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Diseases & Conditions


Dermabrasion, or surgical skin planing, is a procedure in which a specialized instrument is used to "sand" the skin. This abrasive or planing action improves skin contour as a new layer of skin replaces the treated skin. The new skin generally has a smoother appearance.

The procedure is most often performed by a dermatologic surgeon or plastic surgeon.

When is dermabrasion used?

When dermabrasion was first developed, it was used predominantly to improve acne scars, pox marks, and scars resulting from accidents or disease. Today, it is used to treat other skin conditions, such as tattoo scars, scars related to surgery, age (liver) spots, wrinkles, and benign skin lesions.

What happens prior to the dermabrasion procedure?

During the consultation, the dermatologic surgeon describes the type of anesthesia to be used, the procedure, and what results might realistically be expected. The doctor also explains the possible risks and complications that may occur. Photographs are taken before and after surgery to help evaluate the amount of improvement. Preoperative and postoperative instructions are given to the patient at this time.

How does dermabrasion work?

Dermabrasion can be performed in the dermatologic surgeon’s office or in an outpatient surgical facility. Medication to relax the patient may be given prior to surgery. The affected area is thoroughly cleaned with an antiseptic cleansing agent. Next, your doctor will apply a numbing spray, topical anesthetic or inject a local anesthetic.  A high-speed rotary instrument with an abrasive wheel or brush then removes the outer layers of the skin to improve any irregularities in the skin surface.

What happens after dermabrasion?

After the procedure, your skin will feel as though it has been "brush-burned" for a few days. Your doctor can prescribe or recommend medications to help reduce any discomfort you may have. Healing usually occurs within 10 to 14 days. The newly formed skin, which is pink at first, gradually develops a normal color. In most cases, the pinkness largely fades by six to eight weeks. Makeup can be used as a cover-up as soon as the skin is healed.

Generally, most people can resume their normal activities seven to 14 days after dermabrasion. Patients are instructed to avoid unnecessary direct and indirect sunlight for three to six months after the procedure and to use sunscreen on a regular basis when outdoors.

Are there side effects and complications with dermabrasion?

Side effects are uncommon but they do occur. The most common 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 following surgery
  • Scarring
  • Infection

Care after surgery

Do not drink alcohol for 48 hours before and after the surgery. Do not take aspirin or any products that contain aspirin or ibuprofen for one week before or after the surgery. Avoid smoking, as advised by your doctor.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/12/2012...#8309