What happens before the dermabrasion procedure?

You’ll meet with your dermatologic or plastic surgeon before the procedure to discuss your goals and expectations. During the consultation, your plastic surgeon or dermatologic surgeon will describe the type of anesthesia, the procedure and what realistic results you can expect. A 50% improvement in your skin’s condition is considered a good result.

To be considered a good candidate for dermabrasion, you need to prepare yourself for how you’ll look while your skin is healing. Your skin will be very pink and raw; without proper post-procedural care, a scab-like crust will form, potentially delaying healing and worsening the outcome. Your skin may ooze and it will have a moist dressing on it for the day immediately following surgery, prior to starting wound care at home. It’s critical to stay out of the sun during the healing period so that the new skin heals evenly and doesn’t become discolored. You may want to take at least two weeks off from work for your skin to heal properly. It may take several months for the full results to emerge.

Dermabrasion is typically an outpatient procedure performed in your healthcare provider’s office where your skin is numbed with a local anesthetic. But, if you’re having other cosmetic procedures at the same time (such as a facelift), you may have your procedure done at an inpatient surgery center and receive general anesthesia. Your healthcare provider will also explain the risks and complications that may occur and will take photographs before and after the procedure to evaluate your results.

Be prepared at the consultation to discuss the following with your healthcare provider:

  • Your medical conditions.
  • Drug allergies.
  • Past medical treatments, including surgeries.
  • Current medications.
  • Current vitamins and other supplements.
  • Tobacco, drug and alcohol use.

What will my dermabrasion pre-procedure self-care routine look like?

Once you’ve scheduled your dermabrasion procedure, your healthcare provider will give you preoperative instructions. To prepare for your procedure, your healthcare provider may instruct you to:

  • Stay out of the sun. Your healthcare provider will likely speak to you about how recent sun exposure before your procedure can cause your skin to permanently discolor after dermabrasion.
  • Stop certain drugs you take. Ask your healthcare provider how long you should stop blood thinners or other medications you take that have skin discoloration side effects (hyperpigmentation).
  • Don’t smoke. Stop for at least two weeks leading up to your procedure because it decreases blood flow and slows the healing process.

What happens during the procedure?

Your skin will be cleansed with an antiseptic and your healthcare provider will give you any or a combination of the following to make you comfortable during the dermabrasion procedure:

  • Numbing spray.
  • Topical anesthetic gel.
  • Local anesthetic injection.

Once the numbing medication has taken effect, your healthcare provider will use a high-speed rotary instrument with an abrasive diamond wheel or wire brush to scrape away the outer layers of skin and reveal the fresh layers underneath. Once the procedure is complete, your healthcare provider will apply a moist dressing to your skin to keep it protected while it heals.

How long does the procedure last?

The length of the procedure depends on how much of the skin will go through dermabrasion. It may take a few minutes, or it may take more than 90 minutes.

Will I be asleep during the procedure?

You will be awake during the procedure but the area will be numbed. Sometimes general anesthesia is necessary.

What should I expect after the procedure?

Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery. You won’t be able to operate a vehicle.

Before you leave the healthcare provider’s office, you’ll receive instructions about when to return for a follow-up visit and how to change the dressing. Your healthcare provider will prescribe an antiviral and an antibiotic to help you avoid infections. They also may suggest you use a retinoid ointment (Retin-A®). This vitamin A treatment can boost skin rejuvenation.

After dermabrasion you’ll have to do the following to avoid any problems:

  • Cleanse your skin several times a day. This will remove the crusting caused by the normal healing process, and help avoid infection.
  • Keep the area moist and help the healing process by changing the ointment or dressing regularly.
  • Avoid sun exposure. (And use sunscreen every day after you heal.)

You’ll attend one or more follow-up visits so that your healthcare provider can monitor your condition. They will want to double-check that you’re healing that there are no signs of infection.

Is dermabrasion permanent?

Dermabrasion will permanently remove tattoos.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/15/2020.

References

  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Dermabrasion. Accessed 9/11/2020.
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Microdermabrasion. Accessed 9/11/2020.
  • American Academy of Dermatology. Melasma: Diagnosis and Treatment. Accessed 9/11/2020.
  • American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Dermabrasion. Accessed 9/11/2020.
  • Moetaz B et al. Trichloroacetic Acid Peeling Versus Dermabrasion: A Histometric, Immunohistochemical, and Ultrastructural Comparison. Dermatologic Surgery. 2004; 30:2. Accessed 9/11/2020.
  • News Medical Life Sciences. What is Dermabrasion? Accessed 9/11/2020.

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