Lately, when I look in the mirror to fix my hair or put on moisturizer, I can’t help but put my nose to the glass and scan my face for any new fine lines or enlarged pores. With every new problem that pops up, I wish I could somehow trade my whole face for a less-abused one; this time I would be vigilant about sunscreen application, nightly face washing, and the use of anti-aging creams. Luckily, there’s a less dramatic alternative: microdermabrasion, an exfoliation process in which the surface of the skin is scrubbed (usually with specially formulated crystals or diamond tips) and suctioned off to reveal a fresh, healthier, and hopefully problem-free layer.
Of course, such a miracle-working process doesn’t come cheap. A professional microdermabrasion treatment costs somewhere between $100 to $200; a plastic surgery and laser center in San Francisco charges $150 per treatment, and they recommend doing at least six treatments over the course of a few months for optimal results.
For those who want the same skin resurfacing but can’t afford to pay such exorbitant prices , there are at-home microdermabrasion kits. But are such kits as effective as professional treatments? Is paying less (anywhere from $14.99 for a microdermabrasion exfoliator at Target to $250.00 for an entire system that offers twenty treatments at Sephora) worth any sacrifice in quality?
When Professional Isn’t the Best Option
Professional microdermabrasion treatments are generally more effective because they involve a more thorough and aggressive process. If you want to blast away every fine line, scar, and blemish on your face, the advanced technology offered in cosmetic clinics  and salons might better suit your purposes. They have tools and machines that adeptly slough away dead skin cells to encourage cell growth and collagen production. At-home kits, being much more benign in their approach, don’t offer the same dramatic results.
However, that’s not always a bad thing, especially for those out there who suffer from sensitive skin. Professional microdermabrasion treatments have a tendency to cause breakouts and skin irritation  among some clients for the very same reasons they achieve such noticeable results. Since at-home kits are gentler, it’s less likely they’ll cause such a severe reaction. Plus, the better kits will produce softer skin and a smoother complexion, even if they don’t completely rid the face of blemishes. The trick in the world of at-home microdermabrasion is to learn how to separate the winners from the losers.
Quality At-Home Kits
It’s worth noting that skincare regimens are very individual processes, and what works wonderfully for one person’s face might prove too harsh or not effective enough for someone else. However, there are a few at-home kits with especially favorable reviews on websites that sell beauty products like Sephora, Total Beauty, and Amazon. If you want to see what microdermabrasion can do for your skin, it might be worth it to first see what’s worked best for others, especially before you spend the big (or small) bucks on a random kit.
While it doesn’t label itself as a microdermabrasion treatment per se, the Clarisonic Classic Skin Care System includes cleansers and a skincare brush that help soften dry patches, slough away dead skin, and minimize pores and pimples. (It’s also one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things,” if that tips the scales in either direction.) The system is $166.25 on Amazon, but if that’s beyond your budget, don’t fret—the highest-rated kit on Total Beauty is Mary Kay TimeWise Microdermabrasion Step 1: Refine, which comes in at a very reasonable $30.00. The next consumer favorite on the same website is Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel System ($21.49 on Amazon). The bestsellers on Sephora’s website are a little more expensive. Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Cream ($75 for 1.7 oz.) has a five-star rating on Sephora after 468 reviews to date. Another popular kit, the DDF Revolve 400X Micro-Polishing System, is $95.00. One reviewer said that it made her acne scars more subtle and her skin look “clearer and less ruddy” after only three weeks of use.
Clearly, there are a plethora of well-received and affordable alternatives to professional microdermabrasion treatments. They might not provide the exact same results as getting it done in a spa or clinic, but for a little skin pick-me-up that goes beyond drugstore facial creams and scrubs, it seems that at-home microdermabrasion kits (at least some of them) can help.