Dermabrasion is a skin-resurfacing technique that uses a rapidly rotating instrument to remove the skin’s outer layer, especially on the face. This can lead to a smoother skin growing back.
This technique helps in decreasing the appearance of fine facial lines as well as improving the look of several skin flaws, which can include acne scars, surgery scars age spots as well as wrinkles. Dermabrasion can be performed with other cosmetic procedures as well.
The procedure is usually performed in a dermatologist’s office. It is an outpatient procedure, which means you are able to go home once the treatment is over. Skin treated with this technique will be sensitive and blotchy for some weeks. In around three months, your skin tone should return to normal.
Dermabrasion helps to remove damaged outer layers of the skin. This can expose new layers of skin which appear younger and smoother. This can help in providing you with a more youthful appearance. Dermabrasion can also help treat multiple other conditions such as sun damage, scars from an injury or surgery, fine wrinkles, age spots, etc.
It is notable that dermabrasion is one of the multiple treatments for people having these conditions. Before you opt for this procedure, it is best if you consult with your dermatologist and talk about all the treatment options that are available for your specific condition.
Some skin conditions such as inflammatory acne, radiation burns, etc. might prevent your doctor from performing this procedure. If you’ve taken medications that have a skin-thinning side effect, this can also make you unable to receive dermabrasion. This procedure is also not usually recommended if your skin tone is too dark.
Before you undergo the procedure, it is likely that your doctor will:
Review your medical history- You will need to answer any question regarding your current and past medical conditions and any medications you’re taking or have taken recently. You also need to talk to your doctor if you have had any procedures prior to this.
Do a physical exam- Your doctor will next inspect your skin as well as the area that needs to be treated to determine the changes that are needed and see how your physical features might affect the results.
Discuss your expectations- You need to discuss with your doctor properly regarding your motivations, expectations and potential risks. Also, make sure you understand how much healing time your skin will require before it will return to normal.
Before dermabrasion, you also need to remember certain things.
Stop using certain medications- Before your procedure, your doctor might recommend not taking a few medications such as aspirin or blood thinners.
Take antiviral medication- Your doctor might prescribe an antiviral medication before and after treatment as this will help to prevent any kind of viral infection.
Stop smoking- If you smoke, your doctor might ask that you stop smoking for at least a week before and after the procedure. Smoking decreases blood flow in the skin, which slows down the healing process.
Have onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) injections- You may receive them around three days before the procedure as these help most people achieve better results.
Use a retinoid cream- Your doctor may recommend a retinoid cream such as tretinoin for some weeks before treatment as it can help with healing.
Take an oral antibiotic- If you have acne, your doctor will be recommending an oral antibiotic around the time of the procedure as this can prevent a bacterial infection.
Avoid unprotected sun exposure- Too much exposure to the sun before the procedure can lead to permanent irregular pigmentation in the treated areas.
Arrange for a ride home- If you are going to be sedated or be receiving a general anesthetic during the procedure, you should arrange for a ride to take you home after the procedure.
Usually, the procedure is performed in an office procedure room or an outpatient facility. However, if you require extensive work done, you might require hospital admission.
First, you will need to wash your face before the procedure. Do not apply any kind of makeup. Wear clothes that you won’t need to pull over your head, as you will have a facial dressing after the procedure.
The type of anesthesia you will be receiving during dermabrasion will depend on the extent of your treatment. Typically local anesthesia is used. However, certain cases can require sedation for helping you relax or feeling drowsy. Sometimes general anesthesia might also be given during the procedure.
An assistant will be holding your skin taut during your procedure. Your doctor will move a small, motorized instrument called a dermabrader across your skin.
On large patches of skin, the doctor will be using a circular dermabrader, while on smaller places such as the corners of your mouth, he/she will use one having a smaller tip. The large sections of the skin might need multiple sessions of treatment.
After the procedure, your doctor will cover your treated area with a moist dressing. This dressing is usually changed the following day during the appointment.
After the procedure
You will receive instruction to take care of your skin at home to aid your healing process.
Your doctor will let you know when you can begin cleaning the treated area on a regular basis and apply protective ointments. The instructions provided can vary depending on the extent of the procedure.
While you’re healing:
- Treated skin will become red and swollen
- A crust will form over the treated skin as it begins healing
- You are likely to feel some burning, tingling or aching
- The growth of new skin can be itchy
To relieve any pain after the procedure, you need to take prescribed pain medication or an over-the-counter pain reliever. Talk to your doctor to discuss which pain reliever might be best for you.
You can choose to remain at home while you’re healing from dermabrasion, though you will be able to resume office after two weeks. However, you need to remember to keep the treated areas away from chlorinated swimming pool water for a minimum of four weeks. Your doctor might be recommending you to avoid any kind of active sports for at least one and a half months.
Once the new skin completely covers your treated area, you can conceal any redness using cosmetics.
However, if it appears that your treated skin is getting worse and gets increasingly red, raised and itchy after it has started to heal, then you should inform your doctor. This can be a sign of scarring.
Risks and complications
Risks associated with dermabrasion are usually the same as those associated with any other surgical procedure. This includes infection, bleeding and allergic reaction to anesthesia.
There are also few risks that are specific to dermabrasion which include loss of freckles, redness, swelling, enlarged pores (usually temporary), etc.
Although it is rare, some people can also develop excessive scarring or keloids, after this procedure. In such cases, one can choose steroid medications to help in softening the scars.
Remember to follow your doctor’s advice and attend the follow-up appointment. Be gentle to your skin and avoid using any kind of harsh skin care products. Avoid sun exposure to your skin until it’s healed.