How Can I Reverse Bad Dermabrasion Results?

I'm an African American and I made the mistake of having a full faced dermabrasion to help treat acne scarring. The results were devastating, I'm 31 and I have been left looking as though I am 50. What can i do to get rid of the severe post-inflamatory hyperpigmentation and aging skin? How can I now treat the acne scarring?

Doctor Answers 6

Dermabrasion in pigmented skin

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Ms Stewart -

Thanks for your question. I'm sorry to hear about your problem.

There are two difficult situations. First - acne scarring is an incredibly challenging problem. There is no technology that will fully correct deeper acne scarring.

In addition, most of the treatments are based on "ablative" techniques (dermabrasion, laser). These treatments can cause significant problems in patients with darker skin. These problems can include hypo or hyper pigmentation.

The best course of action is patients to allow the results a full year to heal. Then find a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist for specific advice on your situation.

Complications from dermabrasion

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I try to sway patients away from dermabrasion because modern lasers are much safer and more effective.  Dermabrasion is typically done by physicians who either weren't trained to use lasers or don't have the lasers to offer.  The major complications resulting from dermabrasion are hypogpigmentation (loss of pigment), hyperpigmentation (excess pigment), scarring, or an unnatural skin texture that appears waxy.  Fortunately, the problem you describe which is hyperpigmentation is the most treatable.  That can be treated best with noninvasive lasers such as the KTP 532 nm laser and Nd:YAG 1064 nm laser, Q-switched alexandrite or ruby lasers.  Also intense pulsed light (IPL) can help.  Fractional CO2 laser resurfacing would be the best option for treating the acne scarring.  This would require multiple treatments to get optimal results.  But important to have realistic expectations that no matter what treatment you have done, the acne scars will never be gone and you may realistically only get 30-50% improvement after multiple treatments. 

M. Christine Lee, MD
Walnut Creek Dermatologic Surgeon

Acne scarring treated with Dermabrasion

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Dermabrasion, or any procedure can lead to increased or decreased pigmentation in african american skin. The good news is that the color changes usually improve slowly with time & proper treatment, which is usually conservative, ie non-procedural. The aging of the skin after dermabrasion is extremely rare. We do the procedure to rejuvenate the skin in case of excessive wrinkling.

If your dermabrasion is fairly recent, improvement is the rule. Check with a good dermatologist to see about using appropriate creams to help with the color changes.

Khaled El-Hoshy, MD
Detroit Dermatologic Surgeon

Treatment for bad dermabrasion results

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  Tough problem  Usually PIH will respond to appropriate treatment of hydroquinone and tretinoin,  I think you use these products for awhile and then you could consider light chemical peels for an enhanced result.

Lawrence Kass, MD
Saint Petersburg Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 140 reviews

Treatment of hyperpigmentation of the skin

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Treatment of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation may require chemical peels, topical creams, and retinoid exfoliation.  This should be treated over 6 to 9 months. 

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

Correcting dermabrasion results

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Dermabrasion is an excellent technique that effectively resurfaces the skin. It works by shaving down the outer layers of skin until it be deeper layers of skin are exposed. It is these deeper layers of skin that will repopulate the superficial skin layers. Dermabrasion should be done very cautiously in patients with darker complexions. If you have had bad dermabrasion results, there are several options. It is possible to do may have an uneven surface with a limited amount of dermabrasion or with a laser. Differences in pigmentation, unfortunately are harder to correct. Depending on the location, it may be possible to perform some selected cosmetic tattooing or permanent makeup.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.