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Dermabrasion is most often used to improve the look of facial skin left scarred by accidents or previous surgery, or to smooth out fine facial wrinkles through a method of controlled surgical scraping.

Frequently Asked Questions.

How is the procedure performed? The surgeon scrapes away the outermost layer of skin with a rough wire brush, or a burr containing diamond particles, attached to a motorized handle. The scraping continues until the surgeon reaches the safest level that will make the scar or wrinkle less visible.

Once finished, the affected skin will be treated in a number of ways, including ointment, a wet or waxy dressing, dry treatment, or some combination of these.

How long does the procedure take? The procedure usually takes from a few minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how large an area of skin is involved. 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.

How long is the recovery time? You can expect to be back at work in about two weeks. You should avoid any activity that could cause a bump to your face for at least two weeks. More active sports, especially ball 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 will be at least three to four weeks before you can drink alcohol without experiencing a flush of redness.

It is important to protect your skin from the sun until the pigment has completely returned to your skin, as long as six to twelve months.

Is Dermabrasion permanent? Dermabrasion will not remove all scars and flaws or prevent aging, however, when your new skin is fully repigmented, the color should closely match the surrounding skin, making the procedure virtually undetectable.

Will I need Anesthesia? Dermabrasion may be performed 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 a freon, is used along with or instead of local anesthesia. In more severe cases, your surgeon may prefer to use general anesthesia, in which case you'll sleep through the procedure.

Am I a good candidate for Dermabrasion? People of all ages can benefit from dermabrasion, although older people heal more slowly. Also, skin type, coloring, and medical history can influence treatment. For example, black skin, Asian skin, and other dark complexions may become permanently discolored or blotchy after a skin-refinishing treatment. People who develop allergic rashes or other skin reactions, or who get frequent fever blisters or cold sores, may experience a flare-up. If you have freckles, they may disappear in the treated area.

Treatment will not be performed during the active stages of acne because of a greater risk of infection. The same may be true if you've had radiation treatments, a bad skin burn, or a previous chemical peel.

Before your procedure.

Avoid taking aspirin and other medications that affect blood clotting before your procedure. You may be given special instructions regarding the care and treatment of your skin prior to surgery. If you smoke, stop for a week or two before and after surgery, since smoking decreases blood circulation in the skin and impedes healing.

Also, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery, and to help you out for a day or two if needed.

After your procedure.

Immediately after the procedure your skin will be very 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 prescribed by your surgeon. The swelling will begin to subside in a few days to a week.

A scab or crust will form over the treated area as it begins to heal. This will fall off as a new layer of tight, pink skin forms underneath. Your face may itch as new skin starts to grow, and your surgeon will recommend an ointment to make you more comfortable. If ointment is applied immediately after surgery, little or no scab may form.

For men, delay shaving for a while, then use 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.

If you notice the treated area beginning to get worse instead of better; for example, if it becomes increasingly red, raised, and itchy after it has started to heal; it may be a sign that abnormal scars are beginning to form. Call your surgeon as soon as possible, so that treatment can begin early.