What is Dermabrasion?

What is dermabrasion used to treat? 

Doctor Answers 7

Dermabrasion for Skin Resurfacing

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Dermabrasion is mechanically smoothing of the skin surface. Dermabrasion is one of many types of skin resurfacing techniques, which includes chemical peels (TCA, glycolic acid, fruit acid, etc) and lasers (CO2, erbium, etc). This method of skin treatment has been used for decades in physician offices under local anesthesia, or combined with other plastic surgery under general anesthesia.

Cosmetic results from a dermabrasion are mostly dependent on depth of the dermabrasion, areas treated, and your skin quality. Patients get better results with deeper treatments; however, the recovery time and potential risks are higher. Any location where skin care or dermabrasion takes place must be clean & sterile. Risks with dermabrasion are similar to other skin resurfacing techniques and include infection, scars, and pigmentary changes.

Dermabrasion techniques

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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. Dermabrasion is an excellent technique to correct scars, uneven surfaces, or to rejuvenate the areas around the lips by erasing wrinkles.

What dermabrasion is

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Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure to reduce wrinkles, scars, and sun damage where the skin is abraded (unsurfaced), or sanded, to remove the surface layer and into the middle layers of the skin.  This removes surface irregularities, such as sun-damage, and some of the underlying irregular collagen, that is responsible for scars and wrinkles.  Your body heals the resulting abraded skin (resurfaces) by growing new collagen, without the wrinkles and less scar, and by covering the surface with a new layer.  The resulting skin is tighter and smoother.

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Dermabrasion is great for vertical lines around mouth

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Dermabrasion is a procedure used for skin resurfacing.  I commonly use dermabrasion to eliminate or soften the lines that develop above the upper lip and below the lower lip.  These lines are most commonly seen on smokers or former smokers or from sun damage.

Women typically do not like these lines which can make them appear older than they are. There is a downtime for recovery of 7-10 days for the dermabrasion to heal and then makeup can be applied to camouflage the pinkness.  The area will be a dark pink color that will lighten and return to normal skin tone within 2-4 months on the average patient. 

Arnold Zweig, MD (retired)
Atlanta Facial Plastic Surgeon

Dermabrasion is best for scarring

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Dermabrasion involves mechanically resurfacing the skin with an abrasive tip driven by a high-speed rotary hand engine. Either a wire brush or a diamond fraise may be used as the abrading tip to create an open wound that heals by secondary intention. An irregular or scarred cutaneous surface may be surgically abraded in order to achieve a more regular plane, or a more gradual transition between different planes, thereby improving skin contour.

The most common indications for dermabrasion are desired improvement of acne scars, traumatic and surgical scars, rhinophyma, deep rhytides, and partial-thickness Mohs defects. However, dermabrasion has also been described for improvement of actinic keratoses, 8 seborrheic keratoses, angiofibromas, syringomas, solar elastosis, epidermal nevi, and tattoo removal.

Be well,

Dr. P

Dermabrasion and Manual Dermasanding

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Dermabrasion, one of several kinds of procedures available that is aimed at resurfacing the skin, is by no means a new technique. In fact, it has been used successfully for decades for treating primarily acne scars and less frequently for wrinkles and surface crepeyness. Besides improving the surface characteristics of the skin, dermabrasion stimulates new collagen formation. Dermabrasion must not be confused with microdermabrasion, which uses tiny particles of aluminum oxide to gently exfoliate the surface layers of the skin to "freshen" it.

Traditional dermabrasion uses a motorized brushing device to physically abrade the skin, which is usually frozen solid with a freezing spray in order to firm it up prior to treatment. This is done to diminish drag and to insure an even level of resurfacing.

One of the downsides of this motorized kind of sanding is blood splatter in the form of a fine mist. With rising concerns about the transmission of HIV and hepatitis virus particles, this has become a significant issue. Another downside is that control of the rapidly rotating device is more difficult in narrow areas, as under the eyes and immediately around the mouth.

Within the past decade, manual dermasanding has eclipsed traditional dermabrasion among many practitioners, including this dermasurgeon. Manual dermabrasion uses what amounts to sterilized sandpaper to manually resurface the skin. Most often the procedure is performed under local anesthesia. The greater control of speed and depth afforded by this method makes it particularly effective for treating "tight" spaces, such as around the mouth and eyes. An important additional advantage is the lack of blood splatter.

I have found manual dermabrasion particularly useful for treating shallow or atrophic (very thinned, depressed and crinkly) acne scars and for certain kinds of chicken pox scars. It is also useful for areas that need blending in color and texture, such as the jawline area after a chemical peel, which may need to be graded in coloration and texture with the area beneath the chin. It may also be used for improving the surface appearance, color, and texture for scars that have been raised up by other techniques, such as fillers or subcision.

And finally, I have found manual dermasanding especially helpful for scarabrasion. If relatively fresh scars are treated by manual dermabrasion within a window of eight to twelve weeks after formation, there is a very good chance of significantly improving the appearance or almost fading the scar entirely. This is possible--whether the defects from infections (such as chicken pox), inflammations (like acne), surgeries (e.g. Caesarian section, appendectomies, and gall bladder removals), or traumatic injuries.

Dermabrasion is a skin resurfacing procedure

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Dermabrasion is classified as a skin resurfacing procedure. It is designed to remove the top layers of the skin, in order to improve the skins appearance and stimulate collagen production. Other skin resurfacing procedures that do this are certain types of laser peels (CO2 lasers and Erbium lasers) and chemical peels.

Resurfacing procedures are performed to improve fine lines and wrinkles, in addition to improving the color and tone of the skin. Dermabrasion is also used to treat acne scarring. I choose which resurfacing procedure I perform based on the problem and area being treated. Some work much better then other, depending on the problem and the area of the face.

It is very important to understand that dermabrasion is completely different from microdermabrasion. Microdermabrasion is performed by aetheticians and only freshens up the skin, it cannot and will not do anything other then that. Dermabrasion must be performed a physician qualified and experienced with the procedure in order to obtain the best and safest results.

Jacob D. Steiger, MD
Boca Raton Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 68 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.