How Painful is Dermabrasion on a Scale of 1 to 10?

The research I did on dermabrasion shows that a metal wheel spins across your skin, peeling away the surface. Kind of like a mini-scalping. I'm guessing on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 = giving birth), dermabrasion is a 7. Is this to pessimistic or optimistic? I've also heard varying advice on recovery time. Some people say you're back to work in 1 week, others argue 3 weeks. That's a big difference for me. Can someone offer guidance here?

Doctor Answers 9

Most full face dermabrasions require pain meds for about 4 days

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Dermabrasions do great to smooth out certain scars and bumps and wrinkles and is usually done under local anesthesia for $3500 for the cheeks and $5000 for the whole face. Your face is bandaged for 3-5 days and red for 1 week followed by pinkness for 4 weeks. Makeup covers it well after 1 week so most patients go to work after 1 weeks and take pain meds for the first 4 days.

Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

Dermabrasion is a 0 out of 10 on pain scale (after local anesthesia injection)!

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Dermabrasion is almost always done under local anesthesia, so the only pain is the tiny needle prick at the beginning of the numbing-up of the dermabrasion site. Of course, if a large area is planned for dermabrasion, such as acne scarring of the face, there will be more injections and more needle sticks. However, a skilled dermabrasion expert can inject local anesthesia so that you only feel the first or several needle pokes, and all others will be done in already-partially numb areas.

The real answer to your question relates to the area of planned dermabrasion: small scar or entire face?

Once the dermabrasion is completed, your doctor will have you apply an occlusive dressing or ointment (I use Bacitracin for small areas, and Vaseline for large areas). If the raw skin is kept moist and occluded, the pain while healing is truly minimal, and only lasts a few days at most. After that, the nerve endings have healed and the skin repairs itself (if kept clean and moist and non-infected) in 5-8 days, just like a blister or mild burn..

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 263 reviews

Dermabrasion causes minimal pain

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Dermabrasion is very well tolerated under local anesthesia. For small areas (nose, cheek) dermabrasion paper can be used and is just as effective as the rotary dermabrader that you refer to. The wounds are relatively painless after the procedure as long as they are kept clean and moist to prevent scabbing.

Stephen Weber MD, FACS

Dermabrasion has mild pain for 1-2 days.

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Dermabrasion is an excellent technique that effectively resurfaces the skin. It can smooth out depressions or uneven surfaces of the skin and can reduce prominent scars as well. Depending on the area that is treated, this may be done with local or regional anesthesia.

Patients will experience mild pain that can be controlled with with cold compresses and mild pain pills. This should resolve in 2-3 days.

After dermabrasion, your skin will appear red and may have a small amount of bleeding. This should be treated by placing Bacitracin onto the raw skin. You should also use a sunblock with at least a 50 SPF at all times as this skin is extremely sensitive to sun burning and permanent hyperpigmentation. In our practice, we also recommend that patients stay out of the sun for several months after the surgery to make sure their skin heals optimally.


Does it hurt to have dermabrasion?

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After your skin is anesthetized you should not have any discomfort but will feel tactle sensation such as pressure and touch.  After the procedure you will have onlly minimal discomfort as long as you keep it covered with ointment. 

Sylvan Bartlett, MD
Midland Plastic Surgeon

Almost no pain to dermabrasion

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You do not indicate what it is that you want dermabraded? Your whole face or just one area of concern?

In my office we routinely perform Dermabrasion on patent's noses and cheeks using only topical anesthetic. I have never had any patient indicate it was uncomfortable. This compares to an ablative laser resurfacing where in-spite of local and topical anesthetic patients indicate significant pain during the procedure.

Ivan Wayne, MD
Oklahoma City Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 65 reviews

Pain associated with Dermabrasion is dependent on the anesthesia used

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Usually dermabrasion is not done without some type of anesthesia. The types of anesthesia include local, regional, oral / iv sedation, general anesthesia. Most physicians use a combination of above to do dermabrasion. If it is a concentrated area like a scar, local anesthesia can be the only thing needed depending on the normal anxiety levels that a person usually gets in this type of situation. If the person is likely to get anxious than oral or iv sedation can help. For the whole face and larger areas, some type of whole body sedation through oral or iv sedation is helpful. Regional anesthesia where the nerves are anesthetized can help the whole situation.

Philip Young, MD
Bellevue Facial Plastic Surgeon

Dermabrasion Needs Numbing Medicine

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Dermabrasion is a painful procedure. The pain can be completely avoided by injecting lidocaine in the area to be treated. Without numbing it would be close to 8 on a scale of (1-10) 10 being the worst pain ever.

Recovery depends on the depth of dermabrasion. If it is done superficially, you could be back to work in one week. However, you might have a pinkish color to the sking which might require make up. If it is a deeper dermabrasion, the face will still be healed in 10 days but the redness can be more dramatic and requires more make up.


Tanveer Janjua, MD
Bedminster Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 126 reviews

Dermabrasion should not be painful after anesthetic

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If you have a regional block or direct infiltration of the areia with local anesthetic, you should experience lilltle if any pain. Recovery is less painful if the wounds are kept covered, clean, and moist at all times.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

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.