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Dermabrasion

Definition

Dermabrasion is the removal of the top layers of the skin. It is a type of skin smoothing surgery.

Description

Dermabrasion is usually done while you are awake. The health care provider will apply a numbing medicine (local anesthesia) to the area of skin that will be worked on.

If you are having a complex procedure, you may be given medicines called sedatives to make you sleepy and less anxious, or you may receive general anesthesia, which allows you to sleep through surgery and not feel any pain during the procedure.

Dermabrasion uses a special device to gently and carefully "sand" the top surface of the skin down to normal, healthy skin. Petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment is placed on the treated skin to reduce scab formation and scaring.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Dermabrasion may be helpful if you have:

  • Facial scars due to acne, accidents, or previous surgery
  • Fine lines and wrinkles, such as around the mouth
  • Precancerous growths (keratoses)

Alternative treatments exist for many of these conditions. Always discuss your options with your health care provider.

Risks

Risks of dermabrasion include permanent skin coloring changes (either lighter, darker, or pinker).

The risks of any anesthesia include:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Infrequent but potentially severe heart or breathing problems

The risks of any surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Scarring

After the Procedure

Your doctor will likely give you antibiotics to prevent severe cold sores from forming.

The skin may be treated with ointment and a wet or waxy dressing. After surgery, your skin will be quite red and swollen. Eating and talking may be difficult. You may have some aching, tingling, or burning for a while after surgery. Your doctor can prescribe medicine to help control any pain.

Swelling usually goes away within 2 - 3 weeks. New skin starts to itch as is grows. If you had freckles, they may temporarily disappear.

You may have enlarged pores or whiteheads after the skin-smoothing surgery, but they eventually go away.

If the treated skin remains red and swollen after healing has started, this may be a sign that abnormal scars are beginning to form. Talk to your doctor. Treatment may be available.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Doctors recommend that men who have this procedure avoid shaving for a while, and to use an electric razor when shaving can begin again.

The new layer of skin will be a little swollen, sensitive, and bright pink for several weeks. Most patients can go back to normal activities in about 2 weeks. You should avoid any activity that could cause injury to the treated area. Avoid sports that involve balls, such as baseball, for 4 - 6 weeks.

Keep your face out of chlorinated water (such as that used in pools) for at least 4 weeks.

Protect the skin from the sun for 6 - 12 months until your skin coloring has returned to normal. Hypo-allergenic makeup may be worn to conceal any discoloring. When full color occurs, it should closely match the surrounding skin, making the procedure virtually undetectable.

For about 3 weeks after surgery, your skin will turn red when you drink alcohol.


Review Date: 10/28/2008
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, M.D., Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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