Is Microdermabrasion Effective for Melasma?

Is Microdermabrasion Effective for Melasma?

One treatment for melasma which can help improve pigmented skin is microdermabrasion. Melasma is a common skin ailment characterized by hyperpigmentation, enlarged melanin cells called melanocytes, an increase in the number of melanin cells, and an increase in blood vessels in the face. Standard treatment usually consists of topical therapy that includes hydroquinone, tretinoin, corticosteroids, or combinations of all three. Treatment is not limited to topical medications, though. Various procedures, such as chemical peels, laser therapy, and more can improve the appearance of dark patches on the skin.


What Is Microdermabrasion?

Introduced in 1985 as an alternative to the more physically invasive dermabrasion and chemical peel, microdermabrasion is used to treat a variety of different cosmetic woes.

These include:

  • scarring,
  • fallout from excessive sun exposure,
  • stretch marks,
  • irregular or uneven skin tone,
  • and melasma

Like these other common skin problems, melasma affects the epidermis or outer layer of the skin, and it is therefore treatable using such an minimally invasive procedure as microdermabrasion. This outpatient procedure does not require the use of anesthesia and can be performed by dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and PAs alike.

The procedure itself uses a tool with an abrasive end to exfoliate the outer layer of the skin and stimulate new skin cell growth.

One version of the procedure deploys fine particles into the skin which are later removed via vacuum.

The epidermis that forms after the procedure has less of the discoloration and hyperpigmentation characteristic of melasma.

Microdermabrasion is a safe and effective cosmetic skin care procedure with applications for treating melasma (Ogbechie-Godec).

Just How Effective Is Microdermabrasion For Melasma?

In conjunction with topical and/or oral treatment, microdermabrasion is considered to be an effective treatment for melasma. Combination therapy is an effective approach toward melasma because it addresses the plurality of underlying causes.

Microdermabrasion has been shown to conclusively remove the outermost layer of the skin associated with melasma with little to no damage to underlying skin (Gill).

This removal is synonymous with a softening of the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

This establishes microdermabrasion as a definitive and effective tool for treating hyperpigmentation and melasma, especially when used alongside some of the other aforementioned treatments.

It is especially attractive to patients because it results in fewer side effects than other procedural treatments such as the chemical peel. Note that results are maintained with subsequent treatments.


How Much Does Microdermabrasion Cost?

The cost of the procedure is a relevant consideration relative to other treatment.

The procedure can range from $100 to $200 per treatment, and many skin care professionals will often recommend multiple sessions to effectively treat melasma since this condition is generally slow to respond to treatment (Alai).

As it is considered a cosmetic procedure, it will often not be covered by insurance. It is significantly less expensive than some other procedural treatments for melasma, especially laser therapy.

Less effective versions of microdermabrasion are available as take home treatment kits. These often use an abrasive cream which acts as the exfoliator. These kits can cost anywhere from $10 to $100, depending on the instruments and agents used.


What Other Benefits Can I Expect From Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion has a variety of cosmetic applications. To name a few, it can treat:

  • Scars
  • Acne scars
  • Stretch marks
  • Premature aging of the skin
  • Eczema
  • Wrinkles
  • Enlarged pores

It can also improve skin health in a variety of ways. It also results in increased collagen and decreased facial oil.

Furthermore, because the procedure has proven its ability to remove the outer layers of the skin, it has the added benefit of making topical applications of medication more effective. This enhances its status as an adjunct therapy among skin care professionals.

What Are Some Potential Downsides Of Microdermabrasion?

One of the primary reasons a skin care professional will elect for this treatment is because of its relative lack of risk and harm. However, there are some associated, minor negative effects immediately after the treatment. These can include:

  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight
  • Bruising
  • Inflammation
  • A stinging sensation

Because of the increased sensitivity to sunlight, extra precautions should be taken to avoid exposure to UV rays following treatment.

The Skin Quiz

Our Dermatologist worked closely with experts to create a melasma skin quiz that guides you to the best treatments on the market 👇

How Might Melasma Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, melasma is often caused by uncontrollable factors such as:

  • Skin type
  • Genetics
  • Gender

However, prevention is still a critical component in dealing with existing melasma – especially while you are treating it with microdermabrasion. While the condition is caused by a variety of factors, one which is both highly culpable and preventable is direct exposure to ultraviolet sunlight. It is responsible for aggravating existing hyperpigmentation and undoing the progress you have made towards achieving a clear complexion.

Any effective melasma treatment includes the daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen. Sunscreen labeled as such has been required by the FDA since 2011 to protect against the two types of UV radiation (A and B) that are linked to the kind of skin damage linked to melasma.

Notably, UVA—the radiation most responsible for the kind of damage linked to melasma—is present during all daylight hours, and it is as present in direct sunlight as it is with overcast. This means that sunscreen is warranted at unintuitive moments, and it should likely be used more often than not.

Research suggests that physical UV blockers like iron oxide result in a lower melasma relapse rate over broad spectrum sunscreens that do not contain sunlight blockers.


What Is The Best Way To Treat Melasma?

Many treatments can be used in conjunction with each other for optimal results, one of which can include microdermabrasion. That being said, microdermabrasion is not considered to be the best melasma treatment on its own, so it often plays a supportive role in treating the condition.

In addition, one aspect of microdermabrasion which might detract some prospective patients is the number of visits needed for the procedure to be effective. A growing number of companies support those with melasma using online portal to cut down on this. The microdermabrasion costs mentioned earlier compare well in considerations to prescriptions which have decreased in cost over time.

Since melasma has so many potential contributing causes, having a licensed professional to assess and manage your treatment is a necessity to achieve and maintain optimal results.


Brandon Kirsch

Brandon Kirsch, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in clinical drug development and medical innovation. He is the founder of Kirsch Dermatology in Naples, Florida and is also the Chief of Dermatology at the Naples Community Hospital. Kirsch Dermatology Website Dr. Kirsch started his career as a lawyer and holds law degrees from the University of Western Ontario (LL.B.) and Georgetown (LL.M. Securities and Financial Regulation). Dr. Kirsch completed his pre-medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, medical school at Brown University, internship at the Mayo Clinic (Florida) and dermatology residency at the University of North Carolina. In partnership with the Mayo Clinic, he filed to patent a novel topical composition for the treatment of skin hyperpigmentation that he co-developed and also oversaw a successful pilot study of the formulation. Dr. Kirsch has experience with therapeutic drug development programs from pre-clinical to Phase 3 studies. He is licensed to practice medicine in California, Colorado, Florida, and North Carolina and law in New York and Ontario.

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