What are dermabrasion & microdermabrasion?

Dermabrasion is a procedure in which your skin is cooled and then a specialized, high-speed rotary instrument is used to “sand” the skin. This abrasive or “planing” action improves your skin contour as a new layer of skin replaces the treated skin (resulting in a smoother, refreshed appearance).

Dermabrasion can improve acne scars and scars resulting from accidents or disease. Dermabrasion does cause crusting of the skin and requires downtime. Once the skin’s healed in approximately one week, it appears red, just like it would after a chemical peel, laser peel or another resurfacing technique. Performed by a cosmetic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center, dermabrasion can also treat other skin conditions, such as tattoo scars, wrinkles, age (liver) spots and other skin lesions.

Microdermabrasion (also known as “power peel”) involves using tiny crystals that are sprayed on your skin, which helps treat superficial skin problems (such as fine lines, dull skin, brown spots, mild acne scars, age spots and sun-damaged layers of skin). Microdermabrasion causes no bleeding and requires minimal downtime. Skin care specialists at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center are experts at delivering this nonsurgical, nonchemical procedure.

Why choose us?

When considering dermabrasion and microdermabrasion, choose a surgeon with significant experience performing the procedure. Friends, family members or an internist or primary care provider are often helpful in suggesting the best surgeon. 

For the best results, choose a cosmetic surgeon who’s affiliated with a major medical center, such as Cleveland Clinic. Make sure to ask your cosmetic surgeon about their credentials, training and how many procedures they’ve performed.

Learn more about Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center.

How to Prepare

How to Prepare

Am I a candidate for dermabrasion & microdermabrasion?

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are most commonly performed for cosmetic reasons (such as to enhance appearance and self-confidence), but they may also be recommended to remove precancerous skin growths, soften acne facial scars and even control acne. Men and women of all ages can benefit from both dermabrasion and microdermabrasion. 

The best way to determine if you’re a candidate for dermabrasion or microdermabrasion is through a consultation with a skin care expert at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center.

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are a good option if you:

  • Are physically healthy.
  • Have a mild or moderate degree of facial aging.
  • Have skin growths, acne facial scars or sun damage.
  • Have specific but realistic goals in mind for the improvement of your appearance.

How do I prepare for dermabrasion & microdermabrasion?

Preparation for dermabrasion and microdermabrasion at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center will depend on the type of procedure you’re having. If you’re having dermabrasion:

  • Stop taking blood thinners for a week prior to the procedure.
  • Stop smoking for at least a week before the procedure.
  • You may be prescribed a course of antiviral pills if you’re prone to cold sores.
  • Avoid aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements due to increased risk of bleeding.
  • Photographs of your face will be taken before and after treatment to evaluate improvement.

If you’re having microdermabrasion:

  • Stop using products that contain salicylic acid (often found in facial cleansers).
  • Stop using Retin-A, Renova®, Differin® and certain glycolic acid products for at least a week prior to the procedure.
  • Avoid sunbathing, tanning beds, waxing and any chemical peels or collagen injections for two weeks before the procedure.
  • Photographs of your face will be taken before and after treatment to evaluate improvement.
What to Expect

What to Expect

How are dermabrasion & microdermabrasion performed?

Dermabrasion at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center is generally performed in an outpatient setting. You may take medication before the surgery to help you relax. The affected area is thoroughly cleansed with an antiseptic cleansing agent, and the surgeon will apply a special spray that freezes your skin.

Then, your surgeon uses a high-speed rotary instrument with an abrasive wheel or brush to remove the outer layers of the skin and improve any irregularities in the skin surface. Typically, dermabrasion is a quick procedure taking only 30 to 60 minutes to complete, depending upon the area to be treated. If the skin needs severe correction, or there’s a large area of skin to be treated, your surgeon may decide to perform dermabrasion in several staged procedures, rather than all at once.

Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center offers a new microdermabrasion technique called the MicroDelivery Peel II® that’s performed in an office setting. By using a precision instrument, a stream of fine crystals is directed onto the face to gently remove tiny particles of dead, damaged skin. Treatments using the MicroDelivery Peel II system generally take about 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on your skin type, condition and expectations, you may need six to 12 treatments over several weeks for the best results.

What are the different types of dermabrasion & microdermabrasion?

There are two types of dermabrasion:


This procedure scrapes away the outermost layer of the skin with a rough wire brush or a tool containing diamond particles that “sand down” the skin. The “sanding” continues until the surgeon reaches the safest level that’ll make a scar or wrinkle less visible. 

Dermabrasion is a more aggressive technique than microdermabrasion, and it erases significantly more wrinkles or scars. Therefore, dermabrasion does cause bleeding, while microdermabrasion doesn’t. There’s downtime with dermabrasion while microdermabrasion resolves without any downtime.


In this procedure, the surgeon uses a handheld instrument called a dermatome, which resembles an electric razor or a surgical blade. The dermatome has a blade that moves backwards and forwards to “skim” off the surface layers of skin that surround a deep scar or another skin defect. The skimming continues until the lowest point of the scar or wrinkle becomes more even with the surrounding skin, and the skin is much smoother. The skin, which has been skimmed by the machine, then heals, becoming tighter and reducing the appearance of wrinkles and scars.

The three main types of microdermabrasion are:

  • Crystal, using sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride or magnesium crystals to exfoliate.
  • Corundum, which exfoliates skin using aluminum oxide crystals.
  • Diamond-tipped or crystal-free, which uses a handheld applicator with an abrasive diamond or sandpaper tip.


What results can I expect?

Dermabrasion can produce dramatic improvements in the surface of your skin, but it will take some time before you see the final results. Your skin will initially have drainage and scabbing immediately after the procedure. Once healed, in approximately one week, you’ll be quite red. The pinkness of your skin will take one to three months to fade depending on the depth of treatment. When your new skin is fully repigmented, the color should closely match the surrounding skin, resulting in smoother and fresher-looking skin.

Microdermabrasion is a milder technique that may require numerous treatments for the best overall results. After the first microdermabrasion treatment, your complexion will have a pink or red glow, which typically fades after a day.

Most people experience immediate improvements to their skin, but optimal results won’t be visible until all of the recommended treatments are completed. A typical course of treatment ranges from five to 12 sessions spaced a week or two apart, resulting in dramatic improvements in the skin’s color, tone and texture, leading to a more radiant, vibrant glow. Following up with an expert at a Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center is the best way to ensure long-lasting results from dermabrasion and microdermabrasion procedures.

What is involved in recovery?

After dermabrasion, you may be prescribed pain medication to help reduce any discomfort you may have. Healing usually occurs within seven to 10 days.

In general, most people can resume their normal activities seven to 14 days after dermabrasion. You’ll be instructed to avoid unnecessary direct and indirect sunlight for three to six months after the procedure and to use sunscreen on a regular basis.

Microdermabrasion may cause your skin to feel as though it were sun- or wind-burned, but this subsides quickly. Because the treatments are so gentle, you can return immediately to your daily activities.

Are dermabrasion & microdermabrasion safe?

All procedures carry some risks. Possible dermabrasion side effects include:

  • Temporary or permanent uneven changes in skin color.
  • Temporary or permanent darkening of the skin, usually caused by sun exposure in the days and months after surgery.
  • Swelling.
  • Scarring.
  • Infection.

Possible microdermabrasion side effects include:

  • Mild skin irritation.
  • Eye irritation.
  • Slight redness of the skin.
  • Swelling.
Insurance & Financing

Insurance & Financing

Insurance rarely covers the cost of elective cosmetic surgery and procedures. Please call 216.444.4004 and ask to speak with one of our financial representatives who can explain payment options, including CareCredit financing.