In a 2011 episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Adrienne Maloof hosted a spa day for her costars that I haven't stopped thinking about ever since. Maloof, then married to celebrity plastic surgeon Paul Nassif, invited the girls to her sprawling bathroom to indulge in spray tans, laser work, HydraFacials, LED light therapy, and more, with services provided by three masseuses and two aestheticians (along with champagne furnished by a staff of three extraordinarily attractive waiters). The HydraFacial machine alone was said to cost $40,000 — and I can’t even begin to imagine how much the cabana boys cost.
Obviously, the whole setup was a fantasy for the average person (I mean, she had frozen yogurt available with 15 toppings!) and, as I watched the episode so many years ago, I tried to imagine what it must be like to live with a day spa down the hall. Flash forward nearly a decade, and in one way or another, we can all live like Maloof. We can harness LED light therapy from the comfort of our own couches thanks to masks and wands used for home use, self-administer microcurrent treatment, and even get personalized derm advice straight from an app. So it stands to reason that we should be able to enjoy the exfoliating powers of microdermabrasion sinkside, too.
The allure of microdermabrasion is that it uses various inert crystals, salt, or ice to gently and mechanically exfoliate the skin surface, removing dead superficial layers and allowing fresh underlying layers to shine through for a newfound glow. “These machines also use vacuum suction to minimize the crystals and exfoliated dead skin debris on the treated skin surface,” explains dermatologist S. Manjula Jegasothy, M.D. “This vacuum may also remove superficial clogged pore debris like blackheads, although not as well as salicylic acid peels or physical extraction."
Devices geared to deliver similar exfoliation at home may help induce that elusive glow, but Dr. Jegasothy says that, due to a less intense vacuum and crystal load, there's no comparing at-home treatments and the professional kind. Gabriel Chiu, M.D., a plastic and reconstructive surgeon based in Beverly Hills, also advises we dial down our expectations — and takes it one step further, eschewing microdermabrasion altogether in favor of gentler exfoliating options. "You're better off using a Clarisonic on a regular basis than having at-home or spa-grade treatments, since it is similarly effective and cheaper," he says.
For the most part, Dr. Chiu is right about the cost, though newer devices are bringing microdermabrasion-style exfoliating home for even cheaper than an oscillating cleansing brush — but before you add to cart, heed Dr. Jegasothy's advice. "Microdermabrasion should not be used on any type of inflamed skin," she says. "Before beginning any skin treatment procedure at home, consulting a board-certified dermatologist is always best.” Ahead, I tried three of the top-selling DIY microdermabrasion tools at a range of price points...
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