Sometimes called a “power peel,” this non-invasive procedure removes the skin’s stratum corneum—the top layer of dead surface cells—to reveal a softer, smoother layer of skin below.

Each year, more than 900,000 Americans rejuvenate their skin with a microdermabrasion treatment, making it one of the top five most popular cosmetic skin procedures in the country.

What—and Who—Does It Treat?

Microdermabrasion can help improve the appearance of many superficial skin problems, including fine lines, brown spots, shallow acne scars, large pores, and dull skin. It’s used on the face, neck, chest, forearms, and back of the hands, and is effective on all skin colors and almost all skin types. It is not recommended for individuals who have very thin or sensitive skin or who are prone to acne flare-ups.

What Is the Treatment Like?

The procedure uses a powerful device that exfoliates the skin with a spray of fine, sand-like crystals while the dead skin cells are simultaneously suctioned away. One session generally lasts 20 to 60 minutes, depending on how much area of your skin is being treated. No anesthetic or pain medication is needed, and you should feel no discomfort during the procedure—only a mild scratching sensation.

What Can I Expect Afterwards?

Your skin will feel tight and appear pink—much like a mild sunburn. You can return to your daily activities immediately, although you should use a moisturizer and sunscreen (but no foundation makeup) on your skin for a few days.

Once the pinkness has dissipated, you’ll notice that your skin looks fresher and more radiant. How long the results last varies from person to person. You can maintain that vibrant look, however, by repeating the procedure. Your physician will advise you on the appropriate time you should take between treatments.

What Are the Risks Involved?

The only significant risk from microdermabrasion is eye irritation if the sanding crystals should get in your eyes. But in the hands of an inexperienced practitioner, microdermabrasion can, in rare cases, cause hyperpigmentation, bleeding, and even infection.

Make sure you receive this skin treatment in a physician’s office, where you’ll be under the care of trained and experienced practitioners.

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