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Microdermabrasion Treatment

What it is: Microdermabrasion is a relatively new skin polishing technique, performed both by aestheticians in spas and salons as well as by technicians in dermatologists' and plastic surgeons' offices. Also microdermabrasion is known as particle resurfacing and by other names, including Power Peels, Derma Peels and Parisian Peels.

The operator uses a handheld device that blasts fine particles of sandlike crystals (aluminum oxide or table salt) against the client's skin and vacuums away the used crystals, dirt and dead surface skin.

Microdermabrasion takes only 20 to 30 minutes for a full-face treatment. (The procedure also can be used on the neck and chest.) The patient can then return to work with only mild skin redness, which can be covered up right away with makeup. The redness will fade on its own after an hour or two. This procedure is not painful (patients feel a slight tingling as it is being done), requires no anesthesia and will not adversely lighten or darken African American skin, as some exfoliating treatments do. The treatment leaves the skin with a healthy glow. To achieve optimal benefits, five to 10 treatments, every seven to 10 days, are needed; most patients see improvement after the fourth or fifth session. After the initial series, periodic maintenance treatments (from once a month to once every three months, as needed) are often recommended.

Good for: smoothing away roughness and fine lines, improving leathery, sun-damaged skin and irregular, blotchy pigmentation and minimizing broken capillaries and age spots; also effective for cleaning out blackheads and whiteheads.

Reality check: Microdermabrasion exfoliates skin faster and more efficiently than any salon facial or products used at home, and penetrates the skin more deeply than a glycolic acid peel. But it is still a superficial approach to skin resurfacing and has to be repeated periodically. It won't help prominent acne scars, including "icepick" scars, other deep facial indentations, severe wrinkles around the mouth or furrows in the forehead; even fine wrinkles and scars may not disappear completely. Nor is microdermabrasion indicated to erase crow's feet,because the crystals can cause eye irritation if blasted too close to the eyes and delicate eyelid skin can be damaged by the machine's suction.

Costs: $75 to $200 per treatment. Some places offer package deals, offering patients one free treatment if they sign up for a package offer.

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