Microdermabrasion is a safe, nonchemical, mildly invasive cosmetic procedure that generates a modest improvement in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Unlike more invasive treatments such as a chemical peel or dermabrasion, microdermabrasion can be completed in under an hour, causes no downtime and produces only mild, if any, side effects. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the "lunchtime peel."
Anatomy of a Wrinkle
By your mid-20s, the natural aging process begins to alter the skin's ability to renew itself. The production of collagen, the protein fibers that give the skin its structural support, begins to slow. The protein elastin, which gives the skin its springy, suppleness, also begins to deteriorate. The breakdown of these supportive elements allows wrinkles to form. In addition, external forces such as exposure to UV light, smoking and repetitious facial expressions can contribute and accelerate the intrinsic, biological forces that cause the aging of the skin.
To perform the microdermabrasion procedure, your dermatologist uses a special tool that shoots aluminum oxide crystals at the surface of the skin. This process loosens the dead skin cells that form the stratum cornium, the uppermost layer of the epidermis. The tool also has a suction component that vacuums up the crystals and loose skin cells. For best results, the American Academy of Dermatologists website recommends that this procedure should be repeated every week or every other week.
This procedure essentially removes the stratum cornium, revealing the younger, healthier skin cells underneath. However, because microdermabrasion does not reach the dermis--the lower level of the skin--it is unlikely to produce major changes in deep wrinkles. After repeated use, some patients notice a subtle improvement in the appearance of shallow wrinkles, such as those at the corner of the eyes. The procedure does cause the skin to produce more collagen, which can slow the development of more pronounced lines. Also, microdermabrasion treatments enhance the benefits of topical antiwrinkle medications by allowing them to more easily penetrate the skin.
An Aggressive Approach
Using a more abrasive substance during a microdermabrasion treatment can generate greater antiwrinkle results. A 2009 study conducted by University of Michigan's Dr. Darius J. Karimipour found that using a courser-grit tool during the procedure stimulates the production of a greater amount of collagen in the skin. The added abrasion inflicts greater injury to the skin than a medium-grit wand, which induces a heightened restorative response in the skin. "This research gives us the basis to believe that aggressive microdermabrasion could potentially result in beneficial effects like we see in other more aggressive procedures, like laser resurfacing," Karimipour said. His study was published in the October 2009 issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology.
Tell your dermatologist before beginning treatment if you have previously had cosmetic surgery or are prone to scarring, as these situations can increase the potential for side effects. Also, if you have taken the medication isotretinoin, your doctor may advise that you wait six months before beginning a microdermabrasion procedure. After the microdermabrasion session, you may experience slight redness or swelling of the treated area. This condition should ease within 24 hours. The skin will also be more sensitive to the sun, so using an adequate sunscreen is advised.
- American Academy of Dermatologists: Causes of Aging Skin
- CNN Health: Wrinkles
- American Academy of Dermatologists: Microdermabrasion
- Smart Skincare: Microdermabrasion: Do You Get What You Pay For?
- "Consumer Health News"; With Microdermabrasion, Rough Seems to Work Better; Steven Reinberg; October 2009.