The 4 Different Types of Microdermabrasion

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Woman undergoing hydra facial treatment

If you are following a quality skincare routine that fits your skin type, but are still seeing uneven skin tone, unwanted signs of aging, or acne, you may want to consider microdermabrasion.

This quick and painless treatment can refresh your skin and address these concerns without extensive recovery time. 

There are many different types of microdermabrasion to choose from, and choosing the right procedure can be tricky. Below, we will break down the different techniques available and provide some tips on getting started. But first, let’s cover the basics:

What is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a specialized method of exfoliating the outermost layer of skin (called the stratum corneum), using a tool designed to mechanically remove this layer in a minimally invasive way. It can be performed on the face, neck, and hands, and is suitable for all skin tones. In addition to the deep exfoliation that microdermabrasion offers, it also enhances your current anti-aging regimen by allowing your products to penetrate deeper into your pores.

There are four variations of professional microdermabrasion that we will describe below, and all of them perform basically the same function but in different ways. As we mentioned above, the goal is to gently remove the stratum corneum. 

But, you may be wondering: 

“What is the stratum corneum and what is the benefit of removing it?”

The Stratum Corneum

You may have heard that skin is the largest organ of the human body. Its function is to protect us from the environment and keep warmth and moisture inside our bodies. It is made up of three main layers, but we only see the topmost layer, known as the epidermis. In turn, the epidermis is made up of several parts. The outermost visible layer is the stratum corneum. 

The stratum corneum is actually made up of layer upon layer of dead skin cells! The number of layers can vary depending on the part of the body. The average is around 12 to 16 layers thick in most areas.

These dead skin cells are rougher and tougher than the living skin cells underneath. This makes them a great barrier to keep bacteria and pollution from directly penetrating your skin. However, this also means that your skincare products can’t soak into the deeper layers of skin where they can do the most work. These old, tough skin cells also tend to look dull, bumpy, or discolored.

Illustration of the layers and structure of the skin

Because these skin cells are dead, they are constantly shedding away so that newer skin cells can move up to the surface and replace them. The cycle of skin cells moving up through the layers of the stratum corneum to be flaked off and replaced takes around 14 days in total. We can speed up this natural process to reveal the fresher skin beneath by using microdermabrasion.

How Microdermabrasion is different from Dermabrasion

Be careful not to mix up microdermabrasion with dermabrasion. While they have very similar names, dermabrasion is a much more invasive and intensive treatment.

While the goal of both is to reveal smoother, younger looking skin, dermabrasion involves actually removing several layers of skin.

The procedure can result in a lot of pain and requires anesthesia long with at least a couple weeks of recovery. It can only be performed on the face and is recommended for only very fair complexions to avoid any scarring or discoloration. Because the protective top layers of skin are peeled away, you often also have to take antibiotics after dermabrasion because of the risk of infection.

Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, only buffs away the topmost layer of skin that is already dead, and does so in a gentler way. However, this process still initiates the skin to push new skin cells forward.

The results are not quite as drastic on wrinkles and more severe signs of aging, but the recovery is also much more manageable. You could actually go back to work the same day after getting microdermabrasion. No antibiotics or anesthetics needed.

So now that we covered what microdermabrasion is and isn’t, and why it’s an effective skin treatment, let’s look at the different types of microdermabrasion available currently.

Types of Microdermabrasion

1. Crystal Microdermabrasion

This is the original form of microdermabrasion. Crystal microdermabrasion works by directing a small stream of micro-particle crystals at your skin using a special device.

This device simultaneously streams the crystals out against the skin and vacuums them back up along with the exfoliated skin cells. It is the friction caused by these tiny crystals hitting the surface of your skin at high speed that loosens the skin cells so that the suction can pull them away.

This also promotes greater blood flow, further enhancing a look of healthy, glowing skin after treatment. Not only is this an efficient method of removing the top layer of skin, but it is also minimally irritating. Although it doesn’t quite hurt, it may feel a little rough and your skin may look a little red and sensitive for a couple days afterward.

However, because this method of microdermabrasion uses crystals there are some downsides.

Your eyes will need to be protected because these small particles can get into your eyes. You will also not be able to treat the areas very close to your eyes for this reason. If you have any significant crow’s feet or other blemishes close to your eyes that you would like treated, this is the disadvantage of this type.

Also, there is some concern about the possibility of inhaling particles and the potential for this to irritate your lungs. So although this is still an effective method of microdermabrasion, you may also want to look into the following newer types.

2. Diamond Microdermabrasion

Just as the name implies, diamond microdermabrasion uses a real diamond-tipped tool to exfoliate your skin.

Woman undergoing microdermabrasion procedure

While this sounds expensive, the good news is it may actually be more cost-effective than crystal microdermabrasion. This is because of the hardness of diamond—it is durable and long-lasting, unlike crystals that need to be consistently replaced.

Another benefit of diamond microdermabrasion is that there is no risk of particles going where they are not wanted. The diamond tip will not leave anything behind on your skin, unlike the crystals that could potentially get into your eyes or nose.

Diamond microdermabrasion also includes the same vacuum suction as crystal, thus stimulating blood flow deep in your skin.

3. Hydro-Microdermabrasion

Hydro-microdermabrasion, also known as simply hydrodermabrasion, is one of the newest forms of microdermabrasion that you may want to consider. This is a great option if you have especially sensitive skin and don’t want to run the risk of irritating your skin or sitting through an uncomfortable procedure.

The main difference between the traditional forms of microdermabrasion and hydrodermabrasion is that a stream of water is used to strip away the top layer of skin. This is beneficial not only because water is gentler than crystals or diamond, but because water also soothes and hydrates the freshly abraded skin. On top of that, hydrodermabrasion can be customized for your skin type by combining it with the dermal infusion technique, which we will talk about shortly.

The only downside to hydrodermabrasion is actually the fact that it is so gentle. Although it virtually guarantees that you won’t irritate your skin, it also means you may not get as drastic of a resurfacing effect. So while anyone’s skin will certainly look refreshed and rehydrated from this procedure, if you have more serious marks or wrinkles that you would like treated, hydrodermabrasion may not provide the results you hope for.

4. Dermal Infusion

This is a double duty treatment that not only exfoliates your skin but infuses it with specialized skin care. This type of facial uses a unique device that combines a diamond-tip, suction, and the depositing of serums. As the device moves over the skin these three actions work in unison to unclog pores and clear away the stratum corneum so that serum immediately soaks deep into the skin, leaving it plump and hydrated.

The diamond tip scratches away tough blackheads and flaky patches, allowing the vacuum to suck up anything that’s underneath—dirt, bacteria, and congested pores. With the surface of your skin completely exfoliated it is perfectly primed to receive skin-beneficial ingredients.

Usually, microdermabrasion leaves your skin empty of all oils and moisture, and you are left to manually apply moisturizer to restore some of what has been taken away. But with dermal infusion, moisturizing serum is put right back into your newly clean pores so it can soak in immediately.

And because the exfoliating diamond tip and vacuum has cleared off the top layer of skin and unclogged pores, this serum can go deeper then it could during your daily skincare routine.

The result is that your skin will appear fuller, on top of clear and glowing. Additionally, dermal infusion can be customized according to your needs.

If you have acne prone or oily skin your doctor can choose to add an acne fighting solution or other targeted treatment. If your concern is wrinkles or dark spots, you can address these with an antioxidant-rich anti-aging concoction.

The result? 

Instead of looking slightly pink and sunburned afterward (like you would with traditional micro microdermabrasion) your skin will look immediately better than when you came in!  This is ideal as a last minute treatment—you won’t have to worry about looking red-faced at an event or in photos. It is perfect preparation for weddings or other special occasions.

Things to Know for Any Type of Microdermabrasion

First, it is best to go to a qualified dermatologist or plastic surgeon’s office to learn about what microdermabrasion treatment plan is best for you. The truth is, if your skin is prone to scarring or discoloration, it is best to avoid home kits or treatment at beauty salons and spas. This is because the risk of experiencing side effects is greater if the person performing the treatment isn’t trained to understand your unique skin type, and the way some skin conditions react to microdermabrasion.

Next, while there is no official “downtime” or recovery period required after microdermabrasion of any kind, you may have a few minor side effects. It is common to have a pink or red tone to your skin for a day or two. You may also experience some swelling, but this is minimal. Most would describe it as similar to a sunburn. While it is not dramatic, be prepared if you have any public outings or meetings. Some people may want to do this treatment at a time they can stay at home for a couple days so they do not have to worry about this.

After any form of microdermabrasion, you will want to follow certain guidelines to help your skin rebuild moisture and make your results last longer. 

Woman applying moisturiser to face

Here are a few of the most important tips:

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions. If you get your treatment at a qualified dermatologist or plastic surgeon’s office, you should receive a detailed aftercare plan.
  • Keep your skin moisturized immediately after treatment and consistently afterward.
  • Don’t use any potentially irritating skin or makeup products for a while. Your skin may be a little sensitive.

Finally, it may take a series of microdermabrasion sessions to get the results you want. This depends on the condition of your skin and what your goals are. This is why it is best to work with a doctor who is experienced in microdermabrasion so that you get the best possible outcome.

So if you think microdermabrasion may be right for you, follow these simple tips and get glowing.

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