Microdermabrasion Gone Wrong - Risks & Side Effects

Microdermabrasion gone wrong doesn’t happen often, but it’s possible. Here are the most common risks and side effects and when they are a cause for concern.

microdermabrasion gone wrong

Image source: Freepik

Microdermabrasion is a mechanical exfoliation that removes the uppermost layer of dead skin cells, revealing healthy skin underneath. And as with any skincare treatment, especially an exfoliating one, it comes with certain risks and side effects.

While they aren’t anything major, they may lead to microdermabrasion gone wrong experiences. Here’s what can happen, why, and how to handle it.

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How Common Are Microdermabrasion Gone Wrong Scenarios?

Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive epidermal resurfacing treatment. It’s used to diminish a number of skin issues, such as scars, signs of aging, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone and texture.

It can be used to cleanse the skin from dirt and bacteria, remove blackheads and prevent future breakouts. After this treatment, the skin will appear smoother and more supple, and radiant.

This is a less invasive version of dermabrasion and since no living tissue is affected usually, it doesn’t carry any major risks. But that also doesn’t mean it’s completely risk-free. There still are some factors that contribute to microdermabrasion gone wrong scenarios.

Microdermabrasion is considered the medium-strength version of this treatment. There are also 2 other variations – dermabrasion, the original and most intense form, and hydrodermabrasion – the least invasive one. But more on the risks behind those below.

Want to learn about the differences between these 3 variations in more detail?
Here’s everything you need to know about dermabrasion.
Here’s everything you need to know about microdermabrasion.
Here’s everything you need to know about hydrodermabrasion.

microdermabarasion treatment Image source: Instagram @enesthetic__

Microdermabrasion Risks

Microdermabrasion gone wrong is very unlikely to happen on uncompromised, resilient skin that has a healthy protective barrier. But complications can occur for clients whose skin is sensitive or who suffer from certain skin conditions.

Microdermabrasion risks are heightened for patients with the following conditions:

Contact Allergies

Usually, these treatments are done with a crystal or diamond tip.

The older version, crystal microdermabrasion, blasts tiny aluminum oxide crystals onto the skin, resembling a traditional scrub. The newer and improved diamond microdermabrasion is done with the rotary tip which has an abrasive, diamond-grit surface.

For people with contact allergies to certain materials that are sometimes used to make the crystals (such as aluminum), a crystal-free system should be used.

microdermabrasion tools
Image source: Freepik

Skin Conditions

Microdermabrasion isn’t recommended for people with skin conditions like rosacea, telangiectasias (commonly known as “spider veins”), vitiligo, and eczema.

These skin conditions heighten the chance of getting an infection, as the skin is sensitive and reactive. Also, they can slow down the healing process and require some more thought put into the aftercare regime.

skin conditions rozacea
Image source: Freepik

Keloid Scarring

People who have a history of hypertrophic (keloid) scarring need to keep in mind that microdermabrasion, just like any other abrasive treatment, can make matters worse.

You need to consult with a professional to assess the risk and determine if you’re a suitable candidate for this procedure.

Inflammatory Acne

Microdermabrasion is considered a good solution for people that have acne problems as this treatment can help improve mild acne breakouts and comedonal acne.

However, it’s not the best treatment for inflammatory acne. Acne medication (isotretinoin) shouldn’t be taken at least 6 months before microdermabrasion. It increases the risk of scarring.

If you’re experiencing a flare-up of any skin condition, you need to wait for it to pass to be able to do this procedure.

Other Diseases

People prone to cold sores, or herpes simplex virus are at risk of a flare-up. If it’s active, going over the affected area can spread it to other areas as well. Consult your tech and have your doctor prescribe antiviral medications to prevent the flare-up.

People with conditions such as human papillomavirus, impetigo, shingles, or any autoimmune disorder also need to be cautious. If you have or had any of these, notify your technician about it.

lip herpes
Image source: Freepik

Darker Skin Tones

This treatment carries greater risks for people with darker skin tones due to their proneness to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

And while microdermabrasion is considered safe for all skin tones and skin types, a lot of patients prefer to opt for hydrodermabrasion, which carries less risk.

Microdermabrasion Side Effects

Side effects of microdermabrasion are nothing major, but they do exist.

This treatment is non-invasive so it entails no downtime. However, in the days following it, you might notice some:

  • Redness
  • Slight swelling
  • Minor bruising
  • Slight burning or stinging sensation
  • Tenderness
  • Breakouts, acne flare-ups and milia outbreaks

Some clients experience slight discomfort after a treatment.

Generally, the feeling can be best described like the one you’d get when you’re sunburnt. Your skin might feel tight, dry, and somewhat flaky. Proper aftercare can help you relieve the discomfort.

These side effects are normal and somewhat expected (depending on the skin type). They should go away after a few days. In case they don’t, see a doctor. Prolonged symptoms like these can be a sign of microdermabrasion gone wrong.

Signs of Microdermabrasion Gone Wrong

Other than prolonged side effects, there are a few other symptoms pointing to microdermabrasion gone wrong scenarios:


Those unsatisfied with their results often state that their skin appears to be worse after the treatment than it was before it.
The appearance of fine wrinkles, an uneven skin tone, and excessive dryness can all be consequences of over-exfoliation. Additionally, there might also be some redness, mostly from the combination of the treatment and irritating skincare ingredients or sun exposure.


The outermost skin layer is removed during microdermabrasion, making the skin extra sensitive to the sun. This poses an additional risk to the health of your skin. It’s essential you use SPF regularly to avoid permanently damaging your skin and overall health.


Microdermabrasion stimulates skin cells regeneration which naturally includes some inflammation. Inflammation then triggers melanin production and if the melanin is overproduced, it leads to hyperpigmentation.
So, this treatment can potentially cause some discoloration. Darker patches most often form on the cheeks, forehead, and around the lips. This can happen to anyone, but the risk is greater in people with darker skin tones.

Allergic Reaction

Due to how sensitive the skin is after treatment, allergies might also develop, especially if there’s been exposure to allergens from chemicals in skincare products, or the sun. If this occurs, stop using the products immediately and contact your dermatologist.


Microdermabrasion can lead to an infection, or worsen an existing one.

This is the main reason this treatment shouldn’t be done on clients that have skin infections like impetigo, warts, herpes, and other viral infections to begin with. The device can spread the bacteria from one part of the skin onto another.

Plus if the equipment isn’t properly sanitized there’s always a risk of cross-contamination. So make sure you book with someone trustworthy, with high hygiene standards.

Scratches and Bruising

This symptom is one of those that are considered normal if they are minimal and if they pass soon after the treatment. But if excessive, it is a cause for concern. Consult your dermatologist.

This mostly happens with at-home devices. Although most of them don’t use crystals that can scratch the skin, they still use suction. Using it on one section for too long can make tiny veins burst and cause bruising and discoloration.

@beingzhenya Microdermabrasion at home gone wrong, come back tomorrow for a daily update @dermae #microdermabrasion #scars #skincareroutine #beauty #foryoupage ♬ original sound - BeingZhenya

How to Avoid Microdermabrasion Gone Wrong?

To answer this question, let’s sum up what can contribute to microdermabrasion gone wrong.

It can happen because of the client’s skin type or pre-existing skin conditions, in which case consults hadn’t been done, or they weren’t thorough enough.

It can also happen due to improper aftercare and disregarding the instructions given by your technician.

But we also shouldn’t disregard the possibility that the technician didn’t do the treatment properly. Or worse – choosing to do the treatment yourself with an at-home version of the device without any knowledge.

To minimize the chances of microdermabrasion gone wrong, do the research before booking an appointment. Only trust licensed and experienced professionals. Microdermabrasion is safe as long as it’s done by a licensed and experienced technician.

microdermabrasion gone wrong
Image source: Freepik

Dermabrasion Gone Wrong

Dermabrasion is a very intense treatment that should only be performed by medical professionals. It involves the removal of the epidermis and a layer of the dermis (the first and middle layer of the skin).

So, since it affects living tissue, it carries a lot more risks, some of which are:

  • Permanent scarring
  • Permanent discoloration, and
  • High chance of infection.

Since this is an invasive, borderline-plastic-surgery treatment, it’s not something you can decide on by yourself. Consult a dermatologist and they’ll decide the course of treatment.

Hydradermabrasion Gone Wrong

Hydrodermabrasion, also known as hydro microdermabrasion, is the gentlest form of this treatment. It carries the least risks and side effects. At the most, you might have some slight redness if your skin is extra sensitive.

Although this treatment isn’t intense, it still is an exfoliating treatment after all. So people with skin conditions like rosacea might still experience a flare-up and should consult an expert before booking an appointment.

Microdermabrasion Gone Wrong – Main Takeaways

While microdermabrasion is generally considered safe and minimally-invasive, if it’s done on client who don’t make perfect candidates, there’s a chance of microdermabrasion gone wrong.So, if your skin is compromised in any way, or if you have a darker skin tone, make sure you consult a dermatologist before undergoing microdermabrasion.

Hydradermabrasion is less invasive, so the risks are even lower. But dermabrasion is a serious treatment and as such, it entails serious risks.



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