Microdermabrasion For Acne Scars: Everything You Need To Know

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Acne often leaves behind scars after a breakout. The scarring becomes more noticeable with age as the skin begins to lose its elasticity. Sun exposure increases the damage to your skin, thus worsening the appearance of acne scars.

Microdermabrasion is a specialized skin care procedure that is used to treat acne scars. The dermatologist uses a small device to remove the superficial skin layer and reveal the underlying smooth, supple, and toned skin.

Read on to learn all about microdermabrasion – its benefits, procedure, potential side effects, and costs – and how effective it is at reducing acne scars.

​ What Is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a popular skin exfoliation treatment. It is painless and non-invasive. Although the common area for this technique is the face, you can also get microdermabrasion on the neck, chest, back, and hands.

For this procedure, the dermatologist uses a handheld instrument to exfoliate your skin. Unlike other forms of exfoliating techniques – like chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and dermabrasion – microdermabrasion only targets superficial skin (1). This makes it the best option for treating early sun damage, fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and acne scars.

As the dermatologist uses a fine abrasive tip combined with vacuum suction, there is no need for needles and anesthetics for the procedure. The recovery is also quicker compared to other exfoliating methods.

Let’s check out what effect microdermabrasion has on the skin.

What Is The Effect Of Microdermabrasion On Your Skin?

Often, sun damage, aging, and pollution dry out the outer layer of skin and cause discoloration and rough texture. Microdermabrasion exfoliates your skin to give you an even skin tone and texture. Even a single treatment session is claimed to deliver visible results.

For many people, it also softens the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also reduces pore size and controls oiliness (1). Listed below are the effects it has on different skin conditions:

1. Effect On Acne

Microdermabrasion works best on depressed acne scars that lie flat against the skin. It does not help improve deep and extensive acne scarring (2), (3).

As the skin gets exfoliated, it triggers the healing process of your skin. Subsequently, your skin produces more collagen and remodels to become smoother. Multiple treatments can also reduce the dark spots caused by breakouts. Repeated treatments can also decrease the comedones in mild acne.

It is not advisable to get microdermabrasion if you have severe acne or an acute breakout episode as it can exacerbate your condition. Consult your dermatologist for an alternative treatment. You can also wait for the inflammation to settle and the acne to clear before opting for microdermabrasion.

2. Effect On Melasma

Melasma is a common skin problem that causes dark patches to appear on the skin. Microdermabrasion treatment can help in such skin pigmentation problems (4). You are usually asked to undergo sessions once a fortnight or month. When used in combination with glycolic acid peels, 4% hydroquinone, and regular sunscreen, it can yield positive results. The only drawback is it is not a permanent solution.

3. Effect On Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris (also known as follicular keratosis) is a harmless skin condition in which the skin produces excess keratin protein that blocks the hair follicles. The blocked follicles lead to a rough and bumpy appearance on the skin. These bumps appear on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, or buttocks and do not hurt or itch (5).

Microdermabrasion can help temporarily improve the appearance of skin affected by keratosis pilaris. Skin experts often recommend this treatment in combination with lactic acid lotion and glycolic acid peel. However, the condition can recur despite treatment.

Now, let’s check out how many sessions of microdermabrasion you need to reduce acne scars.

How Many Microdermabrasion Sessions Do You Need?

On average, the cells of your skin regenerate every 30 days. This means the effects of a microdermabrasion treatment on the skin are temporary. For continued benefits, you may require multiple sessions every two to four weeks.

The number of sessions a person requires will depend on their skin condition, the extent of skin damage and acne scarring, and their healing capacity. Due to the cumulative benefit of microdermabrasion treatments, multiple sessions spread over regular intervals (biweekly or monthly) may be necessary. Depending on your acne scarring, you may require about 5-12 sessions. Multiple sessions plus sun protection and moisturization can yield optimal results to give you a healthy, glowing complexion.

Keep reading to learn all about the microdermabrasion procedure.

Procedure For Microdermabrasion

1. Prepping For The Treatment

You can get microdermabrasion at the spa or at a dermatologist’s clinic. Ensure you remove any traces of makeup or oil from your skin before the treatment. You will also require eye protection – either eye pads or goggles.

During the treatment, your skin needs some tension to achieve effective abrasion and vacuum. The skin care expert will stretch your skin and move the handpiece over it with continuous smooth passes. Typically, a couple of passes are done on one area.

Your skin will become slightly pinkish during the treatment, which is an expected response. The pinkness usually fades within a few hours.

2. Treatment After-Care

You will notice your skin to be a bit dry after the treatment. Continue to apply moisturizer as it can be an effect of exfoliation. You may also experience a mild sunburn-like sensation and increased photosensitivity for a few days following treatment (1). Apply sunscreen regularly to prevent sun damage.

Following are few more care tips for microdermabrasion after-care:

  • Use anti-inflammatory creams or cold compresses if needed.
  • Use a gentle cleanser.
  • Avoid picking at your new skin.
  • Avoid glycolic acid, beta hydroxy acid, retinol, and benzoyl peroxide products for a few days following treatment.
  • Avoid applying prescription retinoid products for at least a week after treatment.

The treatment stimulates collagen production to rejuvenate your skin. It helps reduce dark spots, age lines, and scarring to make your skin softer and smoother. However, the effects can be moderate and require repeated treatments.

How Much Does It Cost?

Microdermabrasion is more of a cosmetic procedure, and it is not covered by insurance. If you are getting the procedure, then you may want to consult your dermatologist or skin care specialist for the cost. On average, a session can cost about $100. Since the effect of a single session is minimal, you will require multiple such sessions.

Now, let’s answer the most important question.

Is Microdermabrasion For Everyone?

Microdermabrasion is not suitable for everyone. If you have acute inflammation or an active breakout, microdermabrasion can exacerbate the condition. Also, if you have extensive acne scars that spread beyond the middle layers of your skin, it will be ineffective (1).

Also, you should avoid the procedure if you have:

  • Open cuts and wounds on your skin
  • Skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, etc.
  • Skin cancers and cysts
  • Viral infections like herpes simplex, varicella-zoster virus, human papillomavirus, and impetigo
  • You are on isotretinoin medications for your acne problems

If you fall into one of these categories, you can check out the alternative treatments in the next section.

​ Alternatives To Microdermabrasion For Acne Scars

In some conditions, microdermabrasion can be ineffective on acne scars. You can try the following alternatives instead (3):

  • Dermabrasion, as it is more invasive and can target the deeper skin layers
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser resurfacing
  • Microneedling
  • Cryotherapy
  • Steroidal injections
  • Surgical removal of the skin lesions

It is wise to consult your skin specialist to guide you. In some cases, a combination of these treatments can provide better relief and lasting results than microdermabrasion.

Lastly, let’s check out the limitations and side effects of microdermabrasion.

Limitations And Potential Side Effects Of Microdermabrasion

The non-invasive nature of microdermabrasion ensures that the recovery is rapid with minimal side effects. It is a relatively safe procedure.

The potential drawbacks are the limitations of using this treatment:

  • It targets only the superficial layer of your skin.
  • It is ineffective when the skin lesions or damage extends into the deeper layers.

The potential side effects of microdermabrasion include (1):

  • Slight skin tightness
  • Redness/pinkness on the treated area (often resolves by itself)
  • Skin bruising
  • Photosensitivity
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
  • Skin abrasions
  • Micro bleeding
  • Threadlike red lines and patterns on the skin due to small blood vessel injuries

Take Away

Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive and painless treatment for removing the uppermost layer of your skin. It is good for treating mild acne scars. Although you will see some results with one session, multiple sessions are necessary for lasting skin improvement. You will have to follow some skin care tips before and after the treatment to reap optimal results.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Can microdermabrasion make acne scars worse?

Microdermabrasion is ineffective on deep and extensive acne scars. It can also worsen hypertrophic or keloidal acne scars.

Which is better – microdermabrasion or chemical peel – for acne?

Microdermabrasion sessions can fade superficial scarring caused by acne. It can cause irritation and abrasion of the skin if you have an active acne breakout. Chemical peels in such conditions will prove effective. The salicylate acid in chemical peels prevents future breakouts while exfoliating the skin.

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).
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