Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure that mechanically exfoliates dirt, dead skin cells, and sebum from the skin, thus lowering the risk of an acne breakout.
It’s quickly become one of the favorite cleansing facials as it’s non-invasive, requires no downtime, and it can fix a wide variety of skin issues.
But is microdermabrasion for acne? Can this treatment be the solution to this problem? Let’s see what microdermabrasion can do for acne and acne scars.
Microdermabrasion for Acne – What Can It Do?
Acne forms because the dead skin cells, excess sebum and dirt clog pores. Then bacteria start to feed off this and grow until eventually it forms acne.
Microdermabrasion procedure lowers sebum production and aids in reducing enlarged pores. By doing this, pore clogging is less likely to occur and acne is prevented.
So, although it’s a very effective solution for preventing acne, can microdermabrasion help treat it? That depends on which type of acne you’re dealing with.
This is the most common type of acne. Comedones are essentially skin-colored bumps you can see on the top of the skin’s surface. We divide them into blackheads (open) and whiteheads (closed).
They occur as a result of clogged pores and can cause rough skin texture – both of which microdermabrasion helps deal with.
In fact, this type of acne is the most suited for microdermabrasion treatment. Physical exfoliation helps improve texture and suction helps vacuum up the debris from the pores.
This also helps prevent future comedones from forming and reduces the likelihood of breakouts.
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Mild Acne Breakout
While this treatment can be used to treat mild breakouts, it has some limitations.
It’s not recommended to go over active acne for several reasons – mostly because it can damage the skin and make breakouts worse.
When the bacteria get onto the tool, they can be spread onto other areas of the face as well. So the treatment done on mild breakout needs to be done in small and isolated areas.
And areas with active and inflamed acne need to be avoided completely.
Microdermabrasion for acne that is inflamed is not recommended. Inflammatory acne is much more severe and it can cause pain and swelling.
It’s a result of a bacterial infection from somewhere much deeper within the skin and if improperly treated it can lead to further infection.
Physical abrasion can inflame and irritate the skin even more and make matters much worse. This is why microdermabrasion (and most other exfoliating treatments) might cause complications.
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You should also avoid microdermabrasion if you have:
- Rosacea, as microdermabrasion can make it worse by causing a flare-up
- If you’re using any topical retinoids. Most often these two treatments can’t be combined, but that’s not always the case so consult your dermatologist before booking an appointment.
- Have used isotretinoin within the last 6 months
- Are prone to scarring – especially hypertrophic or keloid scars
- You have a cold sore flareup – you can spread it further
Alternatives to Microdermabrasion for Acne
So you can’t get microdermabrasion because you have an active acne breakout going on. What can you do to treat it?
Microdermabrasion isn’t that effective in treating serious cases of acne on its own anyway.
But it can still play a very beneficial role by boosting the efficiency of other acne treatments without weakening the skin’s protective barrier.
It has been shown to increase the efficacy of transdermal drug delivery, allowing ingredients to more effectively penetrate the skin.
So what other options are there?
Topical Acne Treatments
Topical acne treatments like various creams and lotions that include ingredients like
- Retinoids or vitamin A
- Antimicrobials and antibiotics (such as benzoyl peroxide, erythromycin, and clindamycin) that kill acne-causing bacteria
- BHAs that dissolve excess sebum.
If your skin can handle it, microdermabrasion works great when paired with topical acne treatments. Just make sure you check with your dermatologist first because some ingredients might be too aggressive for the newly exposed skin layer.
Oral Acne Treatments
Next to topical treatments, there are also oral treatments that your dermatologist can prescribe.
Oral acne treatments include Tetracycline, Minocycline, Doxycycline, Erythromycin, Trimethoprim, or sulfamethoxazole.
These are prescribed for severe acne that can’t undergo any facials to help treat active acne. Sometimes though, they can be prescribed along with some topical creams as well.
Other Cosmetic Procedures
Next to microdermabrasion there are also other skin treatments available for treating acne.
While most of them have similar limitations as microdermabrasion for acne does, they may be better suited based on other characteristics.
These treatments include chemical peels, IPL (intense pulsed light) therapy, laser resurfacing, etc.
Sometimes, especially for comedonal acne, comedone extraction is also recommended as it helps drain fluid from cysts.
For more severe cases, corticosteroid injections are a good option to reduce inflammation. They inject anti-inflammatory ingredients into the cysts and nodules and help the acne go down.
Microdermabrasion for Acne Scars
Since acne is inflammation, it can leave some scarring behind. This is something microdermabrasion is great for! It has shown to be very effective in treating hyperpigmentation and light scarring.
Does It Work for All Acne Scars?
Seeing as microdermabrasion has some limitations when it comes to treating acne, we can assume this is also the case with acne scars. So, can microdermabrasion for acne scars be beneficial for all types of acne scars equally? No.
There are 2 main types of acne scars:
- Depressed, atrophic scars are scars that form below the top layer of skin. They’re a result of collagen degradation caused by acne.
- Raised, hypertrophic, or keloid scars form as a result of increased collagen.
Microdermabrasion works best for depressed acne scars as they lie flat against the epidermis. Due to the increased collagen production after the microdermabrasion treatment, atrophic acne scars will fill in and heal.
However, it won’t do much to improve ice pick scars, which are much deeper.
As for the raised acne scars, microdermabrasion isn’t as effective. It can actually make things even worse due to the increase in collagen production which promotes their creation.
Image source: Instagram @bareskintherapist
What Can Microdermabrasion for Acne Scars Do?
The main goal of microdermabrasion is removing the outermost skin layer. By doing so, it reveals a new skin layer right beneath, one that wasn’t as affected by the breakout.
Sometimes, if the breakout was mild and didn’t leave much scarring, this is enough to get rid of dark spots left behind acne. But most times acne scars are only just lightened.
Over time, with consistent treatments, you can get rid of them completely. You will have removed enough old layers where you’ll get to the ones completely unaffected.
How to Treat Acne After Microdermabrasion
After the treatment it’ll take some time for your skin to heal. There isn’t any excessive aftercare you need to follow, but you need to keep in mind the skin is more sensitive after this treatment.
So as it heals it might be susceptible to temporary breakout, but it’s also susceptible to better absorption of active ingredients. By removing the old layer, a new skin layer can soak in products that weren’t reaching these layers before.
You can use products that target hyperpigmentation or prevent future breakouts.
Just make sure you leave some time for the skin to heal on its own before applying any active ingredients so as not to irritate the skin further. For the first few days focus on using products that help the skin heal faster.
To Sum It Up
Although helpful for some forms of acne, microdermabrasion can’t help those that suffer from inflammatory acne and active breakouts.
It works great for preventing the breakout, controlling sebum production, and preventing clogged pores, but in treating already existing acne, microdermabrasion’s effects are limited.
For more complicated cases there are better and more efficient treatments available, such as topicals and oral medication.
Cover image source: Freepik