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Effects of Microdermabrasion on the Skin


Updated May 16, 2014

Microdermabrasion is a common procedure used for facial rejuvenation. The procedure is performed using a machine that sprays fine crystals across the skin, removing the top layer of the skin, and then vacuuming the crystals and skin away. Several studies have been done to determine the effect of microdermabrasion on the skin, and the results of these studies are compiled here.

Skin Anatomy Overview

A more in-depth review of skin anatomy can be found here. The skin can be divided into 3 major layers:
  • Epidermis - The outer, barrier layer consisting mainly of dead skin cells
  • Dermis - The middle layer that contains the structural parts of the skin including collagen and elastic tissue
  • Subcutaneous tissue - The bottom layer that contains fat and larger blood vessels

Microdermabrasion Video

See the "What Is Microdermabrasion" video that illustrates what happens during this procedure.

Effects of Microdermabrasion on Appearance of Skin

Microdermabrasion works best when performed as a series of treatments - typically six - every 7 to 10 days. Noticeable changes can be seen after the first treatment - usually smoother, healthier looking skin. After a series of treatments oiliness is decreased, dilated pores are less pronounced, and areas of thick skin are thinner. Fine wrinkles sometimes appear smoother.

Effects of Microdermabrasion on the Epidermis

Changes in the epidermis appear before changes in the dermis. Microscopic examination of the epidermis reveals several changes that make this layer appear more healthy.
  • The thickness of the epidermis is increased because new cells are being produced more rapidly and the cells themselves are larger.
  • The cells of the lower layers of the epidermis are knit together in a more consistent "basket weave" configuration, instead of a haphazard arrangement.
  • The barrier function of the epidermis is disrupted in the first 24 hours causing the skin to be drier than usual.
  • However, after 7 days the skin is more hydrated than before.

Effects of Microdermabrasion on the Dermis

The dermis is the layer that is the most improved with microdermabrasion. Chemical changes occur immediately that cause the dermal layer to also become thicker and more healthy after a series of treatments.
  • The thickness of the dermis is increased
  • The number of collagen fibers are increased and they are thicker, more tightly packed, and more consistently organized
  • The number of elastic fibers are increased and they are oriented vertically instead of horizontally giving the dermal layer more "spring".
  • The number and size of fibroblasts, cells that make collagen, are increased.
  • The presence of numerous chemicals that are involved in the inflammatory process show that a reparative process is going on.
  • Changes in the blood vessels show an increase in blood flow in the dermis, essentially feeding the reparative process.
  • An important part of creating this inflammatory response is the mechanical stretching of the skin cause by the negative-pressure component of the procedure.

Conclusion - How Microdermabrasion Works

In a nutshell, microdermabrasion works by causing a small amount of trauma to the skin, causing the skin to repair itself in a more organized fashion. This creates younger, healthier looking skin.

Sources: Freedman, Bruce, Eugenia Rueda-Pedraza, MD, and Sharon Waddell. "The Epidermal and Dermal Changes Associated with Microdermabrasion." Dermatologic Surgery 27 (2001):1031-1034.

Rajan, Poonam, and Pearl Grimes MD. "Skin Barrier Changes Induced by Aluminum Oxide and Sodium Chloride Microdermabrasion." Dermatologic Surgery 28 (2002):390-393.

Karimipour, Darius, et al. "Microdermabrasion: A molecular analysis following a single treatment." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 52.2 (2005):215-23.

Hernandez-Perez, Enrique, and Erick Valencia Ibiett, MD. "Gross and Miroscopic Findings in Patients Undergoing Microdermabrasion for Facial Rejuvenation." Dermatologic Surgery 27 (2001):637-40.

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