What is Dermabrasion and what can it do for you?

Many people have heard of microdermabrasion. It’s a cosmetic treatment where we use tiny crystals to exfoliate the top layer of your skin. It’s kind of like using a tiny, gentle sandblaster to remove dead skin cells and expose younger, smoother skin. Frequently we can add a serum infusion to achieve additional goals based on what your skin needs. Many day spas offer microdermabrasion because it makes your skin look better and feel nice with minimal pain and no down time. The effects can last for a couple of months.

“But wait,” you say, “I thought this post was about dermabrasion!” Well, it is. Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure! There is nothing micro about it. It’s like microdermabrasion on steroids. Dermabrasion uses a rotating burr to sand down layers of the skin to achieve the desired effect. It goes into the deeper layers of your skin to achieve the desired effects.

A typical dermabrasion setup

Surgical dermabrasion requires local anesthesia and I can perform it in the office. What can it do for you?

Mainly, I use dermabrasion for scar revision. Sometimes scars resulting from an injury or surgery don’t heal as well as we like. They may be raised or the edges can be uneven. The texture of a scar may be significantly different from the surrounding skin. Dermabrasion can help improve a scar’s appearance!

Forehead scar

6 weeks after dermabrasion


Cheek scar

6 weeks post-op


These scars resulted from a car crash. You can see that it works reasonably well for facial scars. The uneven contours were improved and the scars blended a little better with the surrounding skin. The scars continued to improve over the following year. Obviously dermabrasion doesn’t REMOVE the scar, but they are a lot better than they were.

Abdominal scar

3 months after dermabrasion


Dermabrasion can help on other areas of the body as well. This scar resulted from emergency abdominal surgery. The edges were uneven and it was raised in areas. The scar’s appearance is improved, but still wider than we would want.

Dermabrasion can also be used as a cosmetic procedure. It is effective for helping with the deep lines that people get around their mouths. These lines are often called “smokers lines” but really anybody can get them. They happen from repeated action over time of the muscle that makes your lips pucker. Many treatments are available for these lines including Botox®, fillers and laser treatments, but I feel that dermabrasion works the best.

Peri-oral lines pre-op

5 weeks following dermabrasion


As with dermabrasion for scars, the lines are still there, but they’re not as pronounced as before. Frequently we’ll combine dermabrasion for these lines along with other surgical procedures like a face lift or eyelid surgery. The lips are such a sensitive area that patients are frequently more comfortable with sedation anesthesia in addition to local numbing medicine.

While dermabrasion works well to improve the appearance of scars and fine to deep lines and wrinkles, it doesn’t make them totally go away. To make the lines around your mouth go totally away with dermabrasion, we’d have to go so deep into the skin that the color and texture of the skin after it healed would be different from the surrounding skin- a tell tale sign of having work done. And we can’t have that, can we?

The healing process can take two to four weeks depending on what part of the body we treat. During that time, the treated area looks and feels like a rug burn or a wind burn. You need to keep it moist with petroleum ointment while healing takes place.

I’m working on a video of surgical dermabrasion to show you all what it looks like in real time. Expect that to come out some time this Fall on my Youtube channel. There’s videos of me talking (BORING), demonstrating injectable techniques, and showing how to fix a broken nose (almost 5000 views on that one!). Check it out!

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