If you’ve ever attempted to intensify your glow via the hands of a professional, you’re likely familiar with microdermabrasion. The spa-level treatment involves lightly resurfacing skin with an abrasive surface to help treat fine lines, reduce the size of pores, and improve skin health. It’s a fairly easy procedure that can be performed on your lunch break and amp up your radiance in thirty minutes flat. To sum it up, there’s a reason why “microdermabrasion” is so heavily featured in interviews where celebrities reveal their skincare secrets.
What you may not have realized, though, is that the “micro” part of microdermabrasion implies that there is a more intense version of the treatment out there that delivers even more major results. Enter dermabrasion, which may be prescribed in situations where significant results are necessary.
Dermabrasion is essentially microdermabrasion’s much, much more hardcore cousin. "Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure in which a high-speed burr is used to sand down the skin for comprehensive resurfacing,” says New York-based, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Darren Smith. He notes that it is very useful for deep wrinkles, especially around the lips. He adds, “It is also one of the most effective treatments for a potentially disfiguring skin condition called rhinophyma, which is a severe form of rosacea characterized by a red, bumpy nose.”
Karen Asquith, G.M. Collin® National Director of Education and Aesthetician elaborates, explaining that dermabrasion is a deeper exfoliation than microdermabrasion. “Microdermabrasion is more of a surface peeling to remove the skin cells on the upper layers of the skin that are close to dying or already dead,” she shares, noting that in contrast, a physician generally performs dermabrasion on skin that is deeply scarred or has lines. After one treatment, scarring and wrinkles can be greatly diminished. “However, the downtime is not always desirable or possible for some to fit into their lifestyles.”
That downtime can be significant: dermabrasion requires anywhere from 10 days to six weeks of downtime to recover from. (In contrast, microdermabrasion rarely has any downtime at all — you might experience a little redness or sensitivity, but other issues are uncommon.) There can be bleeding or infection associated with dermabrasion, which means anyone with bleeding problems, conditions that prevent them from undergoing anesthesia, or inflammatory or infectious disease conditions should stay away.
[Editor’s note: Dermabrasion isn’t for everyone, so be sure to tell your licensed provider if you’ve taken acne medication or have a personal or family history of forming keloid scars, as well as if you have acne or other skin conditions, herpes, or any type of burn scars.]
Does not imply person featured in the photograph had either the dermabrasion or microdermabrasion treatment.
Your skin’s tone and thickness could also be a disqualifier. “Anyone with extremely thin skin or with a darker complexion may not be a good candidate for dermabrasion as permanent discoloration of the skin may occur,” says Asquith. “Those that are prone to keloid scarring, have herpes simplex, have acne pustules, and have taken acne medication in the past year may not be good candidates.” There’s also a risk of infection with dermabrasion, as it removes the upper layers of the skin, leaving your face raw and easily exposed to bacteria. “Diligent post care is extremely important to minimize the risk of infection and ensure proper healing,” she adds.
With that in mind, dermabrasion should not be undertaken lightly. "Dermabrasion offers serious results, but it is a serious procedure,” says Smith. "It should only be performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon or board-certified dermatologist.” He also notes that it is best done under anesthesia.
If you’re not someone who needs the significant corrections that dermabrasion can offer, microdermabrasion may be a better option for you. As previously mentioned, it’s a more surface-level treatment, making it beneficial to a larger number of people facing different complexion issues. “Microdermabrasion benefits many skin types as an anti-aging procedure to [improve] fine lines and wrinkles,” says Asquith.
"Microdermabrasion is so much more popular,” adds Smith. "First, this is something that almost anyone can benefit from: who wouldn't look better with brighter, more youthful skin?” (It’s also a wonderful option for men as well as women — it’s on our Most Man-Friendly Treatments list for a reason.)
Smith continues, “Second, it is much more accessible: it is less expensive, and it is widely offered in medspas." You can even DIY microdermabrasion with a tool like the Silk’n Revit® Microdermabrasion Device ($99). Granted, an at-home device won’t be as strong as the technology administered by an esthetician, but with consistent use can still make a difference in your skin.
Dermabrasion is a fairly major procedure on par with plastic surgery, so it’s important to consult a licensed provider (maybe even two) to ensure that you’re a candidate for the treatment. In the meantime, there’s always microdermabrasion.
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