Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Dermabrasion
Dermabrasion is a treatment to improve the look of the skin. It uses a wire
brush or a diamond wheel with rough edges (called a burr or fraise) to remove
the upper layers of the skin. The brush or burr spins quickly, taking off and
leveling (abrading or planing) the top layers of the skin. This process injures
or wounds the skin and causes it to bleed. As the wound heals, new skin grows
to replace the damaged skin.
Things that affect the depth of the skin removal include:
The face is
the most common site for this treatment. But other areas of the skin can be treated this way too. Dermabrasion is used most often to improve the look of
acne scars and fine lines around the mouth. It also
may be used to treat an enlarged nose (rhinophyma)
rosacea, a skin condition.
The areas to be treated are cleaned
and marked. A local anesthetic (such as lidocaine) is used to numb the
skin. Ice packs are placed on the skin for up to 30
minutes. A freezing (cryogenic) spray may be used to harden the skin
for deeper abrasions if the anesthetic and ice packs don't make the skin firm
enough. For deep abrasions, or if the entire face is going to be treated, you
may need stronger anesthesia, pain killers, sedation, or
One small area at a
time is treated. The freezing spray (if needed) is applied for a few seconds. Then the rotating burr or brush is used to take off the top layers of skin.
Gauze is used to stop any bleeding. Then the area is covered with a clean
dressing or ointment.
Dermabrasion is almost always done in your
doctor's office or on an
The time it takes to heal after
dermabrasion depends on the size and depth of the area that was treated.
Someone who has a full-face treatment will take longer to heal than someone who has just a small area of skin treated. Deeper
abrasions take longer to heal.
In most cases, the skin grows back in 5 to 8 days. This new skin is pink or red. The color most often fades
in 6 to 12 weeks. Until then, your normal skin tones can be matched using
Many people have little or no pain and can get back to
their regular activities soon after the treatment. Some people need pain
relievers. If swelling occurs, a corticosteroid such as prednisone may be used.
Proper care of the treated area while the
skin is healing is very important. You will need to:
If you are getting treatment around your mouth, you may get an antiviral drug called acyclovir to
prevent infection. Tell your doctor if you have had
cold sores in the past.
You will need several follow-up
visits to your doctor. The doctor will keep track of how well the skin heals and regrows. He or she will also watch for and treat early signs of infection or other
Dermabrasion may be used to treat:
You may not be a good candidate for dermabrasion if
Your skin type, the condition of the
skin, how much experience your doctor has, the type of brush or burr used, and
your lifestyle after the treatment can all affect the short-term and
long-term results. Some types of skin problems or defects respond better to
dermabrasion than others. People with lighter skin who limit their time in the sun after treatment tend to have better results. People with darker skin and those who keep spending lots of time in the sun may not have good results.
dermabrasion results in a smooth, even skin texture. It also gives scarred skin a
more uniform look.
The removal of scars, growths on the skin, and tattoos
using dermabrasion is permanent. But changes in the color and texture of
the skin caused by aging and the sun may continue. Dermabrasion
is not a lasting fix for these problems.
Common short-term side effects of dermabrasion
Less common problems may include:
Dermabrasion wounds and destroys the
skin. You need to prepare yourself for how your skin will look right after treatment and throughout the healing process. It is also very
important for you to follow your doctor's advice on caring for your skin
after the treatment. This will help you avoid infection and help your skin heal.
Be sure that your doctor knows what you hope to
achieve. And make sure that you know what results you can expect. Do
not expect a 100% improvement. In general, a 50% improvement in the skin
condition is considered a good result. Even with realistic expectations, you
may not see results for several weeks or months after dermabrasion.
After dermabrasion, you will need
to wear sunscreen every day and avoid sun exposure as much as possible. New
skin is more likely to be damaged and change color from sunlight.
peel, and laser resurfacing are all methods used to improve
the texture and appearance of the skin. They destroy and remove the upper layers of skin to allow the skin to regrow. But lasers have largely replaced the use of dermabrasion, except to treat small specific areas, such as a scar.
Your doctor will suggest treatment based on your skin type and condition, his or her experience, your preferences, and other things. Some people may get the best
results by using more than one technique.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Other Works Consulted
Tanzi EL, Alster TS (2012). Ablative lasers, chemical peels, and dermabrasion. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3021–3031. New York: McGraw-Hill.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKeith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
Current as ofApril 26, 2016
Current as of:
April 26, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Keith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.