• Dermabrasion

    (Surgical Skin Planning; Skin Resurfacing)


    Dermabrasion is used to remove damaged skin. This allows healthy, smoother skin to grow in its place.
    Multiple Facial Injuries with Surgical Dermabrasion
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    Reasons for Procedure

    Dermabrasion is done to help repair damaged skin. The procedure may help to renew skin by stimulating new skin growth. Dermabrasion may be used to treat the following skin conditions:
    • Benign tumors
    • Chickenpox scars
    • Acne scars
    • Surgical scars
    • Scars resulting from accidents or disease
    • Tattoos
    • Age (liver) spots
    • Wrinkles

    Possible Complications

    Your doctor will review a list of possible complications from dermabrasion. This may may include:
      Temporary side effects such as:
      • Scarring
      • Redness
      • Swelling
      • Flare-ups of acne or tiny cysts
      • Increased or decreased color in the skin
      • Increased sensitivity to sunlight
      • Flare-ups of cold sores (caused by herpes simplex 1 virus) if done on the face
      Less common complications such as:
      • Permanent scarring
      • Lasting redness
      • Prolonged loss of color in the skin.
      • Infection
    Certain factors increase the risk of complications. Dermabrasion is not recommended if you have:
    • Active herpes or bacterial infection and sores
    • Current or recent use (less than one year) of isotretinoin (Accutane)
    • Skin, blood flow, or immune disorders that could make healing more difficult

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    Your doctor may:
    • Do a complete health evaluation and a skin exam.
    • If you have a history of herpes infection, your doctor may recommend an antiviral medication.
    • Give you a prescription for tretinoin and/or a skin lightening cream.
    Photographs will also be taken before and after surgery. This will help to see the changes.


    A local anesthetic will be used. It will numb the area. A numbing spray may also be used. If the amount of work is extensive you may need general anesthesia. In this case, you will be asleep.
    You may also receive a sedative. This medicine will help you relax.

    Description of the Procedure

    The area of skin will be cleaned. The anesthesia will be applied to numb the skin. The doctor will use a motorized tool with a wheel or brush. The tool with be passed over the skin. Each pass will remove a certain amount of skin. The doctor will continue until the damaged area is level with the rest of the skin.
    The doctor may apply ointment or dressing to the area.

    How Long Will It Take?

    The length of time depends on the size of the area to be treated. It can range from a few minutes to 90 minutes.

    How Much Will It Hurt?

    Once the anesthesia has worn off, the skin will feel raw and irritated. Over-the-counter pain relievers will help manage any pain and discomfort.

    Post-procedure Care

    Healing normally takes 7-10 days. A steroid medication may be prescribed. This can help reduce swelling and improve healing.
    Proper care will also help you heal. Steps may include:
    • Adjust your daily activities until your doctor says it is safe to resume them.
    • Clean the skin several times a day. This will help you to avoid infection. You can also gently remove crusting that develops during healing.
    • Keep the treated area moist. Change the ointment and dressing on the wound as recommended.
    • Avoid sun exposure. After peeling has stopped, use sunscreen every day.
    • Go to follow-up visits as recommended by your doctor. They are important to monitor the skin's healing and regrowth.
    Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
    At first the area will bleed. Once it heals the skin should appear smoother and blend into the surrounding skin. Results are long-lasting.

    Call Your Doctor

    After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the treatment site
    • Skin redness or loss of color that does not go away
    • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


    American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery http://www.surgery.org/

    American Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.org/


    Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.ca/

    Dermatologists.ca http://www.dermatologists.ca/


    Dermabrasion. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/cosmetic%5Fdermabrasion.html . Accessed December 12, 2012.

    Dermabrasion procedural steps. American Society of Plastic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/dermabrasion.html?sub=Dermabrasion%20procedural%20steps. Accessed December 12, 2012.

    Harmon CB. Dermabrasion. Dermatol Clin . 2001;19(3):439-442.

    Roy D. Ablative facial resurfacing. Dermatol Clin . 2005;23(3):549-559.

    Revision Information

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