How often should you use a microdermabrasion scrub?
These scrubs tend to be used at home, to give a similar, if lesser effect, to the microdermabrasion treatment carried out by a dermatologist or aesthetician.
The sensible frequency will vary depending on a number of factors including your skin type, which you use and the result you are hoping to see.
A microdermabrasion scrub is either a hand-held machine or one of a variety of gritty particles, rubbed on to the skin by hand. The object of both are similar, to help remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, to fade scars left by acne and other skin complaints, improve melasma and smooth an uneven skin texture.
Mechanical v Chemical -
Aluminium Oxide Crystals: These are fine crystals, blown on to the skin and then suctioned off, with dead skin cells and any debris.
Diamond-tipped wands: a hand held device with a diamond-encrusted tip which abrades the skin's surface, removing dead skin cells and apparently promoting cell turnover.
Sodium Bicarbonate: (aka baking soda) This is a cheap alternative - the texture is fine but abrasive, so it can slough off dead skin cells when rubbed into skin.
Salt crystals: These have a rougher texture than sodium bicarbonate and this will help remove dead skin cells and skin will feel smoother afterwards.
Natural grains, fruit pips, seeds (often apricot), rice and oats. Like the crystals, these are all rough enough to do a similar job.
Both methods have been found to help some people, but I have reservations with both. Firstly the methods themselves… the skin barrier is an amazingly efficient piece of biological engineering - without it, life would be pretty miserable. It is waterproof and keeps out a daily horde of infections and pollutants, it is self-cleaning/renewing - you do not want to damage it!
The idea of scraping off every last sticky old skin flake and the day’s grime with it, is quite an attractive thought - it feels clean and depending on what you use, leaves skin feeling anything from a bit tingly, to stinging and sore. There are a few important considerations: Your skin sensitivity, your age, any medication being taken that could affect skin thickness, sensitivity or healing ability. Skin turns over about every 30 days if you are under 30 and about every 60 days if you are north of 65, so the younger you are, the less frequently this should be necessary.
Personally, I wouldn’t use the hand-held devices, I don’t believe that diamond tips and skin should voluntarily come into contact - one is very hard, one is very soft…not even if your skin is robust. (I appreciate that the salon microdermabrasions commonly use diamond and bristle tips, but these are being used by trained skincare professionals, for a specific purpose, infrequently, and are not recommended for everyone. Mechanical exfoliation can cause redness, inflammation, discomfort or damage to the skin if used too often or with too much ‘enthusiasm’…
I don’t even think that ground up shells, nuts and pips should be used. Salt crystals are very hard, they do dissolve, but slowly and then you are really just covering a scraped face in salt. Sodium bicarbonate, with given variables, will have a pH of about 9 - very alkaline for skin, which is much happier at around pH5.5. I can’t see a problem with using oats or rice, in fact, I think that both could be beneficial to skin and provide plenty of abrasion to get off any stubborn old skin cells, rubbed into areas of melasma, they should improve it, for the same reasons and even help sooth and and improve acne scars.
In terms of why you might use one, other than to simply give your face a thorough clean, there are skin problems that people often hope to improve by exfoliating:
Mild Skin Concerns: wanting to improve lines on the face, particularly those typically caused by sun-exposure and smoothing an uneven skin texture. The rice or oats exfoliation should help both these, to some extent, as you are removing any patches of dead skin which can give skin a dull, uneven appearance and both rice water and oats are soothing and should leave a nice smooth, plumped surface.
Moderate Skin Concerns: melasma, mild acne scarring and other superficial scarring or a very dull or uneven appearance to skin. Again the same two, rice and oats, can help, but make sure the rice has been soaked beforehand, you don’t want to puncture skin that has recently healed and will be thinner and more sensitive than other areas of skin.
Significant Cosmetic Skin Concerns: Having a considerable amount of melasma, scarring from acne that has left the skin surface bumpy and uneven and any widespread discolouration. If you are attempting to address this level of discomfort, I think you ought to consult a dermatologist or a medical aesthetician for advice as a professionally administer microdermabrasion might be a more effective treatment. Importantly, you have someone experienced at the other end of the machine.
Why You Probably Shouldn’t Use Microdermabrasion:
If your skin is very sensitive; if you have any inflammatory conditions, (exfoliating could exacerbate them - like acne, as existing existing inflammation could be aggravated, causing further irritation or breakouts); if you are taking any medication that adversely affects skin; if you have sunburn; if you have rosacea, telangiectasia, eczema or a weakened skin barrier, current, or a history of skin cancers.
Why You Should Use Microdermabrasion:
We’ll, there isn’t really a ‘should’, but you can use it.. the above lists of why people use them, the mild and moderate skin concerns could certainly be improved by gentle microdermabrasion, using one of the gentler alternatives.
So - back to the simple question - how often…even this depends …on your own skin’s tolerance, and your enthusiasm/technique. Over-exfoliating or exfoliating too often can potentially irritate or damage the skin, so it would need longer to recover between sessions. If you have none of the issues that could be worsened and you’ve chosen one of the gentler options, then once a week is plenty, once a fortnight will still be effective. Your skin wil still remember to shed its dead cells, whether we help it or not. A soft face-cloth or towel is quite abrasive enough to remove weekly build-up. If you live in a particularly built-up city, near busy roads or anywhere that suffers air pollution to a significant extent, then you might have reason to do it twice a week.
Better still, use it in combination with topical treatments; by clearing the surface detritus, you are allowing the serum or oil to penetrate effectively into the skin and so enhance the hydration and overall condition. Particularly so for areas of melasma, which has travelled up from way down in the skin, so all those layers need to move up before you can zap them on the surface. By gently exfoliating, then applying a serum with a-arbutin, kojic acid, vitamin c or another tyrosinase-inhibitor, they can get in there to do their job - of stopping the over-production of melanin in that area. It will also help the hydrators, like hyaluronic acid work better too.
So treat your skin kindly and it will respond!