What you can expect
Dermabrasion is typically done in an office-based procedure room or outpatient surgical facility. However, if you're having extensive work done, dermabrasion might be done in a hospital.
Before the procedure, a member of your health care team will clean your face, cover your eyes and mark the area to be treated. A topical anesthetic might be rubbed on your skin to decrease sensation. Then your skin will be numbed with local anesthetics.
You might have the option of taking a sedative or using general anesthesia, depending on the extent of your treatment.
During the procedure
During dermabrasion, a member of your health care team will hold your skin taut. Your doctor will move the dermabrader — a small motorized device with an abrasive wheel or brush for a tip — across your skin with constant, gentle pressure. He or she will carefully remove the outer layers of skin to reveal new, smoother skin.
Dermabrasion can take a few minutes to more than an hour, depending on how much skin is being treated. If you have deep scarring or you're having a large amount of skin treated, you might have dermabrasion done more than once or in stages.
After the procedure
After dermabrasion, treated skin will be covered with a moist, nonstick dressing. You'll likely schedule a checkup 24 hours after treatment so that your doctor can examine your skin and change your dressing.
At home, change your dressing once a day for about five days or as long as your doctor recommends. Then you can begin regularly cleaning the treated area and applying protective ointments, such as petroleum jelly.
While you're healing:
Treated skin will be red and swollen.
You'll likely feel some burning, tingling or aching.
Treated skin might ooze a yellowish liquid.
A scab or crust will form over treated skin as it begins to heal.
The growth of new skin might be itchy.
You might have difficulty eating or speaking if the treated area is close to your mouth. Eating soft foods can reduce stress on your skin.
To relieve pain after the procedure, your doctor might prescribe pain medication, such as acetaminophen with codeine (Tylenol-Codeine No. 3, others).
You might prefer to remain at home while you're healing from dermabrasion. Keep treated areas out of chlorinated water for at least four weeks. Your doctor might recommend avoiding active sports — especially those involving a ball — for four to six weeks.
Once new skin completely covers the treated area — usually after one or two weeks — you can use cosmetics to conceal any redness. Keep in mind that drinking alcohol might cause a flush of redness in your skin for up to a month after dermabrasion.
If your treated skin appears to be getting worse — becomes increasingly red, raised and itchy after it has started to heal — contact your doctor. These might be signs of scarring.
After dermabrasion, your new skin will be sensitive and bright pink. Swelling will begin to decrease within a few days to a week, but can last for weeks or even months. The pinkness of your skin will likely take about three months to fade.
Once the treated area begins to heal, you'll notice that your skin looks smoother. Protect your skin from the sun to prevent permanent changes in skin color.
If dark skin coloring is a concern after healing is complete, your doctor might prescribe hydroquinone — a bleaching agent — to help even out your skin tone.
Keep in mind that dermabrasion results might not be permanent. As you age you'll continue to acquire lines by squinting and smiling. New sun damage can also reverse your results.