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Microdermabrasion and Dermabrasion

By: Zoe Draelos, MD, and Peter T. Pugliese, MD
Posted: June 28, 2011, from the July 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
skin care client getting microdermabrasion

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In addition, as the skin ages, the bonds between the cells do break easily, and dead skin can accumulate. This is why exfoliation produces a benefit in mature skin. Microdermabrasion can return the skin exfoliation process to a normal rate if performed on a recurring basis. Between treatments, exfoliant-containing moisturizers with alpha or beta hydroxy acids can be used to maintain the result until the next microdermabrasion session.

Microdermabrasion is a valuable technique for the esthetician to master. It can be used in both young and old clients. Treatments result in improved skin texture, smoothness, pigmentation and possibly function, however microdermabrasion must be properly and safely performed.

Methods of performing microdermabrasion

There are a variety of different microdermabrasion machines that can be purchased. The typical machine blows out a particle and then sucks it up with a vacuum, making for a closed system. This is important because neither the client nor the skin care professional want to breathe the residue. Substances that can be used to bombard the skin and remove desquamating corneocytes include aluminum, silica—or sand—and baking soda particles. Aluminum was the first particle introduced in microdermabrasion machines, but is not used much presently because inhalation of aluminum is not safe. The particle can determine the aggressiveness of the skin removal, as well as the force by which the particle hits the skin.

Microdermabrasion machines come in several different models: those designed for unsupervised skin care professionals and those designed for use by medically supervised skin care professionals. Many machines have a key that allows the force at which particles hit the skin to be increased. Increased force makes for a deeper, more aggressive microdermabrasion. This can make the treatment produce more noticeable results, but also increases the risk of problems, such as wounding and scarring. It is best to use the machine in the safe range at all times, and schedule more frequent microdermabrasion treatments to produce more dramatic results.

The microdermabrasion particulate is blown out on the skin though a wand, known as the handpiece, which emits the particles that are then collected by a vacuum suction device to prevent inhalation and the particles from covering the entire treatment room. Because the old particles contain pieces of removed skin and cannot be reused, they must be either discarded or sterilized. The use of contaminated particles can spread disease and is not an acceptable practice. The handpiece area that makes contact with the client’s face must also be thoroughly cleaned after each use.

The handpiece is moved over the entire face to achieve the microdermabrasion. The length of time the handpiece is left in one location and the number of times the handpiece is moved over a given location are also factors in determining the depth of the microdermabrasion. Some areas of the face, such as the central face, can be treated more aggressively, while the lateral areas of the face along the jawline tend to be more sensitive and should be treated more gently. The amount of dead skin removed from each area of the face may need to be tailored for the expectations and skin needs of each client.

Selecting a machine with various power adjustments provides the flexibility that the skin care professional needs to customize client treatments. The machines that operate within the physician-supervised realm may be too aggressive, producing irritation and other medical problems. More is not necessarily better when it comes to microdermabrasion. Key elements to consider in selecting a machine are ease of use, expense of consumable materials such as the particulate, ease of handpiece sterilization and versatility. A comfortable machine to use will provide many years of service.

Infusion microdermabrasion

One of the newest additions to microdermabrasion is the infusion system. Infusion microdermabrasion involves the same principles as traditional microdermabrasion, but after the desquamating corneocytes have been removed, liquid is applied to the surface of the skin automatically by the machine. Because the skin is more permeable once the skin cells have been removed, the absorption of the substances applied to the skin is greater. This is good in that increased efficacy may be obtained, but bad in terms of increased incidence of allergy if the client is allergic to one of the ingredients in the infusion.