There is nothing more fashionable now days that a Microdermabrasion treatment or a peel because they are quick, cheap and you can see results right away. They leave our skin looking bright and young reducing fine lines and superficial scarring. Both are non-invasive procedures with little downtime. So what can be wrong with that?
What is Microdermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion is a procedure in which the top most layer of the skin, the 'Stratum Corneum', is buffed away. The Stratum Corneum is made of dead skin cells and it acts as a barrier from the elements, protecting the deeper layers of the skin from sun damage and environmental pollutants, and conserving moisture.
By removing the layer of dead skin cells many superficial blemishes such as some pigmentation, scars and fine lines are diminished revealing a smoother and brighter new skin. Another advantage of this treatment is that by removing the natural skin barrier it facilitates the absorption of serums and skin care products into the deep layers of the skin.
Please note that only very superficial scars and lines will become softer. Freckles and sun spots may fade but you will need more than one treatment. Melasma is very difficult to treat, specially if caused by hormones, so it is unlikely to be affected.
You need to be aware that the Stratum Corneum protects you from the sun. So after it is removed your skin will be extra sensitive to UV light and if you don't keep away from the sun and use a daily sunscreen you may end up with more pigmentation than what you had to begin with.
How does Microdermabrasion work?
Microdermabrasion uses a machine to blast aluminum oxide crystals onto the skin causing an abrasive action. An attached suction device vacuums the dead skin cells and used crystals at the same time.
This machine has the disadvantage that you breathe in some of these aluminum oxide crystals which may contribute to asthma and other health problems later on.
The crystals can also get in your ears and eyes causing scratches and discomfort. Newer Microdermabrasion machines use a diamond tip instead of the crystals, which is gentler on the skin and has less risk of side effects. If you are thinking of having this procedure done, I would recommend you to find a clinic or salon that uses diamond tip.
Is it painful?
The procedure only lasts 20 to 30 minutes for the face and there is no pain, however you may feel a warming or tingling sensation. After the procedure, your skin may be a bit swollen and red but these symptoms should clear in one or two days, depending on the person.
What are Glycolic Peels?
Glycolic peels work in a similar fashion to Microdermabrasion. However, instead of using a physical abrasion it uses glycolic acid derived from sugar cane to dissolve the stratum corneum. During the procedure you will experience a mild burning sensation and your skin may present erythema (redness) for one or two days.
Would you recommend these treatments?
As a beautician I do not like these treatments because they are too harsh on the skin and tend to damage the water-proofing barriers of the live cells underneath the Stratum Corneum. I instead recommend a peel using Lactic Acid which has been described as a cool peel because it gently exfoliates the top most layer without burning the skin. Lactic Acid also has the advantage that the results are easier to control and there is no danger of overdoing it. The beautician can vary the level of exfoliation by applying one or more layers of lactic acid or leaving it on for longer, depending on the client's skin condition.
Dangers of Microdermabrasion and Glycolic Peels
Microdermabrasion and Glycolic peels should not be done more than once a month because with overuse there is the risk of thinning out of the skin, developing skin sensitivities, breakouts, and pigmentation.
There have been numerous cases of people undergoing these procedures who have reported getting broken capillaries, persistent flushing, pigmentation and even developing Rosacea as a result of the treatments.
In some cases, it is possible that these side effects may have been caused by sun exposure after the treatment. I can't emphasise enough how important it is to keep out of the sun for at least two days after the procedure and use sunscreen SPF15-30 all the time, even on cloudy days, for at least one month.
Even if you have not undergone any of these treatments, and if you really care about your skin and want to maintain it healthy and avoid premature aging, you must do this for life: Keep out of the sun and use sunscreen everyday.
Microdermabrasion and glycolic peels are not recommended for people with the following conditions:
- broken capillaries or vascular problems
- active cold sores
- eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis
- people on certain medications such as roaccutane or blood thinning drugs
- immune system disorders