Microdermabrasion is a skin rejuvenation process in which tiny crystals are sprayed onto the skin to peel off the outer layers, sort of like sandblasting. It is used to smooth skin and to treat minor skin problems like fine lines, brown spots, mild acne scars, age spots, and dull skin. Since it was developed, microdermabrasion has become an increasingly popular choice for those who want a quick and simple way to improve the appearance of their skin.

It is a nonsurgical procedure, unlike dermabrasion. Dermabrasion is a procedure in which the outer layer of skin is frozen and then the outer layers of skin are sanded off using a specialized instrument. Patients receiving dermabrasion also receive anesthetic, and the skin often bleeds. Therefore, there are surgical risks associated with dermabrasion that are not associated with microdermabrasion.

However, dermabrasion is a more intensive procedure, which has more of an effect on the skin. For major skin problems, dermabrasion is a more effective treatment, even though it is more painful and riskier.

Microdermabrasion also has a shorter recovery period than dermabrasion (about 24 hours) after which skin generally looks and feels younger and more healthy. There is usually a visible reduction in skin blemishes, and the skin is softer and more youthful.

Because it shows remarkable effects with minimal downside, microdermabrasion has become incredibly popular in this age when we tend to resist old age at all costs. In time, as the outer layer of skin returns to normal, the effects fade. But microdermabrasion is easy and nonsurgical, and the skin constantly regenerates. Therefore, many patients feel they can repeat the procedure over and over without adverse effects.

There are a variety of at-home microdermabrasion products, and because of its popularity more and more beauty products brands are co-opting the term for marketing purposes. For example, a number of specialty and mainstream cosmetics brands now sell “microdermabrasion” exfoliating creams. At-home microdermabrasion machines are alsoavailable with prices starting at about $250.

Although there are few side effects, there are some. One of the most common (though minor) side effects is an upset to the skin’s color balance. That is, a patient might get light or dark patches from the microdermabrasion process. This is especially true for a patient with darker skin, since darker skin tends to be more prone to skin problems. Also, although teenagers and pregnant women might experience skin conditions (like acne) that they want to get rid of as quickly as possible, it is generally considered better to let the hormonal causes of those problems resolve themselves before applying any kind of cosmetic solution.

Given that the effects of microdermabrasion are so profound and that the side effects are so minimal, it is little wonder that it is such a popular procedure. It is also probable that more products will come available that emulate its effects.