Microdermabrasion

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Alai is an actively practicing medical and surgical dermatologist in south Orange County, California. She has been a professor of dermatology and family medicine at the University of California, Irvine since 2000. She is U.S. board-certified in dermatology, a 10-year-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and Fellow of the American Society of Mohs Surgery.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Can microdermabrasion help with keratosis pilaris?

Microdermabrasion can help temporarily improve the appearance of keratosis pilaris (especially on the upper arms). Optimally, the microdermabrasion is given biweekly or monthly and is combined with lactic-acid lotions like Lac-Hydrin lotion or AmLactin and weekly glycolic-acid peels. Don't expect great results in this condition.

What are possible side effects of microdermabrasion?

Potential side effects of microdermabrasion are minimal and this is a very safe procedure. Potential drawbacks are very limited in that microderm only affects the epidermis, which is the outermost skin layer. Common minor, temporary side effects include slight skin tightness, redness, bruising, and sensitivity. As a general rule, the greater the potential benefits with a cosmetic treatment, the greater the potential risks and side effects. The possible risks with more aggressive treatments like dermabrasion and laser are much greater than microdermabrasion.

Possible side effects of microdermabrasion include

  • skin tightness,
  • redness,
  • minor bruising,
  • skin sensitivity,
  • post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH),
  • small skin abrasions,
  • spots of bleeding,
  • eye-skin bruising (especially if you are taking aspirin or other blood thinners),
  • fine broken blood vessels (telangiectasia),
  • and cold sore reactivation around lips.

Cold sore reactivation may uncommonly occur after microderm around lips. If you have had a lot of previous cold sores, consider either avoiding treatment around the lip borders or asking your doctor about taking an antiviral pill prophylactically. A typical cold sore prevention regimen may be to start an antiviral pill like acyclovir (Zovirax) 800 mg or valacyclovir (Valtrex) 1 gram once a day starting the day before and continuing for one to two days after your treatment. Antiviral creams are not effective cold sore prevention.

Overly aggressive microderm may cause breaks in skin and resulting post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Also overaggressive treatment may cause an increased risk of bruising (ecchymosis), especially if you are taking aspirin or other blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel bisulfate (Plavix). Since microdermabrasion only causes superficial skin removal, scarring and pigment changes are very rare if the procedure is performed correctly.

There may be a small possibility of increased surface blood vessels (telangiectasia), particularly if you have very thin skin, scleroderma, lupus, severe sun damage, taken long-term prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone, Prednicen-M, Liquid Pred), or other conditions where your skin is abnormally fragile and prone to forming telangiectasia.

In addition, if an individual is on isotretinoin (Accutane) or has taken this medication within the previous six to 12 months, resurfacing treatments such as microdermabrasion may not be appropriate due to the potential increased risk of scarring. As the potential risk is very slight, some dermatologists may treat patients on isotretonion with gentler sessions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/11/2015

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