Microdermabrasion Side Effects

Woman having microdermabrasion treatment done.
Photo: Grogor Bister / Getty Images

Microdermabrasion is a popular and common procedure done at salons and dermatologist offices alike. It's a great way to deeply exfoliate the skin, leaving it softer and smoother.

When done correctly, microdermabrasion is a very safe procedure. Because microdermabrasion works only on the superficial layers of the skin, side effects are generally minor. Your risk is very small if your microdermabrasion treatment is being done by a skilled and conscientious technician.]

The technician doing your microdermabrasion will fill you in on the possible side effects before your treatment is underway, but here is a rundown of the most common. Remember, not everyone will show these side effects. You may get one or two, all, or none. It just depends on your skin and situation.

Common Microdermabrasion Treatment Side Effects

Redness

Most people find their skin is a bit pink to red after a microdermabrasion procedure. Usually, it's similar to a very mild sunburn and fades after just a few hours.

If you have especially sensitive skin or get a more aggressive microdermabrasion treatment to correct a specific skin issue, you will have more pronounced redness that can take a day or more to fully fade. Ask your technician what to expect when it comes to redness.

Dry or Flaking Skin

Dryness or flakiness in the days following a microdermabrasion treatment isn't unusual. Luckily, this typically resolves itself within a week.

Just add an extra bit of moisturizer to your daily skincare routine. If you have very oily skin, though, you'll welcome the fact that your skin isn't as oily as usual.

Increased Sun Sensitivity

Just like all deep exfoliating treatments, microdermabrasion can make your skin more sensitive to the sun (this is called photosensitivity).

So, your skin will be more susceptible to sun damage and more likely to sunburn in the days immediately following your treatment. This is not the time to head off to the beach!

Definitely wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day. This is a healthy skin habit to have regardless of microdermabrasion treatments.

Bruising

Because the microdermabrasion catheter exerts a vacuum effect on the skin, there's a possibility of bruising, especially in the thin-skinned areas around the eyes.  Although it's not possible to 100% avoid it, bruising isn't too common especially if your technician is skilled. 

That said, you're more likely to get bruising if your skin is especially thin or delicate, or if you're on certain medications (like blood thinners or NSAIDs). And some people just naturally bruise more easily than others. Let your technician know if any of these apply to you so she can take precautions during your treatment.

Slight Abrasions

Occasionally, you may notice small abrasions and pinpricks of blood on the skin after a treatment. This happens after an especially aggressive treatment. 

In some cases, your technician may have a reason for the extra work-over of your skin (in this case, it should be discussed before you ever sit down in the chair).

Otherwise, it's caused by clumsy treatment. Like bruises, abrasions aren't always completely avoidable but a large number of them points to an unskilled technician.

Cold Sores

If you're prone to cold sores you know that certain things seem to trigger an outbreak—spicy foods, the sun, stress. Well, you can also add microdermabrasion to the list. It happens when you have microdermabrasion done around the lips. 

If you're prone to cold sores, you may want to skip treating around the lips. This isn't always ideal, though, if you'd like microdermabrasion to improve those fine lines that develop around the mouth.

You could also talk to your physician about using a cold sore prevention medication before having your treatment done.

What to Do If You Are Uncomfortable

If at any point during the treatment you're uncomfortable or in pain, let the technician know. Also, ask if you have any questions or concerns. A good technician will help put your mind at ease, before, during, and after your treatment.

A Word from Verywell

Microdermabrasion has many benefits: smoother and softer skin, a brighter complexion, and a reduction in fine lines and breakouts. To really get the full benefits, though, you will need a series of treatments.

Although it may sound a bit scary, especially if you don't know what to expect during a microdermabrasion treatment, it's really quite a simple treatment. It isn't painful and is often worked into a facial treatment. 

It isn't a good option for everyone though, and you can't have a microdermabrasion treatment done if you're currently or just stopped using topical retinoids or Amnesteem (isotretinoin). In fact, if you're under a dermatologist's care for any skin issue, you must get an OK before having a microdermabrasion treatment done.

Sources

El-Domyati M, Hosam W, Abdel-Azim E, Abdel-Wahab H, Mohamed E. "Microdermabrasion: A Clinical, Histometric, and Histopathologic Study." Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2016 Dec;15(4):503-513.

Fernandes M1, Pinheiro NM, Crema VO, Mendonça AC. "Effects of Microdermabrasion on Skin Rejuvenation." Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2014 Jan;16(1):26-31.

Nguyen T. "Dermatology Procedures: Microdermabrasion and Chemical Peels." FP Essentials. 2014 Nov;426:16-23.

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