Let’s start with the basics. Microdermabrasion is a medical process by which the outer layer of dead skin cells (stratum corneum) is removed using light abrasion. The procedure is painless, requires no anaesthetic and is like a strong version of exfoliating, as opposed to dermabrasion which more like using sandpaper and is generally far more painful.
Microdermabrasion is designed to trigger the regrowth of damaged or scarred skin. Think of it like pruning a tree – if the tree has damaged or unhealthy extremities (leaves, branches, etc) gardeners will trim off these areas so that the tree will grow back healthy replacements. Imagine that you are scraping off the layer of your skin that has acne scars to induce your body’s natural healing ability to grow new skin cells in the affected area.
Even without reading the reviews, you can see that the nature of the microdermabrasion process makes it ideal when the scar is above or level with the surrounding skin. It is fairly easy to scrape off dead skill when it is sticking out. But most of you will already be aware that most acne scars, particularly pitted acne scars (or ‘craters’ in severe cases), are sunken into the skin. This makes the process slightly less effective on acne scars than on other types of scars, or damaged skin, but not a total waste of time. Using microdermabrasion as an acne scar treatment simply requires the treatment of the areas of skin surrounding the scars in order to effectively abrade the entire scar. Severe cases will take several more treatments than that of moderate cases of acne scars.
Before we get into the details, there is a warning. If you have taken Accutane, or similar isotretinoin medication, in the past 12 months then you should not use microdermabrasion. I know that you want to, especially if the accutane has cleared up your acne and you just want to clear up the scars, but it is very important that you do not. Accutane works by reducing the sebum produced by the sebaceous glands in your skin, which also reduces some of your skin’s healing abilities. Use of microdermabrasion while, or shortly after, taking accutane can lead to permanent scaring of the abraded area of skin. Just wait a year before using it.
There are several different techniques used today, the most common of which is an exfoliating-style cream. Salons and home kits will usually be in this form, with tiny organic particles or crystals in the cream grazing the skin (like an exfoliator), gradually removing the scarred tissue.
Some traditional estheticians or treatment facilitators may still use high-pressure handheld machines to spray aluminium/zinc oxide crystals at the affected skin (“sandblasting”) and extract the damaged skin cells. However, salons and clinics are increasingly turning to the ‘diamond peel’ method. Diamond microdermabrasion is similar to the crystal method mentioned above with the dead skin and dirt sucked out through a vacuum tube but with a diamond-tipped rod or wand, used to polish the skin and remove the scar tissue, replacing the high-pressure crystal flow. This makes the diamond technique far more accurate and less irritative to the skin.
Now some home treatment kits will advertise that your skill will have a ‘nice healthy glow’ after using the microdermabrasion cream, but this should not be the case. If your skin is glowing after a so-called ‘abrasion’ then it is probably more like just an exfoliator. Proper abrasion will leave some redness in the treated area of skin, and in some cases even slight irritation. Of course, if all you have is small red spots then you may not need to apply the cream so intensely so the skin need not be as red or irritated as those with severe acne scarring, but it should still be sensitive. You should still feel the air on your skin, almost like it is exposed for the first time.
Obviously if you get the treatment done in a spa or beauty salon it will be more effective, and even more so at medical clinic, but like most things you get what you pay for and the good ones aren’t cheap. A home kit can cost anywhere from $50-$200 (I wouldn’t trust anything cheaper) and it will generally a few treatments with each purchase. Well-known salons will generally charge you $100-$300 per treatment, depending on their customer service, popularity, and the products they use but most salons will have a package deal to give you a discount if you pay for a few treatments upfront. Medically performed microdermabrasion, while the safest and most effective method, can cost anything up to $400 per session. Microdermabrasion is certainly not the cheapest acne scar treatment on the market but costs are relative. What is a few hundred dollars when you weigh it against clear, scar-free (or at least scar-reduced) skin?
Overall, I think that microdermabrasion is one of the better acne scar treatment options available on the market today. It is affordable, at least compared with laser treatment, effective in most cases when done correctly and relies on your body’s own ability to regenerate. Results will differ from person to person depending on severity and application, like any other acne treatment, but I would suggest that, before you spend a few thousand dollars on laser treatment, you give it a try. It should work in most cases.
Let me know how it goes.