Microdermabrasion Is the Secret to Revealing Gorgeous Skin — Here's What It Is

We can think of a ton of skin-care terms that are frequently mentioned when discussing beauty, yet there are plenty of people out there who still don't have a strong understanding of what they actually mean. Many of us know buzzy star ingredients like niacinamide and retinol, as well as popular treatments like chemical peels, are supposed to be good for our skin, though if someone asked us to describe their benefits, we're not certain we'd have an easy time doing so. The same thing can be said about microdermabrasion, a procedure that you can visit a dermatologist or aesthetician for.

If you're not quite sure what microdermabrasion is or if you should get it, we asked some dermatologists to break it down for us.

What Is Microdermabrasion?

"Microdermabrasion is an abrasive treatment that removes the outermost layers of the skin to help promote new cells via exfoliation," dermatologist Azza Halim, MD, tells POPSUGAR. "It doesn't require any anesthesia nor topical numbing, and it's a quick procedure with minimal downtime."

Microdermabrasion is typically painless and is performed using a special machine that's used to exfoliate the skin. You can get it done anywhere from once a month to once every three months.

"You gently remove all the dead cells on the top of the epidermis, which is called the stratum corneum," dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD, says. "In removing those cells all at once, it stimulates the cells beneath it to all renew at the same time. There are no chemicals involved, it's a mechanical treatment."

Microdermabrasion Benefits For the Skin

If you're looking for a treatment that will deep-clean your pores and/or treat fine lines, stretch marks, uneven skin texture, and hyperpigmentation, you should talk to a dermatologist or aesthetician about microdermabrasion.

"Your skin will look smoother and more even," Dr. Wechsler says. "There will be more of a glow or a brightness to the skin. All those dead cells on the top can make your skin appear a bit dull or gray. After the microdermabrasion, you'll have an even skin tone without those dead, grayish cells on top."

Microdermabrasion Side Effects to Be Aware Of

According to Dr. Halim, microdermabrasion can result in side effects such as irritation, broken capillaries, redness, and swelling, though these can all be resolved and won't cause any long-term effects or injuries. While it's generally a safe procedure for many, it's not for everyone, specifically people with acne-prone skin.

"I find that if you've got active acne, a microdermabrasion can stimulate it and make it a bit worse," Dr. Wechsler says. "There are some doctors who absolutely disagree with me and do microdermabrasion on purpose on their acne patients. I've seen those patients afterward and they're worse."

If you're going in for microdermabrasion, Dr. Wechsler recommends that you avoid seeking out any other treatments within the same week so you don't irritate your skin. "Before the treatment, I don't want people to have just done a peel, microneedling, or laser. Skin should be untouched by other procedures for at least a week, if not two," she says.

Microdermabrasion vs. Chemical Peels

If you were to compare microdermabrasion to a chemical peel, the major difference is that the former doesn't involve chemicals.

"I think microdermabrasion is the best because there are no chemicals and there is no damage to the epidermis," Dr. Wechsler says. "I like chemical peels, but the main chemical peels that we use here are salicylic-acid-based. Those are great if you are very acne-prone or have active acne, because it calms it down."

How to Take Care of Your Skin After Microdermabrasion

Any time you exfoliate your skin — via an in-office procedure or at home — you should be following up with a moisturizer and sunscreen. "After a microdermabrasion, the skin actually absorbs and accepts moisturizer or serum much better than if you didn't get one," Dr. Wechsler says. "So your skin can get extra moisturized, and it lasts for a couple of weeks. Since your face accepts moisture so well, it will feel smoother."

Microdermabrasion Before and After

— Additional reporting by Lauren Levinson and Renee Rodriguez