This study sought to determine if microdermabrasion can selectively remove stratum corneum to increase skin permeability. Although, microdermabrasion has been used for cosmetic treatment of skin for decades, no study has assessed the detailed effects of microdermabrasion conditions on the degree of skin tissue removal. Therefore, we histologically characterized the skin of rhesus macaques and human volunteers after microdermabrasion at different conditions. Using mobile tip microdermabrasion, an increase in the number of treatment passes led to greater tissue removal ranging from minimal effects to extensive damage to deeper layers of the skin. Of note, these data showed for the first time that at moderate microdermabrasion conditions selective yet full-thickness removal of stratum corneum could be achieved with little damage to deeper skin tissues. In the stationary mode of microdermabrasion, selective stratum corneum removal was not observed, but micro-blisters could be seen. Similar tissue removal trends were observed in human volunteers. As proof of concept for drug delivery applications, a model fluorescent drug (fluorescein) was delivered through microdermabraded skin and antibodies were generated against vaccinia virus after its topical application in monkeys. In conclusion, microdermabrasion can selectively remove full-thickness stratum corneum with little damage to deeper tissues and thereby increase skin permeability. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.