What can microdermabrasion do?

Acne scars are leftover marks from previous breakouts. These can become more noticeable with age once your skin starts to lose collagen, the protein fibers that keep skin smooth and supple. Sun exposure can also make them more noticeable.

But that doesn’t mean acne scars are forever. Microdermabrasion is one of several options for scar improvement.

With this procedure, your dermatologist or skin care specialist will use a small handheld device to gently remove the outer layer of your skin (epidermis). This process will reveal the smooth, toned skin underneath.

You can get this treatment from a spa or your dermatologist’s office.

Read on to determine whether microdermabrasion is appropriate for your specific acne scars, how much it may cost, potential side effects, and more.

Microdermabrasion works best for certain types of depressed acne scars, which cause pits in the skin. This treatment only works for depressed acne scars that lie flat against the epidermis. It won’t improve ice pick scars, which are deeper than other acne scars.

Microdermabrasion may also be useful for people dealing with active mild-to-moderate breakouts. In addition to removing dead skin cells that can clog pores, the procedure also reduces excess oil (sebum) from these pores.

If you’re dealing with an active nodular or cystic breakout, talk to your dermatologist about your options. In these cases, microdermabrasion may exacerbate your inflammation. Your dermatologist may recommend another treatment measure or suggest that you hold off on microdermabrasion until the acne clears.

Medical insurance doesn’t cover cosmetic procedures like microdermabrasion. Ask your dermatologist or skin care specialist about the estimated costs up front so you’ll know what your out-of-pocket costs will amount to.

As of 2016, the average cost per session was $138. You’ll likely need 5 to 12 sessions for optimal results, which can drive the total out-of-pocket cost up to about $1,658.

Over-the-counter (OTC) kits are less expensive in the long run, but the results may not be as dramatic. OTC devices aren’t as strong as those used by a dermatologist.

Microdermabrasion is performed at your dermatologist’s office or a spa. Although you don’t necessarily need to prepare for the procedure beforehand, you may want to make sure you’re not wearing any makeup.

Your dermatologist will use either a diamond-tip wand or a delivery device/vacuum combination, the latter of which blows fine crystals onto the skin. Both then vacuum off debris from the skin.

During the procedure, you might feel a slight scratching. The device used may also have a massaging effect on your skin or produce a mild suctioning sensation.

Each session lasts about 30 minutes. You’ll need multiple sessions to achieve the desired effect.

Part of the appeal of microdermabrasion is the lack of side effects associated with this procedure. The abrasive crystals and diamond tip wand aren’t painful, so your dermatologist won’t need to use an anesthetic.

Another bonus is the quick recovery time, which allows you to have microdermabrasion multiple times a month. No downtime is needed, and you can resume your daily activities immediately after each session.

Follow each session with a moisturizer tailored to your skin type. (Your dermatologist may have specific recommendations.) You’ll also need to wear sunscreen every day while undergoing this procedure. Microdermabrasion can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays, leading to burns. This sun sensitivity can also increase your risk for sun-related scarring (age spots).

Side effects aren’t common with this procedure. However, if your skin is sensitive or darker in color, you might develop irritation or hyperpigmentation.

Microdermabrasion isn’t suitable for ice pick scars, or those that extend beyond the middle layers of your skin (dermis). It only targets the epidermis, so it won’t effectively treat any scars that go beyond this top layer of skin.

If you have darker skin, talk to your dermatologist about your options. In some cases, microdermabrasion may lead to hyperpigmentation.

You should also avoid this procedure if you have:

You may also want to consider other possible treatments available for acne scars.

Depressed scars can also be treated with:

Raised scars, on the other hand, are treated with:

Your dermatologist may recommend microdermabrasion or another technique based on your type of acne scars.

In many cases, treatment for depressed acne scars involves at least two different procedures to ensure the best results. For example, if you try microdermabrasion, your dermatologist might also recommend laser therapy.

Microdermabrasion is a possible treatment measure for acne scars, but it isn’t for everyone. Talk to your dermatologist to see if this procedure is appropriate for your individual scars and skin tone. They can help you determine the type of scarring you have, answer any questions, and advise you on next steps.