The benefits of microdermabrasion

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HELLO! beauty editor Nadine Baggott takes a look at the benefits of microdermabrasion

The latest at-home microdermabrasion kits are easier than ever to use, and the results can take years off you. Formulated to gently mimic salon microdermabrasion, these kits contain a variety of particles that will slough away dead skin cells, unblock pores and boost superficial circulation, leaving skin feeling smooth and fresh. They also stimulate collagen production, helping your skin rejuvenate itself more quickly than normal.

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HELLO! beauty editor Nadine Baggott looks at the benefits of microdermabrasion

We have the technology

Most of us have been unintentionally exfoliating for years - rough towels, flannels and old-fashioned scrubs all help the skin shed dead cells that are produced every day as it repairs and renews itself. And after Botox and peels, microdermabrasion is now the third most requested dermatological procedure in clinics and salons. Little wonder, then, that skincare companies have been investing.

"Old-fashioned scrubs tended to have large, uneven-shaped and very hard particles that either missed patches or had a tendency to scratch the healthy layers of skin, leaving it red and prone to sensitivity," explains Dr Paul Mans, who heads up research at Olay. "Modern formulations mimic low-grade dermatological procedures and tend to use ultra-fine, evenly shaped particles that simply take away the surface layers to reveal the healthier, younger skin beneath."

But Dr Matts warns that this is one good thing it's possible to have too much of. "Don't overdo it," he advises. "Read the instructions on home kits and never apply microdermabrasion for longer than recommended."

Salon microdermabrasion uses a machine that blows aluminium oxide crystals on to the skin while simultaneously vacuuming off the used particles. However, a recent study published in professional journal Dermatologic Surgery concluded that repeated treatments can actually reduce lipid levels, leaving skin prone to dryness, irritation and sensitivity.

The study measured ceramide lipid levels in the skin following the first salon session and found that, while they increased after the second and third sessions, the fourth and fifth sessions actually resulted in decreased levels. So far, no such research has been carried out on home kits, but the findings do help explain why beauty companies continue to search for gentler alternatives.

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Make sure not to overdo it or you could risk damaging your skin

Olay for example, devised a two-part system that uses a crystal scrub featuring sodium bicarbonate to help lift off dead skin cells, followed by a laic-acid serum that react with the crystals to foam up and release conditioners onto the skin's surface, The result is a smoother, brighter complexion - and skin that is left moisturised, rather than dehydrated and dried out.

"Not all microdermabrasion kits contain the same ingredients; some are harder than others," explains Dr Matts. Still, when you consider that on a scale used to measure the hardness of minerals, the aluminium oxide particles used in salon microdermabrasion are second only to diamonds, you can see why many people consider home kits to be the softer option. And they could be just what your party-weary skin is craving.

How do they scrub up?

With new products appearing on the beauty counter on a weekly basis, finding the best one for your particular skin type is no easy task. As a general rule of thumb, if you have a normal, well-behaved and slightly oily complexion, you should be able to try any of the salon-strength kits at home – most are designed for all but the most sensitive skins. However, those prone to redness, irritation and sun sensitivity, acne or rosacea should steer clear of microdermabrasion altogether, for fear of irritating the skin.

And anyone expecting to be transformed overnight will be disappointed, says Dr Matts. For the best long-term results, you'll need to add exfoliation to your skincare routine twice a week.

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