Dermabrasion is a surgical exfoliating procedure that uses an instrument with a small rotating tip of an abrasive wheel or brush that scrapes off the outer layers of skin. Dermabrasion works to diminish the appearance of topical skin concerns such as scars, fine wrinkles, and uneven pigmentation. Dermabrasion may even be a successful option for treating lesser forms of pre-cancerous growths, skin cancer-related problems, sun damage and brown spots.
What to Expect During your Dermabrasion Procedure
Dermabrasion can be done in a single session, taking as little as a few minutes but lasting as long as an hour. If a larger area of skin needs to treated, such as resurfacing deep acne scarring, you should expect to undergo a series of treatment sessions. This breakdown will promote a greater opportunity for healing as the skin is able to recover between sessions and your surgeon can reassess your skin in between each stage.
During your treatment session, your skin will be held in a taut position to create a more even surface plane for the dermabrader to roll over. This allows the surgeon to access your skin fully, and evenly reach the deeper pockets of scarring. A dermabrader operates through the use of a motor that spins the wheel or brush tip. The wheel or brush tip is abrasive and moves over the surface of the skin with constant, yet gentle pressure. This abrasive pressure removes the outer layer of skin to reveal the new, smoother skin underneath.
Dermabrasion is incredibly successful in smoothing the skin to create a more even skin tone. With the combination of dermabrasion and retinol, your healed skin will have a better glow, which promotes a more youthful appearance overall.
A dermabrasion procedure can cost anywhere from $1,100 up to $4,000. There are several factors involved in the cost, including who performs your surgery. Most dermabrasion treatments can be done in your provider’s office, which will greatly reduce your cost, but sometimes they are done in alternate surgical facilities as well. In rare cases where the skin damage is extreme, a dermabrasion treatment may be performed in a hospital setting, but that is usually unnecessary. It is best to check with your provider during a consultation to find out where they intend to perform the procedure.
Due to the invasive nature of dermabrasion, you will need some sort of anesthesia. This is usually a local anesthesia, but if your skin condition is more severe, such as with multiple deep acne scars, you may need general anesthesia. The type of anesthesia you need will factor into the total cost of your procedure.
It usually takes between 1 and 6 weeks to fully recover from a dermabrasion treatment. In the immediate post procedure period, you will likely experience a small amount of bleeding. You will then experience normal amounts of bruising and swelling, which will go down within the first week, and shouldn’t be alarming. Expect your skin to scab and peel as you heal, as well. This is a normal part of the skin rejuvenation process. With so much cell turnover, be vigilant about protecting yourself from sun exposure which will preserve and protect your newly resurfaced skin.
Before and After Overview
You will need to stop smoking and taking blood thinners or medications that contribute to skin darkening for at least 4 weeks before and 4 weeks after your surgery. You may have a prescription for an antiviral medication to take before treatment which is intended to help prevent any infections. Avoid sun exposure and protect your skin, especially because you will likely be using a retinol cream prior to surgery. Retinol heightens skin sensitivity causing it to burn more easily when exposed to the sun.
Am I a Good Candidate for Receiving Dermabrasion?
Almost anyone is able to receive dermabrasion if their skin care concerns call for it. It is safe for all ages, although older patients might notice a slower-than-average healing time. Darker complexions, too, might notice a difference in healing as they might develop skin discolorations or blotchiness in the treated area. If you are prone to skin reactions, such as developing allergic reactions, you may experience a flare-up after a dermabrasion treatment. Similarly, those who frequently develop fever blisters or cold sores might flare-up as a result of their treated skin, as well. Individuals with freckles may also notice that they disappear in the treatment area.
Dermabrasion is not an ideal treatment for those with more severe skin concerns such as those with active rosacea, acne, fragile/easily broken capillaries, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis or lupus. People who already experience these conditions often have highly sensitive skin that would be negatively affected, or worsened, by undergoing dermabrasion. Those who suffer from keratosis or actinic keratosis, those who have undiagnosed lesions or skin growths on their skin, or who develop keloid scars should not have a dermabrasion procedure either. You will need to check with your provider to see if your skin falls into any of these contraindicated groups. If it does, they will be able to recommend the best alternative treatment to meet your needs.
Choosing the Right Provider
Skin resurfacing treatments do not always need to be done by a plastic surgeon as some states allow other providers, such as qualified nurse practitioners, dermatologists, and possibly even a licensed aesthetician who has been specifically trained in the procedure methods you are seeking. These rules vary from state-to-state. It is highly important that whomever you choose is licensed to perform dermabrasion, that they have a solid experience base, and that they have a good track record of performing the procedure well. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery recommends that you start the process by booking a consultation with a board-certified cosmetic surgeon in your area to answer any questions you may have. It is important to check the credentials of your provider and confirm their qualifications with the appropriate boards:
- The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
- The American Academy of Dermatology
- The American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
Having a Successful Consultation
Most providers offer a free initial consultation prior to surgery to assess your skin and answer any questions you may have. Prepare ahead of time so that you can make the most valuable use of this time. Ask questions and listen to your provider’s advice. Some questions you may want to consider asking during this session might be:
Why do you think dermabrasion is the best option over something less invasive such as a microdermabrasion, a chemical peel or another cosmetic resurfacing treatment?
Will you recommend that I enhance my facial skin with other cosmetic procedures or laser resurfacing treatments at a later date?
- How many stages, or sessions, do you think I will need to achieve my desired results?
- How long do you believe my recovery will take?
- When should I expect to have a follow-up visit?
- Will the procedure or recovery process hurt?
- What type of anesthesia do you plan to use for my surgery?
- Where will my surgery be performed?
Do you offer payment plans or discounts for treatments bought in bulk? Who do I speak to about taking advantage of those plans?
Once you have selected your surgeon and attended your consultation appointment, you will be ready to schedule an appointment for your surgery. Plan ahead to take the necessary preparation steps, such as scheduling work leave, and begin your retinol application as directed. If you begin to feel nervous, simply communicate with your provider, and think of the resurfaced, youthful skin you will have in as little as 6 short weeks. It will be worth it to take care of, and feel good about, the skin you are in. Treat it well and follow the healing process fully to achieve your best results.