What is microdermabrasion?

Patricia Farris, MD

Microdermabrasion is a superficial exfoliating procedure that can make real improvements in the way your skin looks. Dermatologists use microdermabrasion for treating certain types of acne, enlarged pores, acne scars, facial pigmentation and even skin wrinkling. It can also be used to increase the penetration of topical medications and enhance the benefits of chemical peels. Recent scientific studies have shown that microdermabrasion turns on the wound healing response causing new collagen to be formed in the skin. This explains why patients who have repeated microdermabrasion treatments see improvement in fine lines and wrinkles and certain types of acne scars. 

Tara Whitworth
Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure that exfoliates top layer of skin, reducing the appearance of damaged skin and light scars. It may also reduce the appearance of dark spots. This procedure is done in the office and is not painful.   


Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

Microdermabrasion exfoliates the surface of the skin and smoothes the texture. It decreases the appearance of fine lines slightly since it lifts off dead skin, which lends a crumpled appearance to the surface layer. It's also an effective way to treat milia because it exfoliates all those tiny rough cysts. Microdermabrasion is also a terrific way to augment a peel, by exfoliating the peeling dead skin one week afterward.

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Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
Microdermabrasion has been touted as a noninvasive wrinkle reducer. Proponents say the technique can decrease scarring, equalize skin tone and pigmentation, and decrease acne. Microdermabrasion is performed both in physicians' offices and by aestheticians.

Let's examine exactly what microdermabrasion is and what it can do. Back in the 1960s, the loofah pad (the dried, fibrous part of a loofah fruit) became popular to exfoliate the skin. The human upper epidermis, the stratum corneum, is composed of dead skin that keeps out water and germs. The loofah pad strips off this layer, making the skin look better.

Microdermabrasion is really just an expensive loofah pad. It is called "micro" because traditional "dermabrasion" removes not only the dead skin, but also varying layers of the epidermis (upper layer) and even the dermis (lower layer).
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Microdermabrasion uses crystals or a diamond tip to lightly smooth the top layer of your skin. It is a more superficial form of dermabrasion. It is used for fine lines, crow's feet, age spots and superficial acne scars.

Microdermabrasion takes about 30 minutes and requires no anesthesia. For best results, many people start with a microdermabrasion treatment every two weeks and then move to one per month as maintenance. Each session costs about $154. Microdermabrasion may be performed by aestheticians, licensed cosmetologists, plastic surgeons or dermatologists. Complications are rare.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.