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Can a Medical Assistant (MA) perform Microdermabrasion?

As more physician practices expand to include cosmetic procedures, a question that CAP frequently receives is, Can a Medical Assistant (MA) perform Microdermabrasion?

The Medical Board of California has made it clear, the answer is NO, "Unlicensed personnel, including MAs, may not perform microdermabrasion." The Board further clarifies the different types of microdermabrasion and who may perform each. 

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There are two types of microdermabrasion, each with a different scope:

Cosmetic Microdermabrasion is a superficial skin treatment that only reaches the outermost layer of the skin or stratum corneum.  This cosmetic procedure may only be performed by a physician or by a registered nurse, physician assistant, licensed esthetician or cosmetologist under a physician’s supervision.

Medical Microdermabrasion, unlike the cosmetic treatment, penetrates to the deep levels of the epidermis.  The scope for this medical procedure is more limited.  Medical Microdermabrasion may only be performed by a physician, or by a registered nurse or physician assistant under a physician’s supervision.

According to the Board, any physician allowing an MA, or similarly unlicensed person, to perform microdermabrasion could be charged with aiding and abetting unlicensed practice.  This doesn’t just apply to microdermabrasion, but also the various other cosmetic treatments and procedures that are available.   

CAP recommends the following risk reduction strategies for physicians offering cosmetic procedures: 

  • Know the scopes of practice for the various disciplines you employ.  You can find this information on the applicable Board’s website.
  • Ensure staff is appropriately trained and licensed (as applicable) for the tasks they are assigned to perform.
  • Know the supervision requirements of your staff, as the type of supervision varies depending on the discipline.
  • Ensure your medical liability coverage covers cosmetic procedures. Contact CAP Member Services at 213-473-8555 to review your coverage.

Information about Cosmetic Treatments from the Medical Board of California can be found at :


If you have questions about this article, please contact CAP Risk Management 1-800-252-0555 or This information should not be considered legal advice applicable to a specific situation. Legal guidance for individual matters should be obtained from a retained attorney.