Not to be confused with microdermabrasion which is a much more gentle exfoliation – dermabrasion is a radical abrading skin treatment as the name implies.
Layers of skin are abraded (removed) by a scraping tool which takes off the top level and sometimes as deep as the middle dermal layer allowing blemished skin to regenerate and repair.
The process is the same as other skin resurfacing techniques like a chemical or laser peel.
The procedure is commonly used to eradicate deep vertical lines around the mouth from smoking, for sun damage, deep wrinkles, disfiguring skin conditions and acne scars. Although not specifically a treatment for lifting and firming the face – damage to the skin’s surface promotes a healing response which stimulates the body to produce more collagen and this will have a lifting effect for some people.
The dermabrasion process is technically known as ‘controlled surgical scraping’. You need a qualified aesthetic plastic surgeon to carry out the procedure which will usually involve the use of a high speed rotary engine – a little like a metal grinding head. The abrading tip is either a wire brush or a diamond fraise which when in contact with the skin creates an open wound.
Alternatively some surgeons carry out a manual dermabrasion using something like medical sandpaper to abrade the surface of the skin at the site of the scar, blemish or wrinkle. The advantage of the manual method is that the doctor has a finer level of control over the process and can access difficult areas such as the skin around the nose or eyes without the risk of damage to a wider area.
Despite the potential for damage and injury – the advice on most doctor’s websites is that you shouldn’t feel too much pain as you’ll be given a high strength numbing anesthetic beforehand and a sedative if necessary to calm your nerves.
In fact – according to many surgeons – many patients report that dermabrasion is less painful than a laser peel using an ablative (skin removing) high strength laser. The truth probably is that whilst pain is relative and personal – these procedures are likely to be very uncomfortable and preparing for them may create high levels of anxiety.
The level of discomfort will also vary according to how deep the dermabrasion goes. This will depend on what your are trying to achieve – some scarring and heavy lines may require abrasion quite deep into the epidermis and into the dermis beneath.
Recovery times vary but most people find that Immediately after dermabrasion skin is red, inflamed and sore – unsruprisingly since considerable tissue damage will have occured. Painkillers will be needed during the recovery time which may be from a few days to a couple of weeks. Time off work is likely.
Skin pinkness from the dermabrasion procedure will take up to three months to fade to your normal color and should then blend in. In the meantime you can wear a camouflage non-allergenic makeup during this time to disguise your treatment. It is also essential not to let skin get exposed to damaging sunlight during the healing process and high levels of SPF will be necessary.
Reviews on websites suggest that recovery time can be much longer and hypopigmentation (skin color changes) can be a problem for quite a few people.
Risks from dermabrasion include bacterial infection since the procedure can reveal raw skin and cause bleeding. A sterile and controlled environment like a Doctor’s office is vital for safety and recovery.
Dermabrasion can be quite costly due to the high level of skill required to carry out the procedure without lasting damage and injury. It is an aggressive process which can achieve good results for acne scarring and serious disfiguring skin conditions but as an anti aging treatment there are many downsides and potential risks.
Take informed advice, look around carefully and do your research well before going ahead.