The fascination with lighter, brighter skin has been constant over the ages but we’ve certainly come a long way from the days when we were applying nightingale poop on our face for instant skin whitening perks.
Nowadays, anyone who wants to get a few shades lighter has a huge range of skin lightening products to choose from. And there are oh so many methods – soaps, pills, creams, serums, peels, masks. Name it and you can bet there’s a skin lightening product that falls in that category.
And it’s not just products, there are treatments cropping up every day as well. A popular one that crops up often is, of course, microdermabrasion. It’s a relatively new treatment that’s gained popularity for its multi-tasking beauty accomplishments, from erasing fine lines to smoothing acne scars.
But does microdermabrasion work for skin lightening? Let’s take a look…
What is Microdermabrasion?
Okay, if you’re a skin care aficionado, you already know all the ins and outs of microdermabrasion but here’s a quick look for the rest of us. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons defines it as a treatment that uses a minimally abrasive instrument to gently sand the skin.
The purpose? To quickly and efficiently remove the thicker and uneven outer layer of dry, dead skin cells. The result? A solution to a host of skin problems such as scarring, acne spots, discoloration, sun damage, stretch marks, wrinkles, enlarged pores, and hyper pigmentation.
Here’s how it works, in a nutshell: During the process of microdermabrasion, the superficial layer of dead skin cells is exfoliated and removed through a machine that uses a stream of fine crystals or a diamond tip. Some systems have a suction to vacuum loose skin cells from the face.
By removing the stratum corneum, your body interprets it as an injury and works to quickly replace the lost, dead skin cells with new, healthy ones.
In case this is all sounding pretty painful to you – rest assured that it’s not. Microdermabrasion is non invasive and pretty much painless. The sensation can be compared to a cat licking your face or a sand paper massaged on your skin. It’s generally well tolerated by most.
Does Microdermabrasion for Skin Lightening Work?
Now that you know what microdermabrasion is and what it can do for your skin, you want to know: will it work for lightening your skin?
Yes and no.
As we explained earlier, there are two different types of skin lighteners: the first type is the melanin inhibitors and these are the ones that do the heavy lifting, working to block melanin production so your skin turns lighter.
The other kind is the exfoliators – these clear out dead skin cells and simultaneously stimulate faster cell renewal. Exfoliators have nothing to do with melanin production so they cannot lighten your skin several shades, like melanin inhibitors can, but exfoliators are still an essential sidekick to the skin lightening process.
Why? For starters, by clearing up dead skin cells, exfoliants can help clear up hyperpigmentation a lot faster. The removal of that top layer of dead skin also increases the absorption of whatever lightening product you apply to your skin, allowing it to sink right into your pores rather than sit atop a layer of dead skin cells.
As you might have guessed by now – microdermabrasion is an exfoliator, not a melanin inhibitor.
But it’s a damn good one.
It may not be able to make your skin several shades lighter, but by thoroughly buffing and polishing off the top layer of the skin, microdermabrasion is very helpful for brightening and evening out your complexion as well as getting rid of dark spots left by acne, sun damage and scarring.
And although microdermabrasion on its own cannot make your skin tone lighter, when combined with an effective skin lightening product, you’ll get better results by using both than you’d get from either one on its own.
So the overall verdict is: Microdermabrasion cannot lighten the skin by several shades, but it can give you a brighter, more even skin tone by sloughing off hyperpigmentation. However, when combined with an effective skin lightening product (and religious sun protection), it can give you much better, faster results than you’d get from just using a skin lightener on its own.
Professional vs At Home Microdermabrasion
Okay, you’d like to give microdermabrasion a go but now you’re wondering whether you should see a professional or spring for an at-home microdermabrasion machine.
Here’s a quick roundup of the pros and cons of each…
If you get it done professionally, the procedure lasts 30 to 60 minutes long and should be performed by licensed and trained aestheticians, nurses, dermatologists, or plastic surgeons in a physician’s office, medical spa, day spa, or salons.
Some spas offer free consultation and evaluation. At this price not only are you lightening your skin tone you’ll also be addressing other skin problems such as acne, wrinkles, enlarged pores, scarring, and other problems that most of us are all too familiar with.
If you do it yourself with a home microdermabrasion machine, it’ll take you even less time – around 15 minutes, making it easy to work into your regular beauty regimen. Of course, at home microdermabrasion costs much less as well. Whereas professional microdermabrasion treatments will run you $75 to $200 per treatment, an at home microdermabrasion machine you can use time and time again can be as cheap as $20.
The one big perk of opting for the professional treatments is that the professional devices are usually more powerful, allowing deeper penetration into the skin as well as a more precise exfoliation.
That being said, that tends to apply mostly to microdermabrasion that’s performed by a medical professional like a dermatologist rather than at a spa. Also, there are now home microdermabrasion machines that are pretty darn powerful as well – these tend to be pricier but after the upfront cost, you can continue to use it for years.
In short, the professional vs home microdermabrasion question is a controversial one, with some people insisting that professional treatments are best while others stand by home microdermabrasion. It really comes down to personal preference as well as the professional or the machine you decide to go with.
Our two cents? Try both. One treatment with a professional is expensive but there are frequent offers on Groupon so you may be able to get them at a discount. There are also good home microdermabrasion machines for as cheap as $20. They won’t be as strong but you’ll also be able to use them frequently and it’s an affordable way to see if home microdermabrasion is right for you.
So go ahead, pamper yourself and test them both out. That way you can find out for sure which one you like.
What are the Best Home Microdermabrasion Machines?
Microdermabrasion works. Most people who’ve tried it will tell you it removed years from their face, got rid of evidence of late nights and sun damage and erased even the most stubbornly pesky spots.
So it’s no surprise that it’s a hot market. And thanks to the ongoing demand for better, more powerful, more precise home microdermabrasion machines – there are now a whole lot of them.
To save you the time of weeding through all your options, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 3 best microdermabrasion machines to start out with. They’re easy to use and affordable while still being powerful enough to get results!
Olay ProX Microdermabrasion Plus Advanced Cleansing System
This is the perfect home microdermabrasion kit for beginners. It’s gentle enough to use twice a week but powerful enough to get visible results – the perfect mix for newbies.
How it works is pretty simple: the machine has two attachments. One is a soft bristle head that’s used for daily cleansing. It works kind of like the Clarisonic, with each rotation providing a deep cleanse to get rid of dirt, debris and hard-to-remove makeup.
The second attachment is the Microdermabrasion Foam Head and this is where the magic is at.
You use it with the self-warming Thermal Crystal Polisher and the machine – which has 3 speeds – allows you to exfoliate that top layer of your skin 700% better than you would by using just a scrub on its own.
Overall, this is a solid starter microdermabrasion kit – and the most affordable. Get it here!
Silk’n Revit Microderm Device
We try not to play favorites but yea, this is our favorite home microdermabrasion device. Why? Two simple reasons: it’s ridiculously effective and provides diamond tip microdermabrasion and suction. Plus, it’s at a good price point – at $99, it’s roughly the cost of one professional microdermabrasion treatment.
Unlike the Olay device above which uses a grainy cream to polish away dead skin, this is a battery operated wand that comes with 3 attachable diamond peeling tips – coarse, fine and precision tips – that serve as the exfoliator.It also has a suction to vacuum up the dead skin and for such a small device, the suction is seriously strong!
And of course, there’s a replaceable filter inside where all the grossness that’s removed from your skin is collected.
Just know that this device can be addictive. You may even find yourself looking forward to using it every week, just waiting to discover how much gunk you’ll be removing from your face. Of course, the fact that it leaves your skin glowing afterwards is a lovely perk, too! Get it here!
Trophy Skin MicrodermMD Microdermabrasion System
MicrodermMD is a professional-grade microdermabrasion machine that comes with a diamond tip wand and suction like the Silk’n Revit above, but also has an LED display feature that walks you through the entire treatment as well as a built-in mirror with 5X magnification so you can see exactly what you’re doing.
The only downside is the price – at $299, it does require a significant upfront investment but the quality and power of the machine makes up for it, especially if you’ve been getting regular microdermabrasion treatments done professionally.
It also comes with a solid 3 year warranty so in the rare chance that anything happens, you’re covered for unlimited microdermabrasion treatments for at least the first 3 years. Get it here!
- Sunscreen is a must. Don’t forget that no matter how effective the procedure is on you, results won’t last if you do not take care of your skin. Microdermabrasion does not protect the skin from UV rays nor does it prevent the skin from acquiring damage due to other external factors. Always remember to take care of your skin and protect it especially when you are going to be out under the sun by using high SPF sunscreen!
- Consistency matters. You may see visible results after just one treatment but the real results will come with consistency, especially when you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.
- Combine for an extra boost. Microdermabrasion is great but where it really shines is when you use it in concert with other skin boosters and lighteners. Just some of the other products and treatments you can use along with microdermabrasion for better, faster results are Intense Pulse Light (IPL) therapy, chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing, and of course, skin lightening products like soaps and creams.