We love the skin we're in.
Travel down store aisles, peek inside medicine cabinets or glance atop vanities and you will see countless products meant to tone, smooth, brighten, lighten, clear, clean, rejuvenate and refinish our outermost layer.
And for good reason, said Harold Brody, a clinical professor of dermatology at Emory University Medical School.
"It's the most visible organ of our body," he said. "The skin is a reflection as to how people perceive you. Man - and woman - is a vain animal in that we care what people think. When you think of the skin, it's the first thing people see; it's the eyes and face."
Because of that, wanting to take care of the skin is almost second nature, Dr. Brody said.
Thanks to cosmetic companies, taking care of the skin has gotten easier and less expensive.
"The skin-care industry continues to evolve, particularly with anti-aging, as consumers become much more savvy and demanding as they search for ways to look and feel younger," said Kash Shaikh, the marketing manager at Procter & Gamble Co., which makes Olay and its anti-aging Regenerist line.
Among the products being marketed to generations of consumers are those aimed at reducing fine lines or shrinking pores. The buzz word of the past few months, though, has been "microdermabrasion."
Once a medical procedure touted for its smoothing effect on the skin, microdermabrasion removes the top layer of dead skin cells by using course materials to scrub off dull skin. Introduced in the late 1990s, the procedure has gone from a salon- or office-only option to a treatment that can be done in the privacy of home.
Companies such as Olay, L'Oral and Neutrogena offer at-home microdermabrasion kits that range from creams applied with fingertips to gels dissolved with miniature buffing machines.
The reason is simple, Mr. Shaikh said.
"(Consumers) really want, and enjoy, the opportunity to give themselves a treatment in the comfort of their own home, either because they are looking for less-invasive treatments or convenient options in between doctor appointments," he said.
Lydia Evans, the consulting dermatologist for L'Oral Paris, agreed that "there is a significant increase in the number of women who are looking for affordable, at-home, anti-aging alternatives to professional treatments."
The question, then, becomes: Are they worth it?
Monetarily speaking, the at-home kits are a bargain. They usually cost less than an appointment with a professional. The microdermabrasion kits in particular range between $25 and $50.
Like most at-home products, however, the kits aren't as strong as what can be received in a professional setting, Dr. Brody said.
"They're not as thorough," the dermatologist explained. "Microdermabrasion works in two ways: cosmetically, to freshen the skin, and then when it's done medically - which means more aggressively - it's to make drugs, medicine, more effective."
Inside a box or out, microdermabrasion has not been the cure-all it was first thought to be, Dr. Brody said.
"There are no miracles in microdermabrasion," he said. "Microdermabrasion does nothing for precancerous skin, scarring or wrinkles," he said. "With wrinkles, it might make them look better for a little while, but after a about a week they come back. (The procedure) may fade pigment a little bit - and if you do it at home, you won't get that - but it can fade light freckles."
In truth, what most customers get with a microdermabrasion treatment, and to varying degrees depending on who applies it, is touchably smoother skin and some temporary lessening of small lines.
That's no small thing to consumers, though, Dr. Brody said.
"The value of skin feeling smooth to touch is valuable," he said. "A phone survey that was done recently showed that a smooth touch is important to women."
Though microdermabrasion isn't the cure-all that many professionals thought it was or that many cosmetic companies would make it out to be, Dr. Brody said it definitely serves its purpose in the beauty regimen.
"At-home microdermabrasion kits are a luxury. (They) have a place, and they are, under ordinary and customary use, safe," Dr. Brody said. "There's no problem if they follow the package's instruction."
As for the other beauty-in-a-box products, Dr. Brody said, consumers shouldn't be convinced that they can take care of their skin on their own.
"Good medicine is to going to get an examination by a dermatologist and then seeing what you need," he said. "If you can't diagnose, you can't treat."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.