Either a paste or a scrub containing aluminum oxide crystals, sometimes used in conjunction with a battery-operated handpiece that rotates or vibrates a sponge or soft brush. The friction from the crystals and the sponge or brush give you a deeper (although still superficial) exfoliation than scrubs.The coarseness of the pastes and scrubs plus added friction from the attachment equals increased potential for temporarily damaging the skin (leaving it red and irritated and possibly scarring darker skin tones). Never use these products more than once a week. Cost: $30 to $130.
For microdermabrasion, aluminum oxide crystals or purified salt shoots out from a wand that immediately vacuums it up. For dermabrasion, a rotating rough wire brush or burr is used. During microdermabrasion, the materials sandblast away the top layer of the skin. Texture is smoothed and the mild pinkness can look like a glow. Dermatologists often use the procedure to maintain the results of laser resurfacing or to increase the penetration of prescription skin lighteners. Some evidence shows it may help reduce scars, although deeper resurfacing (dermabrasion) and other treatments (laser procedures) are usually needed. Dermabrasion is used mostly for smoothing scars and wrinkles. Microdermabrasion can irritate sensitive skin; avoid it if you have rosacea or a tendency toward redness.The vacuuming action in frequent treatments can lead to broken blood vessels, though if your skin can tolerate it, monthly treatments are considered safe. Cost: On average, $200 for microdermabrasion; $1,500 for dermabrasion.