Saturday, May 23, 2015

Microdermabrasion Q & A + one client’s experience (and it’s not a good one!)

This procedure should be termed microepidermabrasion. Micro means very small or involving minute quantities or variations; derma refers to the dermis or inner layers of the skin, but in the case of microdermabrasion it is—hopefully—only affecting the epidermis or outer skin; abrasion means to wear away by friction, through abrading.

I would like to know how you feel about microdermabrasion. I am 35 years old and fine lines are starting to show, especially around my mouth (smile lines) and forehead. Do you think products would work just as well? The procedure is quite costly, $900 for 6 treatments. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it or not. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Microdermabrasion is expensive, yet it is a superficial exfoliation of the outer skin. Anything more than that would not be allowed to be performed by a mere aesthetician. It can help to reduce the appearance of the fine lines, but not the actual lines themselves. Keeping your skin regularly exfoliated at home can help you achieve similar benefits as microdermabrasion at a fraction of the cost.

I asked this reader if she exfoliated at home, and her answer was no. She had tried Retin-A, but it burned her skin and made it peel, so she stopped using it. She wasn’t actively exfoliating (vs. passive exfoliation like AHAs or Retin-A) on a regular basis—or at all. She wanted to stop wearing foundation but was having a hard time getting used to not wearing it.

I would recommend exfoliating at home first before you invest in microdermabrasion. This way you can find out the benefits of regular dead skin removal, which reveals soft, supple skin underneath.

I know many people enjoy the benefits of microdermabrasion, but I also have heard stories—firsthand accounts—from some of my clients about negative experiences with this procedure. Following are a few client’s stories.

Gowri’s microderm story. I came into the facial room to see my client who hails from India. Gowri has beautiful light brown skin, and like many darker skinned people, she has some trouble with hyperpigmentation. She went to investigate microdermabrasion to see what all the fuss was about and had an unfortunate experience.

Apparently the aesthetician working on Gowri’s skin was a little overzealous in wanting to get rid of her dead skin. There was a pimple in the middle of Gowri’s forehead, a spot that had been there for a while, and it resisted leaving (clearing).

Perhaps in an attempt to “get rid of” the blemish, the aesthetician must have kept the microdermabrasion machine on that spot for a long time because what she actually did was create a hole in my client’s skin! I couldn’t believe it! Not only was there a visible hole, but since Gowri is from India, she is prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This shows up as dark brown spots at the site of inflammation or infection. In Gowri’s case, she had a medium-sized dark spot at the site of this hole left by the microdermabrasion treatment. 

Over time the skin healed, and because Gowri was diligent about sunscreen and covering her face in the sun, the dark spot went away as well. Both of these processes took some time, but I am happy to report her skin looks great. Needless to say, Gowri won’t be getting any more microdermabrasion treatments.

Another client of mine who likes to experiment with new and different procedures tried microdermabrasion. She said it actually hurt, and now she has red patches on her cheeks from the treatment. I have been giving her facials for over 10 years, and her skin is very delicate and sensitive. She is not a good candidate for any kind of abrasive procedures or products; no wonder she didn’t enjoy microdermabrasion.

I have had one microdermabrasion experience. I asked the aesthetician to only exfoliate one half of my face (left or right side). Although she didn’t know I, too, was an aesthetician, I’m sure she found my request quite odd. I told her (and this is true) that I wanted to be able to see and feel the difference from the microdermed side and the side without the procedure.

My experience, although limited, is this: My skin on the side that received the microdermabrasion felt very sensitive for several days after the facial. Honestly, I couldn’t feel any appreciable difference in texture from one side to the other. But the sensitivity the exfoliated side felt was enough to keep me from having this procedure done again. My skin, by the way, is not what I would describe as sensitive.

Microdermabrasion isn’t for everyone. I encourage all my clients to experiment and see what works best for them. Microdermabrasion isn’t—or shouldn’t be—any more than superficial exfoliation, so it should be a safe procedure. However, any treatment given by someone who is unqualified could turn out to be disastrous, so be sure if you do get microdermabrasion you are going to someone who knows about skin and all the possible effects of this procedure—not just the benefits.

Microdermabrasion is fairly commonplace in many facials today and it is also a safe procedure (unless you have an aesthetician who doesn’t understand skin or how to use the machine). I still think microdermabrasion is too expensive for what you get. Doing your at-home exfoliation (especially utilizing Yonka’s gommage) can, in my opinion, give you similar results without compromising the health of your skin or your wallet.

For more information, see: