Dermabrasion - Everything You Need to Know
Dermabrasion is one of the more invasive skin treatments, but it also gives great results in treating severe skin imperfections. Here’s all the info on the treatment.
Dermabrasion is one of the older skin treatments that has stood the test of time. It’s been around since the 90s and it is still one of the most effective methods of treating severe skin imperfections, primarily deeper scarring, but also discolorations, signs of aging, prominent blood vessels, etc.
As the name suggests, it implies doing controlled, intentional abrasion, AKA scraping, of the skin, to allow it to regenerate into new, healthy skin. Out with the old, in with the new!
However, dermabrasion is not as non-invasive as many of the popular skin treatments widely available in salons. It’s a relatively invasive method you should research thoroughly before considering it.
Here’s all the information on the treatment: how it’s done, who it’s for, healing, aftercare, and much more.
Table of contents - Skip to a specific paragraph
What Is Dermabrasion?
Dermabrasion is a treatment for eliminating facial skin imperfections like:
- Severe, deep scarring caused by acne, surgery or injury
- Signs of aging
- Prominent blood vessels
- Potentially precancerous tissue (keratoses)
- Unwanted tattoos
It’s a surgical form of dermaplaning and it involves the removal of problematic tissue through deep, intense exfoliation. Essentially, the epidermis and a very thin layer of the dermis (the surface and the middle layer of the skin) are removed by peeling. This allows for new skin without imperfections to grow over the area.
This is a serious treatment, as it affects the layers of the skin underneath the epidermis, so living tissue. It is done exclusively by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, so medical professionals, at clinics.
It’s often done in combination with other treatments. It can be done on smaller or larger areas. While it’s most often performed on the face, it can be done on the body, too.
The basic dermabrasion facial has spawned less intense treatments which engage the same principle of exfoliation, but only at the surface level:
These spin-offs only affect the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin which consists of dead skin cells. They’re much less invasive and don’t entail any downtime, so they can be performed by estheticians.
The original dermabrasion treatment is only used for severe skin issues where less aggressive treatments won’t give the desired effects, while the spin-offs can be done to treat minor imperfections or just improve the overall appearance of the skin.
Image source: YouTube Screenshots Dr Anzarut Plastic Surgery
Who Is a Good Candidate for Dermabrasion?
Dermabrasion is a serious treatment. Since it’s one of the more invasive treatments, it’s not something you can decide to get on your own. It’s only done for severe cases where less invasive treatments won’t really make a difference.
The decision of whether someone is a good candidate for the treatment or not is down to the dermatologist. So if you feel like you’re dealing with a skin issue you feel is severe, you should consult a dermatologist and let them assess the situation.
Who Isn’t a Good Candidate for Dermabrasion?
You are not a candidate for dermabrasion if:
- Your skin issue isn’t that severe
- You want to tighten loose sagging skin (dermabrasion won’t do much)
- You have a history of keloid scarring
- You have rosacea
- You have certain types of warts
- You suffer from certain autoimmune disorders
- You’ve taken Accutane or another (iso)tretinoin in the past year
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding
For darker skin tones, dermabrasion carries the risk of leaving lighter patches, so your dermatologist may point you towards different skin resurfacing treatments.
Dermabrasion is not used to improve or eliminate moles, burn scars, or birthmarks.
ABOUT THE DERMABRASION TREATMENT
How Is Dermabrasion Done?
The abrasion in dermabrasion stands for scraping. Essentially, dermabrasion is a surgical scraping of the skin, removing the problematic tissue and inflicting controlled trauma in order to let new, healthy skin grow over the area. So, it’s a form of skin resurfacing.
It’s really very simple. The damaged skin is scraped off and left to heal. Over the next 2 weeks or so, new skin without imperfections will grow over and close up the injury.
The scraping can be done with several different tools, but the most popular one is a pen-shaped handpiece with a rotary tip that has an abrasive surface, a wheel or a brush. It looks sort of like a dentists’ drill, only bigger.
Image source: YouTube Screenshot Athre Facial Plastics
What’s the Treatment Like?
Let’s go through the treatment step by step:
Step 1 – Cleaning
A deep cleanse is done before the dermabrasion starts. The skin has to be completely clean of all dirt, bacteria, makeup and skincare residues, since it will be broken and it can get infected if the particles get into the injury.
Step 2 – Anesthesia
Local anesthesia is administered to numb the area. You might also be given an oral sedative.
Step 3 – Dermabrasion
The surgeon will move the tool against the problematic area of the skin. The surgeon will try to go as deep as possible to remove the skin imperfection in its entirety, but not so far as to cause permanent scarring.
There will be blood, but this is expected.
Step 4 – Protective Dressing
The treated area is an open wound, so it has to be protected. Some type of ointment will be applied, and the area will be covered with gauze. After a certain time, the dressing will have to be replaced.
How Long Does the Treatment Take?
This depends on the size of the area treated. Small scars can be treated in just a few minutes, while dermabrasion for larger areas can take up to an hour.
Does Dermabrasion Hurt?
No, because anesthesia is used. Since the treatment affects deeper layers of the skin than the epidermis, more intense anesthesia is necessary. If there’s no need to go too deep, topical numbing might be enough, but if a thicker layer of the skin will be removed, injections are standard.
Will I Need Multiple Sessions?
Usually, 1 session will be enough, but if the case is very severe, more than 1 treatment may be necessary.
How Do I Prepare for Dermabrasion?
The first step in the preparation for the dermabrasion facial are consults and assessment.
You can’t just walk into a clinic and book a dermabrasion. Extensive physical examination of the affected area has to be done to determine if dermabrasion is the right treatment for you and to set up a treatment plan. The doctor also needs to go over your medical history to see if there are any contraindications.
In terms of what you need to do to prepare for the treatment, it’s nothing complex:
- For at least 10 days before the procedure, avoid exposing your skin to sunlight or tanning.
- 1 week before the treatment, stop using harsh skincare ingredients in the area that will be treated – they can compromise the skin.
- If you smoke, stop for at least a week before the treatment. Smoking disrupts the normal blood flow into the area.
- A few days before the treatment, stop taking any blood-thinning medication or supplements.
- If your doctor prescribes them, take antiviral medications or antibiotics according to schedule.
Make transportation arrangements for your appointment. The treatment requires the administration of anesthesia, so you’ll probably be drowsy and won’t be able to drive yourself home.
DERMABRASION DOWNTIME AND AFTERCARE
Does Dermabrasion Entail Downtime?
As a controlled injury is afflicted on the skin, and it can be quite a deep one, dermabrasion entails a downtime period. The skin needs time to close up the injury and it can feel tender and tight – a lot like a sunburn. The area will be swollen for a couple of days.
The area first has to be covered with a protective dressing for a few days because it’s very susceptible to infection. When new skin forms, the injury is considered healed, but it will take some time for the new skin to blend into its surroundings – up to 8 weeks.
But the initial healing should be over within 2 weeks. You can go back to your normal activities after about 7 days, with some precautions.
Image source: Instagram @dermavision_maastricht
What’s Dermabrasion Aftercare Like?
After the treatment, you will have to be very careful around the treated area to allow it to heal properly and without complications.
- Your doctor may prescribe some medications to take after the treatment. Be consistent with your therapy. They may also recommend a pain killer to eliminate the discomfort you’ll probably feel for a few days.
- Do not skip check-ups. Your doctor needs to observe how the area is healing.
- You will have to change dressings and clean the area as instructed.
- You will have to moisturize the area as instructed.
- Do not take any meds your doctor hasn’t approved – they may interfere with healing.
- Do not drink alcohol for 48 hours after the treatment.
- Refrain from smoking as much as possible as long as possible.
- Do not wear makeup until the area has closed up completely.
- Do not expose the area to sunlight for several weeks. When you’re outdoors, wear SPF 30+.
- Do not swim in chlorinated water for at least 1 month after the treatment.
- Refrain from strenuous exercise and activities that put you in danger of hurting the treated area for 4-6 weeks.
This is just a general outline – your aftercare routine will be prescribed by your doctor. Make sure to follow it as closely as possible to prevent any complications.
How Soon Will I See the Results of Dermabrasion?
It will take several weeks for your skin to recover completely from the treatment – up to 3 months.
Your skin will close up after 7-14 days and new skin will emerge. However, it will be pink and stand out from its surroundings. It will blend back in within 4-12 weeks.
Only then will you see the final result. Bear in mind that you may need to repeat the procedure if your condition was very severe. Generally, a 50% improvement compared to the initial state is considered a success.
Are the Results Permanent?
This depends on the condition you’re treating.
Dermabrasion for scars or tattoos is permanent. Other conditions, such as hyperpigmentation caused by external factors, may return. The skin’s aging process will continue after the treatment, so at some point, the signs of aging will return.
Image source: YouTube Screenshot Garcia Facial Plastic Surgery
DERMABRASION RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS
What Are the Risks of Dermabrasion?
Since it’s a somewhat invasive procedure, dermabrasion carries certain risks. They include:
- Permanent scarring – can happen if the treatment isn’t done right.
- Permanent discoloration – usually caused by premature exposure to sunlight after the treatment.
Dermabrasion is an intense treatment that can only be performed by dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Don’t let anyone who’s not licensed to do dermabrasion perform the treatment.
What About the Side Effects?
Temporary side effects which are more or less expected are:
- Burning sensation.
- Minor bruising.
- Temporarily enlarged pores on new skin.
- Temporary changes in skin color.
- Acne flare-ups.
- Temporary milia outbreak – tiny white bumps may appear, but they’ll go away as the skin heals.
DERMABRASION – MAIN TAKEAWAYS
Dermabrasion for scars or other issues is exactly what its name suggests – surgical scraping of the skin to remove the tissue affected by a certain condition. It’s more invasive than many other skin treatments, so it’s only recommended for severe skin conditions like deep scarring. The treatment entails downtime and you can’t go straight back to your everyday routine. It can only be performed by dermatologists and plastic surgeons. It can also get quite pricey, but it can give a significant improvement.