Dermabrasion is typically done in an office-based procedure room or outpatient surgical facility. However, if you're having extensive work done, dermabrasion might be done in a hospital.
Before the procedure, a member of your health care team will clean your face, cover your eyes and mark the area to be treated. A topical anesthetic might be rubbed on your skin to decrease sensation. Then your skin will be numbed with local anesthetics.
You might have the option of taking a sedative or receiving a general anesthetic, depending on the extent of your treatment.
During the procedure
During dermabrasion, a member of your health care team will hold your skin taut. Your doctor will move the dermabrader — a small motorized device with an abrasive wheel or brush for a tip — across your skin with constant, gentle pressure. He or she will carefully remove the outer layers of skin to reveal new, smoother skin.
Dermabrasion can take a few minutes to more than an hour, depending on how much skin is being treated. If you have deep scarring or you're having a large amount of skin treated, you might have dermabrasion done more than once or in stages.
After the procedure
After dermabrasion, treated skin will be covered with a moist, nonstick dressing. You'll likely need to schedule a checkup soon after treatment so that your doctor can examine your skin and change your dressing.
At home, change your dressing as directed by your doctor. Your doctor will also let you know when you can begin regularly cleaning the treated area and applying protective ointments, such as petroleum jelly.
While you're healing:
- Treated skin will be red and swollen
- You'll likely feel some burning, tingling or aching
- A scab or crust will form over treated skin as it begins to heal
- The growth of new skin might be itchy
To relieve pain after the procedure, your doctor might prescribe pain medication or recommend over-the-counter pain relief, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others).
You might prefer to remain at home while you're healing from dermabrasion, though you can usually return to work after two weeks. Keep treated areas away from chlorinated swimming pool water for at least four weeks. Your doctor might recommend avoiding active sports — especially those involving a ball — for four to six weeks.
Once new skin completely covers the treated area you can use cosmetics to conceal any redness.
If your treated skin appears to be getting worse — becomes increasingly red, raised and itchy after it has started to heal — contact your doctor. These might be signs of scarring.
May 16, 2015
- Bolognia JL, et al. Chemical and mechanical resurfacing. In: Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 20, 2015.
- Dermabrasion. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Cosmetic-Procedures/Dermabrasion.html. Accessed March 20, 2015.
- Flint PW, et al. Management of aging skin. In: Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 20, 2015.
- Dermabrasion information. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.asds.net/DermabrasionInformation.aspx. Accessed March 24, 2015.