What are the risks of dermabrasion?

Some medical conditions and medications you have may mean you’re not a good candidate for dermabrasion. Dermabrasion is not ideal if you have:

  • Rosacea, as it puts you at risk of infection.
  • Blood, immune or skin disorders that slow the healing process.
  • Browlift or facelift procedures done recently.
  • Burn scars as they won’t respond to dermabrasion.
  • Dark skin as it increases the chances of permanent discoloration or scarring.
  • Herpes simplex can complicate healing with infection and cold sores which may scar.
  • Keloid conditions which cause scarring.
  • Medications for acne in previous months such as isotretinoin (Absorica®, Claravis®) or any other medications that may thin your skin, or blood thinners that put you at an increased bleeding risk.
  • Skin that is cold-sensitive.

Are there side effects and complications with dermabrasion?

Side effects of dermabrasion are uncommon but can occur. The most common complications include:

  • Acne flare-ups. Sometimes people with acne rosacea experience tiny white spots (milia) which will eventually go away as the skin heals.
  • 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.
  • Enlarged pores (usually temporary).
  • Scarring.
  • Swelling.
  • Infection.

Is dermabrasion painful?

Your skin will be numbed using local anesthesia or a freezing spray during the procedure so that you won’t feel any pain. After the procedure, you may feel like you had a bad sunburn. If there is a severe stinging sensation, your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medications.

What are the benefits of dermabrasion vs. chemical peels?

There are benefits you may get from dermabrasion that you may not get from a chemical peel. Benefits of dermabrasion vs. chemical peels include:

  • Boosts collagen: Studies show that dermabrasion stimulates collagen production in your skin, which boosts rejuvenation effects and means you’ll have younger-looking skin. Collagen production from a chemical peel isn’t as effective.
  • Better for medium skin tones: Dermatologists report less discoloration risk in medium skin tones with dermabrasion versus chemical peels.
  • Deep scar reduction: Studies also show that dermabrasion is more effective at reducing deeper acne scars than chemical peels.

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


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  • 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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