There is a delicate balance between keratinocyte migration from the basal cell layer (birthing layer) to the stratum corneum (top layer of skin) which in retrospect, is deemed the roof of your house or barrier to the largest organ of your body. Corneocytes (roof tiles) are shed from the surface of the skin which arise newly stratified squamous keratinized epithelium; all while keeping consistent thickness of the stratum corneum relatively intact. Desquamation also treads a fine balance between adequate breakdown of the barrier to allow a continual renewal of keratinocytes and leaving the barrier sufficiently intact to prevent allergens and irritants from penetrating through to the deeper layers of the skin. Microdermabrasion not only removes roof tiles, but important lines of skin barrier defence such as the acid mantle/microbiome (oil film) and multi-lamellar lipid structure (oil secretions), all in which can take several days to recover post treatment.
The stratum corneum is only two-hundredths of a millimeter thick so by performing a microdermabrasion treatment, you remove almost all of it. The stratum corneum is composed of around 15-20 sheets of unseparated corneocytes; all playing a role in cell-to-cell communication while providing effective physical and water barrier functions in the skin by slowing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). The corneocytes are the first cells to activate the innate immune system, so any disturbance to this barrier function will promote cellular inflammation; and cellular inflammation contributes to the premature ageing process and disease.
Keratinocytes (epidermal cells that make your roof) undergo a process of terminal differentiation where they give rise to the corneocytes that make up the stratum corneum. Corneocytes contain water molecules (NMF) which help to maintain skin hydration and are protected by a layer of lipid lamellar which encases the corneocytes; preventing high TEWL and impeding barrier permeability. Corneocytes are tethered together by corneodesmosomes (connecting bonds) that anchor into the sides of each corneocyte for proper roof tile alignment by means of preventing your roof from falling off. With this explanation in mind, I want you to picture your startum corneum (roof) like a brick wall. The corneocytes are the bricks and the lipid lamellar encases the bricks in exactly the same way mortar does.
Most people believe the surface of their skin is covered by a veil of dead, useless cells that couldn’t possibly have any purpose at all. They believe that by scrubbing them away with rough, granular substances, they can make the skin bright and fresh again, however, in reality, these so called ‘dead’ skin cells (corneocytes) are in fact the mature functional cells of the skin. They are there for a special purpose known for external barrier protection; enabling cell-to-cell communication and defending against undesirable microorganisms or the sun from penetrating and causing cellular inflammation.
I understand post a microdermabrasion treatment that your skin may feel as though it’s healthy and glowing, however, the truth is that you have exposed immature keratinocytes to pollution, rays and oxygen long before mother nature intended to cope with these hazards. These immature keratinocytes are shocked by this sudden exposure and cannot truly perform their function of protection because they themselves require protection from the corneocytes and lamellar lipid structure which have all now been scrubbed away. NMF (hydration) will be lost within the skin and you’ll go from looking like a grape to a sultana in a matter of days… why? Law of physics: oil sits on top of water IE acid mantle/microbiome and multi-lamellar lipid structure. Bear that in mind the next time you’re questioning your skin’s hydration levels a few days post a microdermabrasion treatment.
Removal of the stratum corneum reduces epidermal barrier defence and allows for the activation of a certain amount of trauma to occur within the dermis. This will involve fibroblast stimulation, increased blood circulation and glycosaminoglycans fluid resulting in a plumper dermis. Despite the initial healthy appearance after exfoliation, the net result of repeated or over-exfoliation of healthy skin is significant exposure to environmental toxins and free radicals, dehydration and interference with the normal functioning of the skin. Not only that, but the inevitable exposure to light makes your skin more likely to become photo-damaged and develop cancers. By ignoring natural processes and interrupting them, you have actually accelerated the very thing you are trying to avoid which is premature ageing!
It has also been observed that abrasive exfoliation treatments thin the stratum corneum and reduce surface tension of the epidermis by means of altering the anatomy of Rete Pegs (epithelial extensions) that provide the epidermis with bounce, shape and turgor. Rete Pegs flatten with age, however, they have a prime responsibility of holding up the Dermal/Epidermal Junction (connective tissue that separates the epidermis from the dermis) while delivering nutrients from the micro-circulatory system and removing metabolic waste from the epidermis via the lymphatic system. If this barrier defence system becomes compromised because of mechanical exfoliation, your skin will lack luster, look like it’s not sitting right AKA the appearance of looking flat and develop fine lines/wrinkles over a period of time.
There is nothing scientific about scrubbing your skin as though it was the kitchen floor, and removing everything that nature provided to protect your body and to keep it properly moisturized. I will always remember the following words of experience from my beauty therapy teacher who said: ‘You see mature people in nursing homes and their skin tears with the slightest touch so what is a young person’s skin of today’s generation going to look like if they have been exposed to treatments such as microdermabrasion? Will they have any skin left? That is the question…’
In conclusion, microdermabrasion is a treatment modality that will never be performed at Mary’s Skin Care because of the undesirable side effects on the stratum corneum and barrier defence systems. Yes, in the past, Mary did perform microdermabrasion treatments however education is the key to success, and Mary set it upon herself to become more knowledgeable about the cells/systems of skin and what is deemed a much more appropriate and safer alternative for exfoliation treatments that preserve the integrity of the epidermis at ALL times. Between Mary and I, we are always learning and updating our knowledge and love nothing more than for you, the consumer, to make an educated and informed decision on the treatments that you would like to have performed on your skin.
Written by Kai Atkinson (Practicing Corneotherapist)