Microdermabrasion 101: What You Should Know

516338991Perhaps it was in a magazine, at your dermatologist or at the spa, but surely you have bumped into the the term “microdermabrasion” by now.

It is becoming one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the nation. If you’re wondering about the appeal… it’s painless, non-invasive and performed without anesthesia. It’s also suitable for almost everyone.

And yes, in this instance “everyone” includes African-Americans.

What Is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion, simply summarized, is abrasive skin polishing. Normally, polishing conjures that act of applying a liquid or cream to a smooth surface and buffing it to a shine. In this case, the ultimate goals are smooth, fresh skin, but the method is a bit different.

This skin resurfacing procedure involves using a machine that sprays crystals against the skin. As the wand is moved across an area of the body, the crystals blast away the outer layers of skin. At the same time, the spent crystals and loosened skin are collected through a vacuum.


With the dried, damaged outer layers of skin blasted off, an improvement is seen in both the texture and appearance of the skin, creating an effect of rejuvenation. The abrasion and suction are also believed to stimulate collagen, which is responsible for fighting wrinkles and maintaining a youthful appearance.

These are added benefits for most people who use the procedure to target specific problems such as:

• Reducing the appearance of stretch marks
• Reducing the appearance of or eliminating scars
• Reducing the appearance of enlarged pores
• Diminishing fine lines and wrinkles
• Improving signs of discoloration

Microdermabrasion can produce positive effects in each of these cases, but the degree of improvement depends on the severity of the problem. The procedure will not, for example, remove birthmarks or deep scarring.

What To Expect

If you make an appointment for microdermabrasion, the procedure will likely take 30 to 45 minutes. Since anesthesia is not used, the sensation of the process can be felt, but it is not painful. Some people compare it to the rubbing of an emery board.

Following the procedure, your skin may be red, but this discoloration usually disappears within hours. Even if your skin does not feel or appear sensitive, the removal of the outer layers make treated areas susceptible to sunburn. It is of utmost importance that you avoid direct sunlight and that you faithfully apply a broad spectrum sunblock before going outdoors.

To avoid disappointment, understand that this is not a one-time process. It may be necessary to get up to 10 treatments to achieve the desired results, though six is sufficient in many cases. Appointments may be scheduled every week to two weeks initially. Then, frequency may be reduced to every three to four weeks toward the end of the course of treatment.

Results are also affected by the quality of the equipment used. Microdermabrasion is conducted in spas and doctors offices. (There are also do-it-yourself home kits but these are drastically different). Both options can be effective to some degree, but the highest quality machines, which are found in doctor’s offices, are not usually available to spas.

Candidates and Risks

If you have a medical condition, you should consult with a dermatologist before having this procedure done. Certain conditions generally disqualify individuals as candidates for microdermabrasion. These include rosacea, psoriasis or keloid formation. People who were prescribed Accutane may need to wait up to a year due to skin sensitivity. Pregnant and nursing women are also advised to abstain because their hormones may affect results.

Otherwise, microdermabrasion is generally safe and can even benefit those with sensitive skin. There are minimal risks of discoloration or scarring. When these side effects are experienced, it is usually due to poor service delivery.

Although this procedure is suitable for almost everyone, different skin types require the machines to be set differently and different techniques to be applied. Side effects in African-Americans are commonly associated with excessive suction or moving the wand too slowly, not the procedure itself. This is why, as with all cosmetic procedures, it is best to make sure the professional providing the service has experience doing so for people of color.