During dermabrasion, or surgical skin planing, the dermatologic surgeon freezes the patient's skin and then mechanically removes or "sands" the skin to improve the contour and achieve a rejuvenated appearance as a new layer of remodeled skin replaces the damaged skin. The new skin generally has a smoother and refreshed appearance. Results are generally quite remarkable and long-lasting.
When is dermabrasion indicated?
When dermabrasion was first developed, it was used predominantly to improve acne scars, chicken pox marks and scars resulting from accidents or disease. Today, it is also used to treat other skin conditions, such as pigmentation, wrinkles, sun damage, unwanted tattoos, age (liver) spots and certain types of skin lesions. The treatment may also be applied to select areas of deformed skin.
The conditions under which dermabrasion would not be effective include the presence of congenital skin defects, certain types of moles or pigmented birthmarks and scars from burns.
What happens prior to surgery?
Before surgery, a complete medical history is taken and a careful examination is conducted in order to evaluate the general health of the patient. During the consultation, the dermatologic surgeon describes the types of anesthesia that may be used, the procedure and what results might realistically be expected. The doctor also explains the possible risks and complications that may occur. Photographs are taken before and after surgery to help evaluate the amount of improvement. Preoperative and postoperative instructions are given to the patient at this time.
How does the procedure work?
Dermabrasion can be performed in the dermatologic surgeon's office or in an outpatient surgical facility. Medication to relax the patient may be given prior to surgery. The area is thoroughly cleansed with antiseptic cleansing agent. The area to be "sanded" is treated with a spray that freezes the skin. Sometimes local tumescent anesthesia can be used. A high-speed rotary instrument with an abrasive wheel or brush removes or abrades the upper layers of the skin and improves irregularities in the skin surface.
What happens after the surgery?
For a few days, the skin feels as though it has been severely "brush-burned." Medications may be prescribed to alleviate any discomfort the patient may have. Healing usually occurs within 7 to 10 days.
The newly formed skin, which is pink at first, gradually develops a normal appearance. In most cases, the pinkness has largely faded by eight to 12 weeks. Makeup can be used as a cover-up as soon as the crust is off. Generally, most people can resume their normal occupation in seven to 10 days after dermabrasion. Patients are instructed to avoid unnecessary direct and indirect sunlight for three to six months after the procedure and to use a sunscreen on a regular basis when outdoors.
For more information and referrals
For more information on skin conditions and treatments, along with a list of ASDS members in your state, please visit the Find a Dermatologic Surgeon section of our website.