Definition and Overview

Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive skin rejuvenating procedure that uses safe, non-allergenic microcrystals to strip dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. By doing so, it cleans and exfoliates the skin, clearing clogged pores and removing all traces of dirt and oil. As a result, it naturally and gently smoothens and polishes the skin.

Also known as a crystal peeling procedure, it is highly beneficial for those who want to get rid of minor facial imperfections to get smoother and healthier skin. It is also safe for most patients because, unlike chemical peels, it does not use any chemicals. Now being dubbed as an instant facelift, the procedure can take the place of Botox injections and other types of plastic surgery.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Microdermabrasion rejuvenates the general appearance of the skin by removing or reducing the appearance of common facial blemishes, such as:

  • Age spots
  • Blackheads
  • Hyperpigmentation, or patches of dark and discoloured skin
  • Stretch marks
  • Dull, tired-looking skin
  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Enlarged pores
  • Acne and acne scars
  • Rosacea, or the chronic inflammation of the skin causing redness and skin eruptions
    Aside from reducing the appearance of blemishes and signs of skin aging and damage, a crystal peeling procedure also promotes the growth of better, healthier skin. The skin that grows back following the said procedure has higher levels of elastin and collagen. Both give the skin its natural firmness and tautness. Unfortunately, collagen production decreases as a person ages, causing the skin to become loose and uneven. By promoting more collagen production, microdermabrasion can give patients a firmer, more youthful look.

Although similar in method with dermabrasion, this procedure is gentler, but it does come with some limitations. For fine lines, minor sun damage, and mild scars, a microdermabrasion may be sufficient. On the other hand, for deeper wrinkles and creases, facial folds, keloids, extreme sun damage, pock marks, and deep scars, other more invasive treatment options such as dermabrasion, facelift, chemical peel, or laser skin tightening are more appropriate. Microdermabrasion is also not capable of removing warts, moles and birthmarks, burn scars, and active acne, and should not be used by those who have an existing autoimmune disorder or diabetes.

The effects of a microdermabrasion can last for quite some time but eventually fade. Thus, many patients simply have the procedure done at least once a month.

How Does the Procedure Work

Microdermabrasion works by spraying microcrystals, or tiny drops of aluminum oxide crystals, on the surface of the skin then rubbing them deeper onto the skin’s surface to remove the uppermost layer of the skin, called the epidermis. The skin mistakes this action as a skin injury and therefore rushes to replace the injured skin with a fresh new one. In this way, the procedure encourages new skin growth.

Currently, there are two types of microdermabrasion, one that uses a handheld device to rub the tiny crystal particles on the skin’s surface and another one that uses a diamond-tipped wand.

While the device or wand strips off the dead skin cells, a vacuum mechanism attached to it suctions them along with the crystals. The process does not cause any pain, except for minor discomfort or mild sensations, and thus do not require any anaesthesia. Instead, patients are simply given numbing medication or drugs to help them relax before they undergo the procedure.

The duration of a crystal peeling procedure depends on the amount of facial imperfections that need to be removed, but is generally between 30 and 45 minutes. Patients are allowed to go home and to resume their normal activities immediately after the procedure, as there is no recovery downtime associated with it.

Possible Risks and Complications

Due to the possible risks and complications associated with the procedure, some patients may not be allowed to undergo microdermabrasion. These include pregnant women and patients who recently underwent a chemical peel procedure or a collagen injection. Dark-skinned patients are also advised to consider other skin rejuvenating options, as they face a higher risk of scarring and discoloration following a microdermabrasion procedure. Patients who recently received other facial treatments are asked to wait two to three weeks before they can safely undergo microdermabrasion.

It is normal for a patient to experience the following during and right after the procedure:

  • Mild scratching feeling while the doctor begins removing the superficial skin cells
  • Vibrating sensation, which is slightly similar to a massage
  • A suction, which effectively lifts off loose dead skin
  • Bruising, mainly due to the suction, that lasts for several days
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Flaking
  • Dryness
  • Erythema or skin redness
  • Edema or skin swelling
    To protect the newly treated skin following a crystal peeling appointment, patients are advised to use some sunscreen for the first few days especially when going out during the day. Patients are also advised to refrain from waxing and tanning the skin or using makeup during the first few weeks following treatment. For best results, dermatologists may also prescribe some special moisturizers to protect and enhance the results of the procedure.

The above effects, however, are all temporary and should subside on their own within a few hours, days, or weeks even without treatment. The redness usually takes longer and fades around six to eight weeks after the procedure.

However, microdermabrasion is still associated with some risks, such as:

  • Uneven colour changes
  • Scarring
  • Infection
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Irritation due to the crystals
    If any of the above symptoms is experienced, patients are advised to seek an appointment with their dermatologist.


  • American Academy of Dermatology

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