If you want to diminish deep lines above your
lip, make a scar on your face less obvious, or get rid of a tattoo,
your dermatologist may recommend a cosmetic procedure called
dermabrasion. The following explains what happens before, during,
and after this procedure.
What to Expect Before Dermabrasion
A consultation is essential. Your dermatologist will take a complete
medical history. Be sure to tell your dermatologist if you are prone
to cold sores, have had a cosmetic procedure in the past, scar
easily, have ever had a keloid (a type of raised scar), or have
taken isotretinoin (a prescription medication used to treat severe
acne). These can have a tremendous effect on what you see after
After the consultation and a physical exam that
includes a close look at your skin, your dermatologist will explain
if dermabrasion can help diminish what concerns you and if
dermabrasion is right for you.
If dermabrasion is appropriate, you will receive
pre-treatment instructions. This will include a skin-care plan that
you may need to follow for up to 6 weeks before the procedure. You
will probably be instructed to start taking an antiviral medication
2 days before the procedure and an antibiotic 1 day before.
What to Expect During Dermabrasion
Dermabrasion is generally performed in a surgical center. Before
the procedure, the skin to be treated will be cleansed and
anesthetized. Usually a spray is used to anesthetize the area and a
sedative is given. Sometimes a general (puts the person to sleep)
anesthesia is used instead.
To protect your eyes, ears, and nose, these are coated with
petroleum jelly and covered with gauze. Your dermatologist may
outline the area to be treated with surgical ink. A chemical peel
may be applied to the edge of the treated area to blend the treated
area with the untreated skin. This prevents a line from appearing
To perform dermabrasion, your dermatologist will move a handheld
device back and forth or in a circular motion over the skin. This
gradually abrades it. Dermabrasion must be performed carefully — one
section at a time. If the entire face will be resurfaced, the
procedure lasts about 2 hours. To treat the upper lip takes about 30
After the skin has been treated, particles from the device are
rinsed away, compresses are applied to control the bleeding, and the
wound is dressed.
What to Expect After Dermabrasion
The treated skin will feel raw and sore, and you may be groggy.
You will be given instructions for at-home care, which will include
how to change the dressings and care for the skin. Following this
at-home care is essential to prevent side effects and obtain the
best possible results. If you have any questions, be sure to ask.
For the next 5 to 7 days, you will be recuperating. If the
dermabrasion caused deep resurfacing, you will need to see your
dermatologist the next day for a follow-up visit, and there will be
more follow-up visits during the coming week to monitor your
progress. All other dermabrasion procedures require at least 1 or 2
follow-up visits during the first week.
The at-home care involves changing dressings for 2 to 4 days. This
will be followed by gentle soaks and applying ointments until the
new skin appears — typically within 10 days. Once you see the new
skin, regular moisturizing and strict sun avoidance will be
necessary. Strict sun avoidance for 3 to 6 months will avoid side
effects such as skin discoloring.
While new skin appears within 10 days, it is normal for the skin to
continue rejuvenating for several months. During this time, you may
notice slight redness and swelling.
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