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Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more

So, FaceApp’s “old age” filter was a little too realistic and now you’re on a mission to turn back time. Even though you’re perfect the way you are, let’s examine microdermabrasion and compare it to other real life “youth filters” like microneedling and chemical peels.

Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that exfoliates or polishes the outer layer of your skin, stimulates collagen production, and leaves your skin glowing, smooth, and more even in tone.

During the procedure, a specialist uses a handheld device that gently removes the top layer of skin on your face and neck and the tops of your hands. You’ll likely need several treatments to see the best results.

Two main types of professional microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion

  • less invasive
  • recommended for all skin tones

Dermabrasion

  • more invasive
  • sometimes recommended for acne scars, surgical scars, and tattoo removal
  • recommended for only fair skin, as it can cause hyperpigmentation in darker skin

Microdermabrasion helps with the following concerns:

  • sun damage
  • wrinkles
  • fine lines
  • dullness
  • uneven skin tone
  • uneven skin texture
  • age spots
  • hyperpigmentation and melasma (sometimes referred to as “the pregnancy mask”)
  • acne scarring

In other words, microdermabrasion is selfie-approved.

Microdermabrasion can also enhance the absorption of products such as moisturizers, creams, and skin-lightening products.

Can it help with acne?

Microdermabrasion (and dermabrasion) may treat depressed acne scars that are not too deep in your skin. It can also alleviate some breakouts by unclogging your pores, releasing built up sebum (oil).

Microdermabrasion won’t help with deep acne scars and can actually make them worse, so talk to your dermatologist before trying any resurfacing skin treatment.

If you’ve been taking isotretinoin (Accutane), you should avoid the procedure for at least six months, as it could cause scarring.

What it won’t fix

  • psoriasis
  • eczema
  • active rosacea
  • the “Game of Thrones” finale
  • dermatitis
  • active cystic or nodular acne
  • unrequited love

You should not undergo microdermabrasion if you:

  • have open wounds
  • have burn scars
  • have skin that’s been damaged by radiation treatments
  • have any type of oral herpes (cold sores, fever blisters)
  • are currently taking isotretinoin (Accutane) for acne

You should also steer clear of this procedure if you have (or could have) any form of skin cancer. If you have any type of mole that is bleeding or changing shape or size, see your doctor.

It costs money, y’all. Sorry.

The price will vary depending on:

  • where you live
  • the doctor/facility you’re going to
  • the type of microdermabrasion you’re getting
  • how many treatments you need

According to a 2018 statistic by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average price is $131 per treatment. Since most people need between 5 and 16 treatments, you’re looking at a cost of about $655 to $2,000 over the course of a few months or years.

And remember: Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure, so it’s not covered by most insurance.

With all that said, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery suggests you focus more on credentials and experience than on cost when getting cosmetic procedures.

Make sure your health care specialist is board-certified and a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Microdermabrasion is nonsurgical and minimally invasive, so it doesn’t require much physical preparation.

Here are some questions you should ask prior to your treatment:

  • Who will perform the microdermabrasion?
  • How many treatments will I need?
  • What is the overall cost?
  • What are the potential side effects?
  • Do I have a higher risk for any side effects?
  • May I see before-and-after photos of previous patients?
  • Should I avoid any products or medications prior to treatment?
  • Should I arrive without makeup?

Again, microdermabrasion is nonsurgical and minimally invasive and takes an hour or less. No anesthesia or numbing cream is necessary.

It’s an in-office procedure and should be performed by a board-certified dermatologist. Many salons and spas also offer microdermabrasion — just be sure to do your research and check their credentials.

During the procedure you’ll be seated in a reclining chair while your skin specialist uses whatever device they’ve deemed necessary (we’ll get to that in a second) to treat your skin. At the end of the treatment, you’ll be slathered with moisturizer and sunscreen.

There are three types of microdermabrasion, using different tools:

Diamond microdermabrasion

  • uses a diamond-tipped handpiece designed to gently exfoliate dead cells from your skin and immediately suction them off
  • generally performed in more sensitive facial areas, like on the skin close to your eyes

Crystal microdermabrasion

  • uses a crystal-emitting handpiece to gently spray on fine crystals to exfoliate the outer layers of your skin and suction them away
  • types of crystals that may be used include aluminum oxide and sodium bicarbonate

Hydradermabrasion

  • a newer method
  • involves combining crystal-free exfoliation with an infusion of an antioxidant-based serum
  • stimulates collagen production and maximizes blood flow to your skin

What’s the pain-to-beauty ratio?

Microdermabrasion is a painless procedure. You may feel a “sanding sensation” as if someone were gently rubbing sandpaper on your skin, but it doesn’t hurt.

How long does it take?

Expect 30 to 40 minutes to treat your face and 20 minutes to treat your neck.

How many treatments til time travel?

Depending on your skin concerns, a dermatologist may recommend weekly, biweekly, or monthly treatments. You can expect to be glowy and fresh for a few days following your first microdermabrasion session, but the best results come from repeated treatments.

Bottom line

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that most patients will need between 5 and 16 treatments to see a difference in signs of aging.

Like most good things in life, the results are not permanent and will require maintenance. A good exfoliation will not make time stand still.

Minimal. For a few days following microdermabrasion, you may experience:

  • sensitivity to sunlight
  • skin redness/pinkness (sunburn-esque)
  • skin bruising and/or swelling
  • a tingling/burning sensation

These symptoms should go away on their own within a few days of the procedure.

Make sure to use plenty of sunscreen after microdermabrasion to avoid the risk of sunburn, hyperpigmentation, and other side effects.

Is your best friend a cosmetic dermatologist?

For the safest, most aesthetically pleasing results, have a board-certified dermatologist perform your microdermabrasion. This is your face we’re talking about!

Less-intensive home microdermabrasion kits are available online or in stores, but you should speak with a dermatologist before trying one to minimize side effects and complications. Also, expect less-dramatic results from at-home versions.

Chemical peels are similar to microdermabrasion in that they exfoliate your skin and are used to address hyperpigmentation and aging-related changes to the skin. Both procedures aim to leave your complexion smoother and brighter.

But there are a few key differences:

  • Chemical peels can be much more intense than microdermabrasion.
  • They basically cause a controlled first- or second-degree burn that makes your skin peel.
  • They come in mild, medium, and deep strengths.
  • Some require the use of anesthetic prior to treatment.
  • They can require face bandages, antibiotics, and painkillers afterward, and in some cases it may be three months before a noticeable pinkness of the face subsides.
  • Deep chemical peels can cost a few thousand dollars each.
  • Chemical peels can be used to treat precancerous skin patches and deeper-rooted skin issues than microdermabrasion can.

As the name suggests, microneedling is microdermabrasion’s sharper cousin. It involves multiple tiny needles that penetrate your skin, prompting the skin to repair itself and stimulating collagen production.

There are two types of microneedling: cosmetic and medical. Cosmetic microneedling uses shorter needles to stimulate collagen production. Medical microneedling uses longer needles and is seen as a more intensive, effective treatment.

They both aim to help with acne, wrinkles, scarring, and pigmentation issues and can be used to deeply infuse your skin with topical treatments and vitamin C.

A few key differences from microdermabrasion:

  • Microneedling sessions generally happen four to six weeks apart.
  • Cost can vary from $200 to $1,500 per treatment.

Though there are at-home microneedling products, you should consult your dermatologist before DIYing any procedure on your face. And your results will always be better when you leave it to the pros.

Microdermabrasion can be an easy and safe way to give your skin a glowing, youthful boost. It costs less than other treatments used to achieve similar results, and it requires no significant recovery time.

If you’ve been wanting to address fine lines, sun damage, melasma, dullness, or moderate acne, find yourself a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and ask about microdermabrasion. We all deserve to glow.