Cosmetic Procedures

This cosmetic procedure literally sands away damaged skin. As the wound heals, new skin appears that is smoother, more radiant, and even in tone.

Also Called

  • Dermasanding

  • Mechanical resurfacing

  • Surgical skin planing

Signs of Aging Treated
With advances in laser technology, dermabrasion is not used as much today as it was in the past. Dermabrasion still offers effective treatment for:

  • Scars, primarily shallow scars resulting from acne, chickenpox, or an accident

  • Wrinkles, especially deep lines that form above the lip

Dermabrasion also may be combined with another cosmetic procedure. When used after laser resurfacing, dermabrasion helps diminish the lines that distinguish the laser treated skin from the untreated skin. Dermabrasion also can be effective in removing a tattoo that could not be entirely removed with laser treatment.

What Happens During Dermabrasion?
If you are considering dermabrasion and want to know what would
happen if you underwent this procedure, visit Dermabrasion: What
to Expect Before, During, and After

When See Results from Dermabrasion
Results are seen as soon as the wound heals and the new skin appears. Many people continue to see modest improvements for several months because the wound produced by dermabrasion causes the body to produce new collagen — a process that your dermatologist may call collagen remodeling. Collagen remodeling may continue for months.

Effectiveness of Dermabrasion
Dermabrasion can effectively reduce deep wrinkles, brighten the complexion, and improve skin tone. It also effectively diminishes shallow scars caused by acne, chickenpox, or an accident.

Woman with deep lines above her lip

2 months after dermabrasion

This 63-year-old woman disliked the deep lines above her lip.

The same woman, shown 2 months after dermabrasion.

(Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides)

While dermabrasion can effectively produce these results, it is important to know that the success of any cosmetic procedure is highly dependent on the skill of the physician. This is especially true of dermabrasion. The American Academy of Dermatology advises patients to do their homework and discuss their options and expectations with their dermatologist before undergoing any skin resurfacing treatment.

Possible Side Effects
As dermabrasion removes several layers of skin to cause a medium-depth or deep wound, the treated area will be temporarily red, sore, and swollen. The area also may itch as the wound heals. Sometimes milia, small white or yellowish bumps that resemble millet seeds, appear. All of these side effects are temporary and will eventually go away. The redness can linger for months.

Due to the depth of the wound, infection is possible.

While rare in skilled hands, dermabrasion can cause visible lines to appear where the treatment ended, irregular skin texture, permanent light or dark patches of skin, spider veins, long-term sun sensitivity, and scarring.

How Long Results Last
With proper skin care, which includes protecting the skin from the sun, the results can be long lasting. Some people have retained their results for 10 years or more.

Woman with scar

Woman 12 years after dermabrasion for scar

Dermabrasion was recommended to treat the scar that formed on this woman’s chin after an accident that occurred 10 years earlier.

This same woman, shown 12 years after having dermabrasion to treat the scar.

(Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides)

Related Links
10 Questions to Ask Before a Cosmetic Procedure
Dermabrasion (AAD pamphlet)

Monheit GD and Chastain MA. “Chemcial and Mechanical Skin Resurfacing.” In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Rapini RP et al, editors. Dermatology. 2nd edition. Spain, Mosby Elsevier; 2008. p. 2313-27.

Rivera AE. “Acne scarring: A review and current treatment modalities.” J Am Acad Dermatol article in press; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaad.2008.05.029.

Tanzi EL and Alster TS. “Skin Resurfacing: Ablative Lasers, Chemical Peels, and Dermabrasion.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI et al, editors. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th edition. United States of America, McGraw Hill Medical; 2008. p. 2370-71.

Tsao SS, Dover JS, Arndt KA et al. “Scar Management: Keloid, Hypertrophic, Atrophic, and Acne Scars.” In: Kaminer MS, Dover JS, Arndt KA, editors. Atlas of Cosmetic Surgery. United States of America, W. B. Saunders Company; 2002. p. 442-3.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are different procedures. Microdermabrasion sands away only the top layer of skin, so it does not involve downtime. Dermabrasion requires 5 to 7 days of downtime.





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Page last updated 10/8/08

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