How is dermabrasion done?

How is dermabrasion done?

Anaesthetic is required for this treatment procedure, which is usually done in a dermatologist or surgeon’s office, or in an outpatient surgical facility (clinic). For extensive treatment, a specialist may highly recommend that the procedure be done in hospital.

The type of anaesthetic your specialist will recommend will depend on what specifically is being treated. In most instances, a local anaesthetic (with or without mild sedation) is sufficient. If the extent of treatment is more complex (such as a large area to be treated), stronger sedation (sometimes general anaesthetic) may be necessary for comfort during the procedure. Anaesthetic will help you to relax (when light sedation is administered), but can make you a little drowsy.

In preparation for the treatment, the skin area will be cleaned and covered. If your face is being treated, your eyes will also be covered over. A topical anaesthetic may be rubbed onto the skin area to numb sensation. Then a local or general anaesthetic will be given to numb the area completely. 

An ice pack may be placed on the skin for up to 30 minutes beforehand or a cryogenic (freezing) spray may be used to harden the surface of the skin (a spray may be used for deeper abrasions or if the ice packs have not been effective).

A dermatologist or surgeon’s assistant will tautly hold the skin area being treated. The specialist will then move the rotating dermabrader across the skin, applying a gentle, but constant pressure to remove the outer layers of skin. For larger treatment areas, a circular dermabrader will be used.

Larger treatment areas may also be done in several sessions. A petite version (with a little tip) of the dermabrader may be used to treat smaller areas, such as the corners of the mouth.

The procedure is done one small area at a time and can take anywhere between a few minutes to an hour, depending on the extent of the treatment required. Sometimes the cryogenic spray is used during the procedure (if needed), returning to the procedure within a few seconds.

Deep scarring or large skin areas aren’t normally done in one session. These may require multiple sessions and will be done in stages, all of which will be predetermined in the initial examination. If any bleeding occurs, gauze will be applied to stop the bleeding and then covered with ointment and a clean dressing.

Once the entire area of skin has been treated with the dermabrader, the skin will be covered with a moist dressing. This will need to be changed at the first follow-up appointment the very next day.

Before you leave your specialist’s office, he or she will give you instructions for home-care overnight, as well as for the duration of the healing period. This will entail detailed instruction on how to change dressings, when they need changing, how best to treat the affected area and which products are best used or avoided.

A follow-up appointment may be requested the day after treatment, as well as after two weeks.

Close-up of skin treated with dermabrasion.

How will the skin look and feel after dermabrasion?

The action of the dermabrader will cause some distress to the skin, resulting in swelling and inflammation. You may feel a burning, aching or tingling sensation. Some may experience a little oozing of a clear or yellowish liquid, which will crust over during the healing period. The newer, smoother skin will itch a little as it grows during the weeks following treatment, and is also likely to crust over as it heals.

Your skin will settle quite a bit within the first few weeks following treatment, but it can take up to 3 months to fully heal, and for the pink or red colouration to fade completely. New skin typically starts growing back within 5 to 8 days, but inflammation can take between 6 to 12 weeks to completely heal. The skin texture will be smoother as well.

Most will be able to resume normal activity (within reason) soon after treatment. You are likely to be able to return to work or school within one week following treatment.

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