Cosmetic skin abrasion

Also known as "surgical skin planing," dermabrasion essentially sands off the outer layer of the skin, allowing the healthier skin in deeper layers to surface. It is used to treat the scars left by acne, accidents and surgical procedures, and it can also be used to give the patient a more youthful and vital appearance.

The Cost of Dermabrasion

While fees vary, depending on the doctor delivering the service and the size of the area of skin you need to treat, you can expect a complete dermabrasion treatment to cost $3,000 to $4,000 once all costs have been factored in.

Patient Evaluation

Dermabrasion is usually used to treat fine lines, wrinkles and scars. Your doctor may recommend another technique if you want to treat a different skin condition.

If you have used the acne treatment drug isotretinoin in the past year, you may not qualify for dermabrasion treatment. Similarly, your doctor may recommend a different approach if you have a history of abnormal scarring, an active herpes infection or a medical condition that affects your immune system or your blood flow. You may also be disqualified if you've recently had a facelift or a brow lift procedure performed, unless you want to treat skin that was not affected by the previous procedure.

The Dermabrasion Procedure

Your doctor will use a dermabrasion machine called a burr or fraise to remove the outermost layers of skin in the area to be treated. In recent years, these dermabrasion machines have been laser-assisted, which allows the doctor to achieve better results with less force.

At the outset of your session, your doctor will sterilize sections of your skin that are going to be treated and mark them with a surgical pen. Then, you'll be given a local anesthetic to numb your skin, which may be supplemented with the application of ice packs and freezing sprays.

Once your skin is numb, the doctor uses the burr or fraise to remove your skin's upper layers. This can cause bleeding, which will be mopped up with gauze. Upon completion, the affected area is bandaged or treated with ointment to prevent infection.

Acne scarring dermabrasion may require several sessions, if sizeable regions of the face, neck or body require treatment. Dermabrasion for scars can usually be completed in a single session.

Risks Associated With Dermabrasion Treatment

The majority of side effects associated with dermabrasion treatments are temporary. You should expect to experience the following common side effects, to some degree:

  • Temporary scarring
  • Swelling and redness
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Sensitivity to sunlight

Less common (and more serious) side effects include:

  • Tissue damage caused by freezing compounds used during treatment
  • Loss of skin color
  • Permanent scarring and redness
  • Infection

These side effects may be irreversible. You should speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about your healing process.

Recovering from Dermabrasion

You will need to avoid sun exposure following your dermabrasion treatment; if you have to go out in the sun, it's imperative that you use sunscreen. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to head off the possibility of infection; you'll also be given detailed care instructions for the treated site. Generally, you'll have to disinfect the treated area three times per day, and your doctor may ask you to wear wound dressings to keep the region covered.

Skin typically takes about 10 days to heal, though it may take much longer – weeks or months – for the redness of the new skin to fade and return to a normal tone.

Alternatives to Consider

If your skin problems are relatively minor, you can obtain dermabrasion kits from your pharmacy. Home dermabrasion is recommended only for patients who want to treat a very localized area; while complete instructions are provided in the kit, you should still consult your family doctor prior to and after use.

You might also get a laser skin treatment or a chemical peel instead of dermabrasion or microdermabrasion. These techniques don't traumatize the skin as much as the rotating heads of the burr or fraise used in dermabrasion.