Microdermabrasion is a noninvasive procedure that gently exfoliates and removes the outermost layer of the skin. Dermatologists may recommend microdermabrasion to treat acne or improve the appearance of acne scars and marks.

Microdermabrasion may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those who tend to develop dark spots on the skin after their acne lesions have cleared.

This article describes microdermabrasion, what happens during the procedure, and whether it is good for acne. It also discusses the procedure’s safety, potential risks, and estimated financial costs. Finally, we list some alternative acne treatments to consider.

A person receiving a microdermabrasion treatment.Share on Pinterest
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The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) explains that microdermabrasion is a type of skin rejuvenation procedure that can help treat a range of skin concerns, including acne and acne scars.

The procedure involves using a minimally abrasive instrument to gently exfoliate and remove the outermost layer of the skin to reveal a more even skin tone and texture.

Other skin concerns that microdermabrasion can help treat include:

A 2022 study notes that there are three main types of microdermabrasion. These are:

  • Diamond microdermabrasion: This uses a device called a microdermabrasion wand. The wand’s tip is covered with diamond crystals that gently exfoliate the surface of the skin and has a vacuum to draw dead skin cells and impurities away from the skin.
  • Corundum microdermabrasion: This uses a device that removes the outermost layer of the skin with aluminum oxide, or “corundum,” crystals.
  • Oxybrasion: This uses a device that forcefully ejects a stream of 0.9% sodium chloride solution or “saline” onto the skin. According to the study authors, this helps cool the skin and reduce discomfort.

Learn more about microdermabrasion.

During microdermabrasion, a dermatologist will use a handheld device to exfoliate the top layer of the skin.

A full-face treatment should take around 30–40 minutes, whereas a neck treatment may take around 20 minutes.

Following the treatment, the dermatologist will apply a moisturizing cream to the skin.

According to the ASPS, microdermabrasion can treat both acne and acne scars.

A 2022 study investigated the effectiveness of oxybrasion for treating active acne vulgaris (AV). This is the most common form of acne, which may consist of both inflammatory and noninflammatory lesions.

The study included 24 women ages 19–21 years with active AV. One group received 5 oxybrasion procedures over 10 days, while a control group received 5 placebo procedures over the same period.

The group that received the oxybrasion showed significant improvements in the following:

  • skin hydration
  • acne, as assessed by the Global Acne Grading System (GAGS)
  • sebum reduction in the outermost layer of the skin

The study authors concluded that oxybrasion is a safe and effective acne treatment for women but noted that further research is necessary to confirm its effects.

Acne vulgaris can cause different types of skin lesions that may respond differently to treatment. Anyone considering microdermabrasion should talk with their dermatologist to establish whether it is right for them.

The safety of microdermabrasion depends on who is performing the procedure. Microdermabrasion is available at dermatology clinics, salons, and nonmedical spas. Special kits are also available to purchase online for at-home use.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), microdermabrasion by a dermatologist has an excellent safety record. However, the procedure may not be suitable for everyone. The organization recommends that the following people talk with their dermatologist before undergoing microdermabrasion or using an at-home microdermabrasion kit:

  • those with a mole or spot on the skin that is growing, bleeding, or changing in any way, as this could be a skin cancer
  • those who are taking the acne medication isotretinoin (Accutane) or have taken it in the past 6 months, as this can increase the risk of scarring and other complications
  • those who scar easily

As noted, microdermabrasion can help improve the appearance of acne and acne scars. However, the procedure is also associated with certain risks.

The 2022 study notes that both diamond microdermabrasion and corundum microdermabrasion can cause temporary skin redness and warmth due to the effects of friction against the skin. According to the study authors, oxybrasion is less likely to cause such effects due to the cooling effect of the saline solution.

The AAD also notes that microdermabrasion may cause skin redness or swelling that disappears within 1 day.

It is possible for treated areas of skin to become darker or lighter than usual or blotchy, particularly for people with darker skin tones.

Microdermabrasion can cause other skin issues, but these tend to go away without treatment. Examples include:

  • bruising
  • burning
  • stinging
  • extreme sensitivity to sunlight

The AAD also explains that microdermabrasion may increase the risk of dark spots for people whose skin tends to develop dark spots after an acne lesion clears. However, it notes that receiving microdermabrasion from a dermatologist minimizes this risk.

According to the ASPS, the average cost of microdermabrasion and other skin resurfacing procedures is $1,489. However, this cost is for the procedure alone and does not cover any related expenses.

The ASPS states that the cost of dermabrasion may vary according to geographic location and the qualifications of the person carrying out the procedure. It recommends asking about the full cost of the procedure in advance and whether the treatment facility offers any patient financing plans.

The AAD recommends that people ask their dermatologist the following questions to establish whether microdermabrasion is right for them:

  • Who will perform the procedure?
  • What are the likely results?
  • How many treatments will be necessary to achieve the desired results?
  • What are the potential side effects of the procedure?
  • Do I have an increased risk of any side effects?
  • How much will the treatment cost?

The AAD also recommends that people ask to see before-and-after photos or speak with people who have already undergone the procedure at that treatment facility.

Learn about other treatments for acne.

Microdermabrasion uses friction to gently exfoliate and remove the outer layer of the skin. Dermatologists may recommend the procedure to treat acne or improve the appearance of acne marks or scars.

Microdermabrasion from a dermatologist has an excellent safety record. Temporary side effects may include skin redness, warmth, and swelling, but these tend to subside within a day.

Anyone considering microdermabrasion for acne or acne scarring should talk with a dermatologist first to establish whether the treatment is right for them.