How Does Microdermabrasion Work?

Crystal Microdermabrasion Versus Diamond-Tip Microdermabrasion

Woman getting a microdermabrasion treatment
Photo: small_frog / Getty Images

Microdermabrasion is a popular cosmetic procedure because it works on both the outer layer of the skin (called the epidermis) as well as the deep layer of the skin (the dermis).

There are two basic types of microdermabrasion - crystal microdermabrasion and diamond microdermabrasion. They both offer similar benefits, but the process between the two is slightly different.

How Does Crystal Microdermabrasion Work?

Crystal microdermabrasion, sometimes called microcrystal dermabrasion, is the form of microdermabrasion that originally came to the United States from Europe.  And it's still the most popular type of microdermabrasion.

During a treatment, super-fine crystals are sent from a receptacle on the microdermabrasion machine, through a tube, and to a glass or stainless steel wand. Via the wand, the crystals are sprayed over the skin (think of it as gentle, controlled sandblasting for your skin).

The crystals and exfoliated skin particles are simultaneously vacuumed away through the same wand. Used crystals are sent to a second receptacle on the machine, and are discarded after every procedure.  Don't worry; they aren't reused!

Aluminum oxide (corundum) crystals are typically used, because they are nearly as hard as diamonds. Magnesium oxide, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and even sodium chloride (salt) crystals are sometimes used as well.

How Does Diamond-Tip Microdermabrasion Work?

Diamond-tip microdermabrasion is a newer procedure, but one that quickly gained popularity as a crystal-free microdermabrasion option.

Instead of using crystals to exfoliate the skin, a wand with a diamond-encrusted tip is passed over the skin. The diamond tip abrades the skin and, like the crystal version, the exfoliated particles are then vacuumed away through the same wand.

So, to continue the analogy, if crystal microdermabrasion is like sandblasting the skin, diamond-tip microdermabrasion is like using sandpaper.

Diamond-tip microdermabrasion is a bit cleaner, simply because there are no stray gritty crystals left behind on the skin.  And some say it's a bit safer, because there are no crystals to accidentally get into the eyes.  But if your technician is skilled and careful, this really isn't an issue. 

Some people prefer diamond microdermabrasion because of the lack of crystals. Breathing in aluminum oxide crystals can be irritating, and can cause short-term breathing problems for very sensitive people.

Because the microdermabrasion wand forms a closed loop system, the crystals are generally being suctioned back into the machine and not spraying out into the air to be inhaled. Good practitioners limit their clients' exposure to the crystals, so don’t let this scare you away from having a treatment done.

What are the Effects of Microdermabrasion?

Both forms of microdermabrasion work similarly. The skin is deeply exfoliated by the crystals or the diamond tip, so it feels softer and smoother immediately after treatment. The exfoliation also helps reduce the formation of comedones and brightens the complexion.

The suction aspect of the treatment is as vital as the exfoliation itself (it isn’t just helpful in sucking away exfoliated skin.) Called negative pressure in pro-speak, the suction stimulates the dermis, causing a remodeling process to occur.

Microdermabrasion triggers a wound response in the skin. As the skin repairs itself, it becomes thicker, smoother, more elastic, and looks healthier as a result.

Next steps:

What To Expect During Your Microdermabrasion Treatment


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