Skip to Content
Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Dermabrasion
Dermabrasion is a technique that 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 rotates rapidly, 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 that was removed during dermabrasion.
Things that affect the depth of the resurfacing include how coarse the
burr or brush is, how quickly it rotates, how much pressure is applied and for
how long, and the condition and features of your skin.
The face is
the most common site for treatment, but other areas of the skin can be treated this way. Dermabrasion is used most often to improve the appearance of
acne scars and fine lines around the mouth. It also
may be used to treat an enlarged nose (rhinophyma)
rosacea, an inflammatory skin condition.
The areas to be treated are cleaned
and marked. A local anesthetic (such as lidocaine) is usually used to numb the
skin before treatment, and ice packs are applied to the skin for up to 30
minutes. A freezing (cryogenic) spray may sometimes be used to harden the skin
for deeper abrasions if the anesthetic and ice packs do not make the skin firm
enough. For deep abrasions, or if the entire face is going to be treated, you
may need stronger anesthesia, pain killers, sedation, or
One small area at a
time is treated. The freezing spray (if needed) is applied for a few seconds
and then the rotating burr or brush is used to take off the top layers of skin.
Gauze is used to stop any bleeding, and the area is covered with a clean
dressing or ointment.
Dermabrasion is almost always done in your
doctor's office or on an
Your recovery and healing time after
dermabrasion depends on the size and depth of the area that was treated.
Someone who has a full-face dermabrasion, for example, will have a longer
recovery time than someone who has just a small area of skin treated. Deeper
abrasions take longer to heal.
In general, regrowth of skin occurs
in 5 to 8 days. This new skin is a pink or red color, which usually fades
in 6 to 12 weeks. Until then, your normal skin tones can be achieved using
Many people have little or no pain and can get back to
their regular activities soon after the procedure. Some people need pain
relievers. If swelling occurs, a corticosteroid such as prednisone may be used
to reduce the swelling.
Proper care of the treated area while the
skin is healing is extremely important. This involves:
You may be given an antiviral drug called acyclovir to
prevent infection if you have a history of infection with the herpes simplex
Several follow-up visits to your doctor may be needed to
monitor the skin's healing and regrowth and to identify and treat early signs
of infection or other complications.
Dermabrasion is used to treat damage
and defects in the upper layers of the skin, such as:1
You may not be a good candidate for dermabrasion if
Your skin type, the condition of the
skin, your doctor's level of experience, the type of brush or burr used, and
your lifestyle following the procedure 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 sun exposure
after the procedure tend to have better results than those with darker skin and
those who continue to spend lots of time in the sun.
dermabrasion results in a smooth, even skin texture and gives scarred skin a
more uniform appearance.
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 sun exposure may continue to develop. Dermabrasion
is not a lasting fix for these problems.
Common temporary side effects of dermabrasion
Less common complications may include:
Dermabrasion wounds and destroys the
skin. You need to prepare yourself for how your skin will look immediately
after treatment and throughout the healing process. It is also extremely
important for you to follow your doctor's instructions on caring for your skin
after the treatment so you can avoid infection and help your skin heal
Be sure that your doctor understands what you hope to
achieve and that you understand what results you can realistically expect. Do
not expect a 100% improvement. In general, a 50% improvement in the skin
condition is considered a good result. Even with realistic expectations, you
may not see results for several weeks or months after dermabrasion.
After dermabrasion, you will need
to wear sunscreen every day and avoid sun exposure as much as possible. New
skin is more susceptible to damage and discoloration from sunlight.
peel, and laser resurfacing are all methods used to improve
the texture and appearance of the skin by destroying and removing the upper layers of skin to allow for skin regrowth. But lasers have largely replaced the use of dermabrasion, except for the use of dermabrasion to treat small specific areas, such as a scar.
Your doctor will recommend treatment based on your skin type and condition, his or her experience, your preferences, and other things. Some people may get the best
results by using a combination of techniques.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Tanzi EL, Alster TS (2008). Skin resurfacing: Ablative
lasers, chemical peels, and dermabrasion. In K Wolff et al., eds.,
Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed.,
vol. 2, pp. 2364–2371. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
Current as of:
March 17, 2014
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Keith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Send Us Your Feedback
North Kansas City Hospital.