Photofacials and microdermabrasion are skin rejuvenation treatment options that improve the appearance of discolored and aging skin. Both procedures are minimally-invasive, induce few side effects and can be completed in under an hour. Additionally, the two procedures can be used together to enhance their overall effects.
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What to Expect
A photofacial procedure uses a computer-controlled tube to emit a non-laser, high-intensity, multi-wavelength light beam that can penetrate all layers of the skin. The beam is absorbed by areas of excess pigment in the epidermis as well as excess hemoglobin that accumulates in dilated blood vessels or broken capillaries.
During a microdermabrasion treatment, your dermatologist uses a special wand that shoots an abrasive substance, such as aluminum oxide crystals, at the treatment area. This loosens and removes the dead skin cells that make up the stratum corneum--the top layer of the epidermis.
The light beam generated in the photofacial treatment hones in on excess pigment or hemoglobin deposits, which causes them to dissolve and be absorbed by the body. This makes photofacial a recommended treatment for skin discoloration issues such as hyperpigmentation, melasma or acne scarring as well as facial redness due to rosacea or broken capillaries.
The skin responds to the microdermabrasion procedure by speeding up the cell renewal process in order to replace the cells that have been removed. This results in younger, healthier cells quickly reaching the surface layer of the skin, which promotes vibrancy and evenness in the skin tone and a subtle improvement in the appearance of discolored areas. Both procedures increase the production of the structural protein collagen, which helps to slow the development of wrinkles.
Important Side Effects
Both procedures can induce mild redness or swelling, which generally subsides within 24 hours. They also can cause the treated area to be extra sensitive to sun exposure. The photofacial treatment can also cause rare side effects such as mild blistering, bruising, hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, which is a decrease in the amount of pigment in the skin. These are all treatable and temporary. Scarring or an infection are possible after a photofacial, but are also quite rare.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a series of six to 13 weekly or bi-weekly microdermabrasion treatments for optimal results. Professional treatments are expensive. Home microdermabrasion kits, which are less expensive, offer a lower cost option for this procedure. Home kits, however, deliver a less powerful treatment, so extra sessions may be necessary to achieve similar benefits. A photofacial session is also a costly treatment option, and three to five treatments are necessary for best results.
Dos and Don'ts
Before undergoing a microdermabrasion procedure, tell your dermatologist if you have keloid scars, scar easily or have recently taken the medication isotretinoin, as these could enhance the likelihood of side effects.
You should not have a photofacial procedure if you are pregnant, have a connective tissue or auto-immune disease or if you have recently tanned your skin. You should also avoid prolonged sun exposure for a few weeks after a photofacial. If you have active acne cysts or highly active rosacea, it is best to get those conditions under control before having a photofacial. Also, if you have previously taken Accutane, you must wait at least six months before undergoing a photofacial treatment.