Microdermabrasion, a non-surgical cosmetic procedure developed in Italy in 1985, has long been heralded as a revolutionary skin care technique. During this procedure, a microdermabrasion machine is used to spray tiny crystals of abrasive material, usually aluminum oxide, onto the face. The crystals exfoliate dead skin cells, and are then vacuumed away. The procedure can revitalize dull skin, clean and shrink pores, as well as reduce the appearance age spots, pigmentation irregularities, fine lines and wrinkles. It takes about 30-45 minutes to perform and requires virtually no recovery–you can have it done on your lunch break and be back to work with fresh skin. Provided, of course, that the procedure is done properly.
The Food and Drug administration classifies microdermabrasion machines as a category 1 prescription cosmetic devices, and does not require that their operation be supervised by a physician. This is because the microdermabrasion procedure is only intended to involve the exfoliation of the dead outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, and not the deeper levels of the dermis. Therefore, it is up to each individual state to set up their own regulations and determine microdermabrasion training requirements. The problem is that the calibration of the machines varies greatly, and it can be very easy for even an experienced technician to delve beneath the stratum corneum, possibly damaging delicate living tissue. In states where microdermabrasion training requirements are less stringent, this possibility becomes more likely.
In South Carolina, a spa professional trained in microdermabrasion can only perform the procedure under the supervision of a doctor. In California, however, any esthetician, regardless of whether or not they have had microdermabrasion training, is legally allowed to practice it. Colorado requires 14 hours of microdermabrasion training at a vocational school. The State of Florida allows the procedure to be performed by spa professionals on only the head, neck, and scalp. Some states have no regulations at all, leaving it up to individual spas and manufacturers of microdermabrasion machines to train technicians themselves. Even where legal regulations do exist, course requirements vary so much from state to state that it is difficult to guess how well, or how poorly, a technician may have been trained. Well respected organizations of estheticians, such as the National Coalition of Esthetician and Related Associations (NCEA) have long stated that they would like to implement a unified standard of microdermabrasion training, but given the current state of disorder, this could be a long and difficult process. Until they are successful and microdermabrasion training becomes more uniform, it would be wise for individual consumers to do their research before undergoing the procedure.
Tatiana McGarry is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago, IL.