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Natural Foods Merchandiser

At-home microdermabrasion

For many shoppers, the term microdermabrasion might conjure images of sterile dermatology offices, high-tech machinery and rose-hued, irritated faces. But microdermabrasion is actually a simple, healthy process, say many aestheticians. So what about the microdermabrasion products in your personal care section? Do they compare with an in-office procedure?

"Microdermabrasion is just a strong form of exfoliation," says Camille Capone, an esthetician at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in Boulder, Colo. "What it does is precipitate cellular turnover, which is especially important as we age because that process tends to take longer than it does when we're young. It gives skin a fresh look because it brushes off old, dead cells and stimulates the collagen and elastin in the new cells of the basal layer." Studies show that microdermabrasion treatments can reduce fine lines, dullness, pigmentation and large pores.

Capone says the do-it-yourself microdermabrasion kits touted by both conventional and natural skin care companies aren't nearly as strong as an in-office treatment because dermatologists use stronger exfoliation materials, such as diamond-tipped tools, aluminum crystals and ultrasound. Over-the-counter products contain softer materials, such as lava rock or magnesium oxide, which aren't quite as effective, but can still leave skin feeling smooth and fresh. Capone recommends microdermabrasion for those with normal to aging skin or rosacea, but not for those with acne pustules because it can spread bacteria. She also suggests pairing up the products with a soothing recovery serum. "After exfoliation, skin is primed for soaking up nutrients, so it's always good to follow up microdermabrasion with a vitamin- and mineral-enriched serum," she says.

A study in the August issue of The Journal of Dermatological Treatment showed marked skin improvements in microdermabrasion patients who used an antioxidant serum immediately after the treatment versus patients who didn't.

For the beauty-conscious shoppers perusing your aisles, here is the lowdown on a few natural do-it-yourself options.


Microdermabrasion creams all feature some kind of scrubbing material, from tiny rose-quartz crystals to micro-sized lava-rock particles for sloughing off dead skin cells.

Con: At fairly high price points, these can be a tough sell.

Pro: They are simple and easy to use.

Derma E Microdermabrasion Scrub Key ingredients: Magnesium oxide, volcanic sand, pearl powder and exfoliating botanicals
Tool Kit

Most microdermabrasion tool kits contain a resurfacing tool of some sort coupled with a skin-polishing cream, making for a complete microdermabrasion experience shoppers enjoy in the privacy of their own homes.

Con: The tools may require maintenance. Some sponge heads must be replaced regularly—but that probably means they’ll be coming back for more scrubs and serums, too.

Pro: Kits are all-inclusive, and can be less expensive than buying all the components individually.

Zia Natural Microdermabrasion Kit

What it packs:

  • Includes a scrub, skin-balancing tonic, moisturizing serum, scrubbing tool and sponge head
  • The scrub is aluminum- and paraben-free and uses magnesium-oxide crystals harvested from ocean salt

Move over, washcloths—microexfoliation cloths are here. Although they don’t include the same crystals featured in many scrubs, the woven fibers in microdermabrasion cloths work together to freshen skin and stimulate cell turnover as well as collagen and elastin production. Unlike plain washcloths, these are woven in a tight pattern specifically designed for great scrubbing, and won’t leave behind fiber residue as washcloths can. The best part is that these cloths are super easy to use because they don’t require any special soaps or creams—just plain H2O will do the trick.

Con: It’s difficult to know how much pressure to apply because it’s not as abrasive as a scrub. A gentle, circular motion is enough.

Pro: No need for added chemicals or ingredients—just plain water will do, so it’s convenient for travel.

Exfolia Beauty Cloth
Why it’s different: The fibers in an Exfolia cloth are 70 to 100 times thinner than a human hair.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 12/p. 27

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