If you’re considering a skin refinishing treatment…

Dermabrasion helps to “refinish” the skin’s top layers through a method of controlled surgical “sanding”. The treatment softens the sharp edges of surface irregularities, giving the skin a smoother appearance.

Dermabrasion is most often used to improve the look of facial skin left scarred by acne, accidents or previous surgery, or to smooth out fine facial wrinkles, such as those around the mouth. Dermabrasion can be performed on small areas of skin or on the entire face. It can be used alone, or in conjunction with other procedures such as a facelift or scar revision.

If you are considering surgery to refinish the skin, this information will give you a basic understanding of dermabrasion and when it can help, how it’s performed, and what results you can expect. It can’t answer all of your questions, however, since a lot depends on your individual circumstances.

Click here for Before and After Patient images


If you’re planning surface repairs on your face, you may also be considering a chemical peel or laser as alternative methods of removing the top layer of skin.  In general, chemical peel or laser is used more often to treat fine wrinkles, and dermabrasion for the deeper imperfections, such as acne scars.


Dermabrasion can enhance your appearance and your self-confidence, but no treatment will completely remove all scars and flaws, or prevent aging.


Dermabrasion is normally safe when performed by a qualified, experienced, board certified physician.  The most common risk is a change in skin pigmentation.  Permanent darkening of the skin, usually caused by exposure to the sun in the days or months following surgery, may occur in some patients.  On the other hand, some patients find the treated skin remains a little lighter or blotchy in appearance.  You may develop tiny whiteheads after surgery.  These usually disappear on their own, or with the use of an abrasive pad or soap.  Occasionally, the surgeon may have to remove them.

While infection and scarring are rare with skin refinishing treatments, they are possible.  Some individuals can develop excessive scar tissue (keloid or hypertrophic scars) that are usually treated with the application or injection of steroid medications to soften the scar.


Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, and on avoiding aspirin and other medications that affect blood clotting.  If you have a history of “Cold Sores” (herpes) it is VERY important that you inform your surgeon so that you can be put on preventative medications prior to your surgery.  You will also be given special instructions regarding the care and treatment of your skin prior to surgery.

While you’re making preparations, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery, and help out for a day or two if needed.


Your treatment may be performed in a surgeon’s office if the areas treated are small, or in an outpatient surgery center.


Dermabrasion can be performed on small areas under local anesthesia, which numbs the area, combined with a sedative to make you drowsy.  You’ll be awake but relaxed, and will feel minimal discomfort.  Sometimes a numbing spray, such as Freon, is used along with the local anesthesia.  For larger areas, your surgeon may prefer to use general anesthesia, in which case you’ll sleep through the procedure.


Dermabrasion usually takes from a few minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how large an area of skin is treated.  It’s not uncommon for the procedure to be performed more than once, or in stages, especially when scarring is deep or a large area of skin is involved.

In dermabrasion, the surgeon “sands” away the outermost layer of skin with a rough wire brush, or a burr containing diamond particles, attached to a motorized handle.


Right after the procedure, your skin will be quite red and swollen, and eating and talking may be difficult.  You’ll probably feel some tingling, burning, or aching. Any pain you feel can be controlled with medications.  The swelling will begin to subside in a few days to a week.

If you remember the scrapes you got when you fell down as a child, you’ll have an idea of what to expect from this type of surgery.  A new layer of tight, pink skin forms over 7-14 days.  Your face may itch as new skin starts to grow, but ointments and medications can make you more comfortable

You will be given detailed instructions to care for your skin after surgery.  For men, this will include delaying shaving for a while, then using an electric razor at first.  It’s very important that you understand your doctor’s instructions and follow them exactly, to ensure the best possible healing and result.


Your skin will be a bit swollen, sensitive, and bright pink for several weeks.  During this time, you can begin gradually resuming your normal activities.  You can expect to be back at work in about 2 weeks.  Avoid any activity that could cause a bump to your face for a least 2 weeks.  More active sports should be avoided for four to six weeks.  If you swim, stick to indoor pools to avoid sun and wind, and keep your face out of chlorinated water for at least four weeks.  It may be at least three to four weeks before you can drink alcohol without experiencing a flush of redness.

Above all, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun until the pigment has completely returned to your skin, which may take as long as six to twelve weeks.


Refinishing treatments can offer dramatic improvements to the surface of your skin, but it will take some time before you see the final result.

The pinkness of skin will take about three months to fade.  In the meantime, you’ll probably want to wear hypo-allergenic makeup when you go out.  When your new skin is fully repigmented, the color should closely match the surrounding skin, making the procedure virtually undetectable.

Dermabrasion and dermaplaning can smooth scars left by acne, accidents, or previous surgery, as well as fine facial wrinkles, especially those around the mouth.
In dermabrasion, the surgeon scrapes away the top layers of skin using an electrically operated instrument with a rough wire brush or diamond-impregnated burr.
This cross section shows how dermabrasion smooths irregularities in the outermost layer of skin.
Dermaplaning uses a dermatone to skim off surface layers of skin that surround facial defects.
Several months after your procedure, pigmentation returns and the skin is much smoother than before.