Microdermabrasion is a common aesthetic procedure used improve the appearance of skin. It’s a form of exfoliation that uses a microdermabrasion machine that sprays fine crystal particles across the skin, removing the top layer of the skin, and then vacuums the crystals and skin away. Microdermabrasion is an extremely effective treatment that makes bad skin good and good skin even better, but what exactly does it do to the skin?

The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it’s a complicated one at that. An in-depth overview of the anatomy of skin can be found here, but for the purpose of keeping things concise, the skin is split up into three layers:

Epidermis: The outermost layer that consists mainly of dead skin cells.
Dermis: The middle layer that contains the structural parts of the skin, including collagen and elastin.
Subcutaneous tissue: The bottom layer that contains fat and larger blood vessels.

Microdermabrasion Effects on the Appearance of Skin

Microdermabrasion works by causing a small amount of trauma to the skin, which makes the skin repair itself in a more organized fashion. This creates, younger, healthier looking skin. It’s performed over a series of treatments. It typically involves six treatments that are set 7 to 10 days apart.

Noticeable changes are visible after the very first treatment. Skin almost immediately appears smoother, healthier and rejuvenated. As treatment continues, skin becomes less oily, pores become less pronounced and thick areas of skin are thinner. Fine wrinkles can even appear smoother.
Microdermabrasion Effects on the Epidermis

Changes start to appear in the epidermis first because it’s the outermost layer of the skin, but these changes go beyond the surface level.

Microscopic examination of the epidermis reveals several changes that make this layer appear more healthy:

The epidermis becomes thicker because new cells are being produced more rapidly and the cells themselves are larger, which leads to the appearance of fuller, more plump skin.
The cells in 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.

Microdermabrasion Effects on the Dermis

We can’t see the dermis, but it’s actually the layer that is most improved by microdermabrasion. Chemical changes occur immediately that also cause the dermal layer to become thicker and more healthy after a series of treatments. Other improvements include:

The dermis becomes thicker, resulting in fuller skin.
The number of collagen fibers increases and they become thicker, more tightly packed and more consistently organized.

The number of elastic fibers increases and they are oriented vertically instead of horizontally, giving the dermal layer more “spring.”
The number and size of fibroblasts, the cells that make collagen, increase.
The presence of numerous chemicals that are involved in the inflammatory process show that a reparative process is occurring.
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, caused by the negative-pressure component of the procedure.

Dr. Lawrence Jaeger is a board certified dermatologist who has a practice in New York.  Dr Lawrence Jaeger specializes in the treatment of all skin, hair and nail disorders including all skin growths .