How Does Microdermabrasion Work?

Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive exfoliating treatment designed to improve the skin’s appearance. After several sessions, people receiving microdermabrasion may see brighter, smoother skin that is more even in color. The treatments are available at dermatologists’ offices and spas and also sold in at-home kits, but all microdermabrasion is not created equal.

What Does Microdermabrasion Do?

The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin and is made up of five sub-layers. Microdermabrasion removes the outermost layer of the epidermis — the stratum corneum — using small abrasive crystals controlled with a handheld vacuum. As the skin heals from this exfoliation, new epidermis forms and the skin looks fresher and smoother. This technique is considered safe for all skin types, and there are very few complications.

Who Benefits from Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion treats a variety of cosmetic conditions, including scars, uneven tone and texture, fine lines, acne, stretch marks, and enlarged pores. The skin can become more malleable, and collagen density is improved. Some people see results right away, but it can take several treatments to be effective. There is also evidence that microdermabrasion .

The Procedure

First, the person administering the treatment applies a mild cleanser. Because abrasive crystals are part of the microdermabrasion, they place a gauze to protect the eyes. The tip of the hand-held device makes contact with the skin, and the vacuum pulls this section into the opening. Abrasive crystals brush against the surface of the skin at a controlled rate. In a single treatment, the device passes over the pre-determined treatment area three times. The remaining debris is wiped away with a soft washcloth, and, finally, the technician applies a moisturizer.


For best results, most clients need multiple microdermabrasion treatments, which may take place weekly, every other week, or monthly. As many as 16 treatments may be needed. The results are temporary as the skin continues to age but last longer if the person takes care to actively protect their skin from sun exposure and follow a doctor-recommended skincare routine.


Microdermabrasion is safe, and most clients do not experience adverse effects. Common complications include swelling, redness, bruising, and petechiae — small red or purple spots that result from broken capillaries. Irritation can occur if the crystals come in contact with the eyes, and the skin is more sensitive to sun damage immediately after treatments.


Before attempting at-home microdermabrasion or going to a spa, talk to a dermatologist about any suspicious moles or spots on the skin that are bleeding, changing, or growing, as this can be a sign of skin cancer. People taking certain acne medications may need to stop taking them for a few months before having microdermabrasion to avoid scarring and other complications.

Where to Get Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is available as an over-the-counter at-home kit that includes a hand-held vacuum instrument. It is also a popular skin treatment at spas, where trained aestheticians perform the procedure. Dermatologists use microdermabrasion not only for anti-aging but also to improve the effectiveness of skin-bleaching products and other transdermal treatments.

A Doctor is Best

Although there are many options when it comes to getting microdermabrasion, a dermatologist is often the best option, especially for clients who already have other skin conditions. Microdermabrasion is non-invasive and relatively low risk, but a trained provider will understand the technique, benefits, and risks. Proper sterilization of the equipment is also necessary to prevent cross-contamination and infection.

Diamond Tip Microdermabrasion

Many people who receive microdermabrasion complain about the light sensitivity and skin irritation that occurs afterward. Newer methods, like diamond tip microdermabrasion, are crystal-free and result in less irritation. This technique uses a handset with a tip made of diamond fragments to polish the skin, removing the top layer of dead cells.


Another alternative is hydradermabrasion. This method works the same way as microdermabrasion but, instead of crystals, uses oxygen and a water solution to remove surface debris, moisturizing skin at the same time. Solutions and serums are tailored to each client’s needs, providing hydration, antioxidants, and oxygen directly to the skin.