Skin Phyics Series: Microdermabrasion

A non-surgical treatment to help even skin texture

Microdermabrasion is one of the more popular growing techniques for the skin. Used in various spas, microdermabrasion is a non-surgical cosmetic treatment touted to help even skin texture and reduce acne scars. So what’s the real scoop on skin microdermabrasion?

What Is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is the removal of the top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, to create a uniform textured skin. It essentially sandpapers off your dead skin cells.

How Does It Work?

Your epidermis consists of five layers: stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, and stratum corneum, with the stratum corneum being the most superficial. Microdermabrasion uses a pen-like handheld device that targets the stratum corneum via a jet and a vacuum simultaneously. The tool expels a flow of tiny crystals to scratch away the skin surface, all the while vacuuming up the crystals and loose dead skin cells.

How Does Microdermabrasion Affect the Skin? 

The Skin Barrier

One responsibility the stratum corneum has is to help your body retain water. By removing this top layer, the rate at which your body loses water increases, thus temporarily giving your face more of a glow.

Alongside the beauty benefits, microdermabrasion can also be best used for getting things through the skin more easily. Recall that microdermabrasion removes the stratum corneum, which is vital in blocking things from getting through the skin. Because this top layer is removed, skin permeation is temporarily enhanced, allowing for drugs and medicines such as creams, lotions, and ointments to become more effective. Microdermabrasion has been known to enhance delivery for both drugs and vaccines through the skin.


Because microdermabrasion targets the most superficial layer of the epidermis, the procedure cannot fix hyperpigmentation or other color-related concerns unless many passes are done with the microdermabrasion tip. Pigmentation of the skin stems from the melanocyte cells which control skin pigmentation and the color is transferred to the surrounding skin. Melanocytes reside far below the stratum corneum in the bottom layer of the epidermis. Microdermabrasion does not typically go this deep. Considering that microdermabrasion only focuses on the stratum corneum, it is impossible for the procedure to resolve any discoloration of the skin that involves deeper skin layers.


It is still controversial as to whether microdermabrasion can stimulate the growth of collagen, the protein responsible for the plumpness of skin. Collagen is found below the stratum basale and microdermabrasion to promote improved collagen and elasticity requires more aggressive treatment. One study conducted on 14 patients throughout 12-14 weeks suggested that “there was statistically significant improvement in roughness, mottled pigmentation and overall improvement of skin appearance, but not in rhytides,” with rhytides meaning wrinkles. However, another study conducted on 10 patients under 5-6 week treatments resulted in a mild flattening of some wrinkles.

Thus, microdermabrasion is best for patients looking to smoothen out their face or reduce color blemishes. Improvement of collagen and wrinkles will take much more aggressive therapies that may also have the potential for more side effects.

Side Effects

Because microdermabrasion typically only targets the superficial layer, there are few side effects. Minor side effects and discomforts may include several of the following: pain, burning, sensitive skin, photosensitivity, and redness. Most procedures are done as spa treatments because they are known to be relaxing. If the microdermabrasion is done more aggressively (many more passes or longer duration of treatment in one location), there is potential for discolorations and scarring. However, aggressive microdermabrasion is not the way it is normally performed by an esthetician.

One of the best ways to save money and achieve similar results is to exfoliate at home. However, going to your skin care expert may result in a more even texture than at home cheaper alternatives. 

* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.