How Different Types of Microdermabrasion Machines Work

How Microdermabrasion Works

Woman having microdermabrasion
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Microdermabrasion, a non-invasive skin treatment developed in Italy in 1985, is one of the most common aesthetic procedures in the United States. It's a quick, safe and effective form of exfoliation for men and women with any skin type or color.

This method is used to treat a multitude of skin issues, including aging, dullness, blemishes, blotchiness and sun damage, all over the body: on the chest, back, hands, legs, etc.

Even normal skin can be vastly improved and given a healthy glow with microdermabrasion.

How Microdermabrasion Works

Microdermabrasion essentially resurfaces and rejuvenates the skin. It's used to remove visible blemishes due to acne, scars and stretch marks, and it's also used to treat wrinkles over a period of time. Treatment sessions are typically held approximately once a month. Those who have had microdermabrasion note a significant improvement in their complexion.  

Microdermabrasion exfoliates the outermost layer of the epidermis - the stratum corneum - by gently blasting it with tiny crystal or sand particles. Dead skin is exfoliated and vacuumed away, leaving new skin behind. This procedure can be done anywhere on the body expect the eyelids, where skin is much too thin and easily damaged.

It differs from dermabrasion, which is a more invasive and aggressive treatment. Microdermabrasion is said to be a mild process that is so gentle it doesn't require an anesthetic.

It's common for patients to feel a windburn-like sensation and have a bit of redness, however, but those are both very minor side effects compared to some other skin treatments.

Types of Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Particles

A microdermabrasion machine is essentially an electronic vacuum for the skin.

It pulls medical grade crystals or sand particles across the surface of the skin through a stainless steel or glass wand. When the wand makes contact with the skin, the system closes and the vacuum pulls the crystal or sand particles and dead skin into a waste container.

There are more than 100 different microdermabrasion machines on the market, but they all have the same basic design. The crystals used to blast away dead skin vary. Some common crystals used in microdermabrasion include sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and magnesium oxide crystals. Corundum crystals (aluminum oxide), however, are the most preferred crystals for microdermabrasion for a several reasons:

  • Their rough, jagged surfaces make them excellent material for exfoliation.
  • Their hardness is second to diamonds, but they are not nearly as expensive.
  • They don't produce any kind of chemical interaction with the skin.
  • The skin does not absorb them.
  • They have natural bacteria-killing properties within them, which makes them particularly useful for treating acne.

    Some microdermabrasion systems do not use crystals. These machines use a sandpaper- or diamond-tipped wand that mechanically abrades the skin. The signature suction system vacuums the exfoliated particles away.

    Sources: Blome, Dexter. "Microdermabrasion." Procedures for Primary Care. Ed. J.L. Pfenninger and G. Fowler. Missouri: Mosby, 2003. 349-50.

    The American Academy of Dermatologic Surgery. "2005 Procedure Survey - Dermasurgery Trends and Statistics" 2005.

    Zani, Alexandra. "Exfoliation and Peels." Advanced Professional Skin Care, Medical Edition. Ed. Peter T. Pugliese, MD. Pennsylvania: The Topical Agent, LLC, 2005. 329-30.

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