The History of Microdermabrasion

In 2005, microdermabrasion was one of the top five aesthetic procedures performed in the United States. There were almost 150,000 microdermabrasion procedures performed, which is an increase of 26 percent from 2003. It was developed in Italy in 1985 and introduced to American markets in the mid-1990s.

Microdermabrasion treatment
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Precursors to Microdermabrasion

The concept of abrading the skin, or removing the upper layers, for skin rejuvenation dates back as far as 1500 BC when Egyptian physicians used a type of sandpaper to smooth scars.

More recently, in the early 1900s in Germany, Kromayer used rotating wheels and rasps to remove the upper layers of the skin. Because these instruments were human-powered, they were wieldy to use and therefore not used very often.

In the mid-1950s, motorized wire brushes replaced their human-powered predecessors and the use of dermabrasion became more commonplace. There were many problems with dermabrasion, including:

  • Pain: the procedure had to be performed with anesthesia
  • Long downtime: the top layers of the skin had to heal back in and this took weeks
  • Scarring: Even though dermabrasion was used to treat scarring, it often caused scars to develop
  • Wound care: Taking care of the denuded skin was a lengthy and difficult process
  • Infection: The risk of infection with abraded skin was high
  • Danger to the practitioner: The abraded skin particles were aerosolized exposing the practitioner and staff to possible infection

Modern Microdermabrasion

In response to the risks of dermabrasion, the first microdermabrasion machine was developed in 1985 in Italy by Drs. Mattioli and Brutto. This first machine was a "closed-loop" system, meaning the skin that was abraded was returned to a "dirty" container in the machine instead of being aerosolized. Microdermabrasion machines were introduced in America by Mattioli Engineering in the mid-late 1990s, and the production of microdermabrasion machines has exploded.

The Explosion of Microdermabrasion Machines

Currently, there are over 100 different microdermabrasion machines on the market. There are no manufacturing performance standards that have been specified for these machines. The FDA has classified microdermabrasion as a Class 1 medical device which has the following implications:

  • Machines can be sold without any demonstration of clinical efficacy.
  • Machines can be operated without medical supervision.
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  • The American Academy of Dermatologic Surgery. "2005 Procedure Survey - Dermasurgery Trends and Statistics" 2005.

  • Blome, Dexter. "Microdermabrasion." Procedures for Primary Care. Ed. J.L. Pfenninger and G. Fowler. Missouri: Mosby, 2003. 349-50.
  • Zani, Alexandra. "Exfoliation and Peels." Advanced Professional Skin Care, Medical Edition. Ed. Peter T. Pugliese, MD. Pennsylvania: The Topical Agent, LLC, 2005. 329-30.

By Heather L. Brannon, MD
Heather L. Brannon, MD, is a family practice physician in Mauldin, South Carolina. She has been in practice for over 20 years.