7 Reasons Microdermabrasion Is the Wrong Acne Treatment for You

Microdermabrasion Contraindications

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That microdermabrasion treatment on the day spa menu sounds so tempting. But can you have a microdermabrasion treatment done with acne?

(Not quite sure exactly what microdermabrasion is?  I’ve answered all of your questions about microdermabrasion treatment here: How Does Microdermabrasion Work and What to Expect at Your First Microdermabrasion Treatment.)

Because it works on the superficial layers of the skin, it’s generally a very safe procedure.

  So safe, in fact, that you can get one done at nearly any day spa or skin clinic. 

Although microdermabrasion is safe, there are contraindications to the procedure.  A contraindication is something that would make the procedure unsafe or inadvisable for you. Microdermabrasion isn’t appropriate for every person, and the last thing you want is to walk out of your appointment unhappy or, even worse, with damaged skin.

So, before you book your first microdermabrasion appointment, make sure that it’s not contraindicated in your case.  Your skin therapist should ask you about these in your initial consultation, but it’s good to be prepared and educated in any case.

Here are microdermabrasion contraindications, or things that will most likely prevent you from having microdermabrasion done.

1. You’re Using Isotretinoin (AKA Accutane)

Isotretinoin, better known by the name Accutane, makes your skin more fragile and delicate, and much more susceptible to damage.

  For you, microdermabrasion could cause irritation, bleeding, and scabbing. 

Your skin has been through a lot after a course of isotretinoin.  So, it’s recommended that you wait six to 12 months after stopping isotretinoin before you have microdermabrasion done.  Give your skin a chance to return to normal.

  It takes a while. 

In some cases, your dermatologist may give you the OK to have microdermabrasion done before 6 months have passed.  But you should never allow a non-medical technician (i.e. the nice lady at the day spa) to perform microdermabrasion on you before the 12 months has passed unless you have been given the OK by your dermatologist. 

2. You Have Moderate to Severe Inflammatory Acne

Although microdermabrasion can help improve mild acne breakouts and comedonal acne, it’s not the treatment of choice for inflammatory acne.  The procedure can make inflamed, raw skin even more raw and inflamed.  Plus, it hurts when it's done over inflamed pimples!

Microdermabrasion doesn’t do much to help improve more serious cases of acne anyway.  For that, ​you would need a medication that you use more consistently, every day.  Try some of these options instead: Treating Moderate Acne and Treating Severe Acne.

Once your acne is fairly well controlled, and not as inflamed, you can then have your microdermabrasion treatment.

It may even help lighten those discolored spots left after pimples heal.

3. You Have Rosacea

If you have rosacea, your skin is sensitive.  Microdermabrasion can make the redness and puffiness of rosacea even worse.  You definitely don’t want to have a treatment done during a breakout.

But even if your skin is currently looking pretty good, a microdermabrasion treatment can cause a flare up rosacea.

4. You’re In the Midst of a Cold Sore Breakout

Those little buggers are painful, so you probably wouldn’t want someone messing with your face anyway.  But not only could doing microdermabrasion around that cold sore make the breakout worse, there is a possibility that your technician could spread it to other areas of the face. 

It’s best to wait until you’re completely healed before having your treatment done.  Most estheticians will not work on you while you have an active herpes infection anyway, for safety reasons.

And if you’re prone to cold sores, let your technician know.  Microdermabrasion can trigger a breakout.

5. You Have a Rash, Wound, or Other Skin Irritation

Don’t expect microdermabrasion to clear up a rash.  Any esthetician worth her salt will not do microdermabrasion across any rash or broken skin. 

Microdermabrasion can't be done over eczema, psoriasis, ringworm, or any other rash, whether you know what has caused it or not.

6. You’re Using Topical Retinoids (Maybe)

Generally speaking, using topical retinoids (like Retin-A, Tazorac, Differin, etc.) prevents you from getting a microdermabrasion treatment done, at least at the salon.  Most estheticians, especially if you are a new client and they have not worked on your skin before, will not perform microdermabrasion if you’re using a topical retinoind.

But, your dermatologist may have a different skin care plan for you.  Sometimes topical retinoids are prescribed along with microdermabrasion for very specific reasons. 

So, if your dermatologist has this mapped out for you, it’s OK.  Otherwise don’t have a salon treatment done if you’re using topical retinoids.

7. Your Dermatologist Nixes the Idea

If you're under a dermatologist's care, check with him/her first before you have a microdermabrasion treatment done.  There are other reasons besides the ones listed here that would make microdermabrasion a not-so-good treatment for you. 

Get your dermatologist's opinion before booking your appointment, even for just a salon trip.

Can't Have Microdermabrasion? There are Other Options for You

If microdermabrasion is out, there are other skin treatments that might work better for you.  Try looking into these:

Chemical peels

If the grit and the suction of the microdermabrasion is a bad idea for your skin, maybe a chemical peel is a better choice.  They also exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin.  Superficial peels, also called “lunchtime peels,” can be done at the day spa or salon while more aggressive peels are done at the dermatologist’s office.

Salon facials

There’s also something to be said about a basic facial treatment: it’s relaxing, makes your skin look brighter, and feel softer.  And, if you opt for extractions, you can get all that gunk and blackheads cleared from your pores. 

Spa facials are customized to your skin type, but again make sure you tell the esthetician about any skin issues you have and medications you are using.

Acne treatment medications

If your sole reason for microdermabrasion was to clear up acne, you’re in luck.  Microdermabrasion isn’t considered ​a first line of defense against acne anyway. 

You’ll get much better results from a tried-and-true acne medication.  Some can be found at your local drugstore, but the most effective are available by prescription.  So, instead of booking a microdermabrasion treatment call your dermatologist instead.


Fernades M, Pinheiro NM, Crema VO, Mendonca AC.  “Effects of microdermabrasion on skin rejuvenation.”  J Cosmet Laser Ther.  2014 Jan; 16(1):26-31.

Nguyen T.  “Dermatology procedures: microdermabrasion and chemical peels.”  FP Essent.  2014 Nov; 426:16-23.

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