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Dermabrasion

Arm Lift Quick Facts

  • Best Candidates: People who want to improve their appearance with smoother, younger-looking skin
  • Procedure Length:A few minutes to 1 1/2 hours
  • Inpatient/Outpatient: Outpatient
  • Anesthesia: Usually local with sedation
  • Results: Long-lasting
  • Procedures in 2020: 139,933 (source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)

Damage to facial skin can be caused by aging, sun exposure, acne, accidents and other factors. Dermabrasion is a safe and effective way to smooth surface irregularities and remove damaged skin from the face, allowing fresh new skin to form in its place. The majority of dermabrasion patients successfully achieve an improved appearance and an increase in self-confidence.

The procedure information contained in this article will give you a good introduction to dermabrasion. Schedule a consultation with a Top Plastic Surgeon to receive a medical examination and discuss your options for dermabrasion.

Dermabrasion Overview

Dermabrasion is a surgical skin resurfacing procedure used primarily on the face to treat fine wrinkles, photoaging caused by years of sun exposure, acne scars, scars from accidents and other skin imperfections. Dermabrasion can also be used to treat age spots, skin lesions and keratoses (pre-cancerous growths). Results are dramatic and long-lasting.

During treatment, a motorized instrument is used to refinish the skin by scraping away its damaged outer layer. This process softens surface irregularities and reveals bright new skin with a smoother, more appealing texture. Dermaplaning is a similar procedure used to treat deep acne scars.

Patients with deep wrinkles or sagging skin in addition to skin damage may consider other cosmetic procedures in conjunction with dermabrasion. A variety of plastic surgery procedures, including a facelift, forehead lift or eyelid surgery, can be used as part of an overall treatment plan to smooth, firm and tighten the skin.

How Dermabrasion is Performed

Your surgeon will begin the procedure by thoroughly cleansing the skin where dermabrasion will be performed. He or she will then begin a process of surgical scraping using a high-speed rotating brush or wheel fitted with diamond particles. The abrasive action created by these instruments removes damaged skin, softens irregularities on the skin's surface and allows bright new skin to form as part of the natural healing process. When the scraping process is completed, the treated area may be covered with ointment or a dressing.

Dermabrasion can take from a few minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the area to be treated. If a large area of skin is involved or the skin requires major correction, dermabrasion may be performed in several stages.

Dermabrasion is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in your doctor's office, an outpatient surgery center or a hospital. In most cases, local anesthesia or a numbing spray is used to numb the treated area and may be combined with a sedative to render drowsiness. More severe cases may require general anesthesia, which puts you to sleep throughout the procedure.

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Best Candidates

The best candidates for dermabrasion are in good health and want to enhance the appearance of their face with smoother, more youthful skin.

Generally, the best candidates for dermabrasion:

  • Are in good physical and psychological health.
  • Are well-informed about treatment options and have realistic expectations.
  • Want to improve their appearance by effectively treating wrinkles, symptoms of photoaging, acne scars and other skin conditions and imperfections.
  • Would benefit psychologically and emotionally from more youthful-looking skin with an improved texture.

If you believe that you may be a good candidate for dermabrasion, a qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate your circumstances, explain anything about the procedure you don't understand, answer all of your questions and help you decide if the procedure is right for you.

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Dermabrasion Risks

Complications are rare and usually minor when dermabrasion is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon. In general, there is a greater risk of complications and side effects when more skin is removed. To minimize your risk, carefully follow all of your surgeon's instructions both before and after the procedure. Contact your doctor's office immediately if you experience any symptoms you believe may indicate a complication.

The most common risks associated with dermabrasion include:

  • Pain or swelling beyond normal levels
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Changes in skin tone
  • Development of small whiteheads

Some patients may develop excessive scar tissue (keloid or hypertrophic scars) after dermabrasion. This condition is usually treated with a steroid medication.

Changes in skin pigmentation are usually caused by sun exposure after the surgery. Permanent darkening or lightening can occur, and freckles can disappear, in the treated area. People with darker skin are especially prone to skin lightening and blotchiness.

Tiny whiteheads called milia can develop after dermabrasion. Milia usually disappear on their own or with the help of soap and water, but require surgical removal in some cases.

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Dermabrasion Costs

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the national average surgeon/physician fee for dermabrasion in 2013 was $1,151. This figure does not include other costs, such as a facilities charge or anesthesia. Your plastic surgeon will provide you with complete information on costs and financing options at your consultation. The total fee for dermabrasion can vary considerably depending on the region of the country, the extent of the procedure and your specific needs as a patient.

Health insurance will usually not cover the cost of dermabrasion performed for cosmetic purposes. However, dermabrasion may be covered if the procedure is performed to treat pre-cancerous growths or certain types of scars. Check with your insurance company to find out if dermabrasion is covered and to determine the eligibility requirements.

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Dermabrasion Consultation

If you decide that you might benefit from dermabrasion, the first step is to locate a qualified plastic surgeon and schedule a consultation. At the consultation, the doctor will perform a physical examination to evaluate the condition of your facial skin and take a complete medical history, including existing medical conditions, medications (prescription and non-prescription) and vitamins. Be sure to tell the surgeon if you have any allergies, have a history of fever blisters or cold sores or if you smoke. Smoking decreases blood flow to the skin and slows the healing process.

The surgeon should carefully listen to your goals for your appearance, fully answer all of your questions and explain the different options that are available. He or she may recommend dermabrasion and/or an alternative skin resurfacing procedure such as laser skin resurfacing, chemical peel or microdermabrasion. The surgeon should give you the full details of the recommended procedure, including the benefits, risks, costs and recovery time.

As the consultation concludes, you may wish to schedule your procedure, take some time to think or seek a second opinion. If you decide to proceed with the procedure, your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for dermabrasion. These instructions will include guidelines for eating, drinking, skin pretreatment and medications and vitamins to take or avoid before and after surgery.

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Dermabrasion Recovery

After dermabrasion, a crust or scab forms on the treated area of skin. This crust will fall off after several days, exposing a new layer of pink skin. Special cosmetics and soaps may be used until this pinkness fades after several weeks. It may take from 6 months to a year for pigment to fully return to the skin. After this time, the color of the treated skin should closely match that of the surrounding skin.

Normal symptoms experienced after dermabrasion include aching, swelling, burning, tingling and itching. Any pain should subside quickly and be controlled with medication prescribed by your surgeon. Swelling usually peaks after a few days and abates in 2 to 3 weeks. Your doctor may recommend an ointment to soothe itching that occurs as the skin regenerates.

To help ensure a smooth recovery, always follow your surgeon's instructions on caring for your skin and resuming your normal activities. Men may be asked to avoid shaving for about 2 weeks. Both men and women should take special care to protect their skin from the sun after dermabrasion. Most patients can return to work and resume physical activities after about 2 weeks. Immersing your face in chlorinated water should be avoided for at least a month.

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