer of skin where minor skin imperfections occur, such as fine wrinkle lines, sun damage, and blemishes. If the layer is removed, then the imperfections are removed, as well.

Besides removing small imperfections, many people feel that microdermabrasion makes their skin have a younger, youthful "glow." This is because if you remove the stratum corneum, your body sees that as a mild injury and attempts to replace the lost skin cells with newer, healthier ones. The newer, fresher skin cells give a different look than the older, dryer (and deader) cells that were removed.

Although there are home kits you can use, it is usually best to get microdermabrasion treatments in a professional spa or dermatologist's office. Treatments generally run about $100 to $200, and you will need two or three treatments per year. The home kits are about half the price of the professional treatments, and they may not give as good of results as you would like.

Some people have had some side effects from microdermabrasion. It is not unusual for there to be redness and mild swelling that can last from a few hours to a few days. In addition, because of the abrasive nature of microdermabrasion, the skin will be dryer than before. For this reason, treatments should always be followed with the application of some sort of moisturizer.

Not everyone is a good candidate for microdermabrasion. In general, you should be in good health and free of certain types of skin diseases. For example, people with warts, skin lesions, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, serious acne, herpes, lupus, or active rosacea should not receive microdermabrasion treatments.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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