What is dermabrasion?

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Dermabrasion: Overview

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.

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 ) caused by rosacea, a skin condition.

How it is done

The areas to be treated are cleaned and may be marked. A local or general anesthesia will be used. One small area at a time is treated. Then the area may be covered with ointment and a dressing.

Dermabrasion is almost always done in your doctor's office or on an outpatient basis.


This procedure promotes new skin growth and improves the look of the skin. A dermatologist or plastic surgeon uses a handheld tool to scrape and smooth the top layers of the skin.

A local anesthetic and sedative are usually given before the procedure. Sometimes general anesthesia is used. A numbing spray may be used along with, or in place of, a local anesthetic.

How well does dermabrasion work?

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.

In general, dermabrasion results in a smooth, even skin texture. It can improve uneven skin coloring and remove fine wrinkles around the mouth and eyes. 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.

What are the risks of dermabrasion?

Common short-term side effects of dermabrasion include:

  • Infection.
  • Redness. This usually fades in 6 to 12 weeks.
  • Swelling.
  • Flare-ups of acne or tiny cysts (milia).
  • Increased color in the skin.
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Less common problems may include:

  • Scarring. The risk of scarring is higher with deeper abrasions and is more likely to occur in bony areas.
  • Lasting redness.
  • Long-term loss of color in the skin. This is more of a problem in darker-skinned people.

What can you expect as you recover from dermabrasion?

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 makeup.

Some swelling is common. Many people have little or no pain and can get back to their regular activities soon after the treatment. Some people need pain relievers.

Your doctor will give you instructions on how to care for your skin after the procedure. Following these directions will help with healing.

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. Your doctor will also watch for and treat early signs of infection or other problems.

Why is dermabrasion done?

Dermabrasion may be used to treat:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles around the mouth.
  • Scars on the face, such as from acne.
  • Skin growths, such as rhinophyma.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.