Dermabrasion is a form of skin resurfacing that is more invasive than microdermabrasion, and is most often used to improve the look of facial skin left scarred by accidents or previous surgery. It is also sometimes used to remove the precancerous growths called keratosis or to treat deep acne scars.
Men and women of all ages, from young people to older adults, can benefit from dermabrasion. Although older people heal more slowly, the more important factors include your skin type, coloring, and medical history. For example, black skin, Asian skin, and other dark complexions may become permanently discolored or blotchy after a skin-refinishing treatment. People who develop allergic rashes or other skin reactions, or who get frequent fever blisters or cold sores, may experience a flare-up. If you have freckles, they may disappear in the treated area.1
Most surgeons won't perform this treatment during the active stages of acne because of a greater risk of infection. The same may be true if you've had radiation treatments, a bad skin burn, or a previous chemical peel.1
3; Dermabrasion may be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs the area, combined with a sedative to make you drowsy. You'll be awake but relaxed, and will feel minimal discomfort. Sometimes a numbing spray, such a freon, is used along with or instead of local anesthesia. In more severe cases, your surgeon may prefer to use general anesthesia, in which case you'll sleep through the procedure. Most full-face dermabrasions require pain medications for about four days.2
Refinishing treatments can offer dramatic improvements in the surface of your skin, but it will take some time before you see the final results. The pinkness of your skin will take about three months to fade. In the meantime, you'll probably want to wear non-allergenic makeup when you go out. When your new skin is fully repigmented, the color should closely match the surrounding skin, making the procedure virtually undetectable. Results are typically long-lasting.4
It is important to know the difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion. Dermabrasion is a medical treatment that should only be performed by medical professionals under the supervision of a physician. Microdermabrasion is a more superficial technique that is often performed by estheticians and other medical spa professionals. Because dermabrasion is a medical treatment, prior to your initial treatment, the medical spa should offer you an in-person exam by either a doctor, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. Dermabrasion is most typically performed by an MD, PA or NP. Please check with your local medical board, nursing board or health care attorney for more information.
The most common risk is a change in skin pigmentation. Permanent darkening of the skin may occur in some patients due to sun exposure in the days or months following surgery. On the other hand, some patients find the treated skin remains a little lighter or blotchy in appearance.
You may develop tiny whiteheads after surgery. These usually disappear on their own, or with the use of an abrasive pad or soap (the surgeon may have to remove them occasionally). You may also develop enlarged skin pores; these usually shrink to near normal size once the swelling has subsided. While infection and scarring are rare with skin-refinishing treatments, they are possible. Some individuals develop excessive scar tissue (keloid or hypertrophic scars); these are usually treated with the application or injection of steroid medications to soften the scar.4
Directly after the procedure, your skin will be fairly red and swollen, and eating and speaking may be difficult. You'll probably feel some tingling, burning, or aching; any pain you feel can be controlled with medications prescribed by your surgeon. The swelling will begin to subside within a few days to a week. You can expect to be back at work in about two weeks.5
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