All about dermabrasion (skin scraping)
Dermabrasion means scraping the skin. It is a technique which in a mechanically way removes the skin’s outer layer (epidermis) and a bit of the deeper, so-called dermis layer.
Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure that requires a large degree of relevant experience of the practitioner. It is used primarily to reduce scars, wrinkles, pigmentation and other skin damage.
The aim of dermabrasion is to smooth out the skin and thus reduce, or at best completely eliminate, wrinkles, scars and other cosmetic problems.
Dermabrasion can be used on smaller areas of the skin or as a treatment for the entire face.
Am I the right candidate for a dermabrasion?
Dermabrasion can be performed on men and women of all ages. What results you can expect depends on what you want to treat. In the case of deeper skin damage and scarring it requires repeated procedures to achieve the results you desire. The procedure is currently used to:
- Reduction of scars from acne, chicken pox, small surgical scars or other scars with limited level difference
- Removal of some pigmentation change such as sun damage and age spots
- Reduction of fine lines and small wrinkles for example over the lip
In addition to the above treatment areas, Dermabrasion has earlier been offered for tattoo removal. For this, laser treatments are primarily used today.
Consult with your doctor before a Dermabrasion procedure and discuss your aim with the procedure and what results you can expect.
How skin scraping is performed
A Dermabrasion procedure begins with the doctor marking the treated area with a pen. Then you will get anesthesia. Small procedures are often performed under local anesthesia while larger procedures are performed under general anesthetic which means that you are under sedation.
When the anesthetic has taken the doctor scrapes away the skin with a rotating grinding wheel. It scrapes itself methodically down layer by down. The aim is to go deep enough to get results without going too deep and this increase the risk of unwanted side effects.
However, by scraping the skin, the body will respond and heal the treated area with new healthy skin. The procedure takes from 5 minutes up to 2 hours depending on the extent.
In the case of deeper scraping the treated area is covered with bandages afterwards to protect the new fragile skin.
In most cases you wear bandage for 1-2 days, on your revisit; your doctor will remove the bandage. The skin can be lubricated with creams and ointments to keep the skin moist during the healing period. All patients can go home the same day.
What happens after the treatment?
When the new skin is formed, it will first be swollen and very pink in colour. The swelling settles within a few days to a week, to reduce the swelling, it may help to sleep with your head high.
It may take 3-6 weeks for the skin to gradually change colour to one’s normal skin tone. After the procedure some itchiness may occur when the new skin is formed.
If a deeper skin planing is performed, a burning or tingling feeling or pain can occur in treated area. If necessary, the doctor will write a prescription for painkillers.
Your doctor will also give you detailed instructions on how you should take care of your skin after surgery. It is very important that you always follow your doctor’s instructions to ensure the best possible results.
After the procedure, you need time for recovery, your doctor will decide when to return to work and normal activities. Most patients can return to work within 10-14 days. During the recovery time, it is important to avoid physical activity. Men are advised not to shave during this period.
It is important to ensure that your skin is protected from the sun 3-6 months after the procedure, use a high sun protection factor (SPF 30 or higher) and avoid direct sunlight. Sun exposure can lead to irregular pigmentation during the healing process.
Risks and complications
There is always a risk of complication associated with any surgery. But by choosing a doctor with a wide experience of the procedure it will reduce the risks.
If you are prone to scarring you should consult with your doctor before starting the procedure. If the purpose of the surgery is to remove the scars, there is a risk for new and even more scarring.
It is very important to clean the skin several times daily to prevent all kinds of infections after surgery. You should contact your doctor if redness, itching, burning and pain persist after the healing period.
At deeper procedures, the skin’s liquid can turn to crusting, if so, you should avoid picking or scraping off the scab.
Side effects that may occur from a dermabrasion procedure include: bleeding, wound infection, development of hyperpigmentation (dark spots) caused by sun exposure or hypopigmentation which are white pigment spots on the skin.
Prices for dermabrasion
Prices for only parts of the face are between £700-1000 per procedure. When abrading the whole face it can cost between £1400-2500 per procedure. But in very special cases, it may cost significantly more.
The large price differences depend on which areas should be treated and what conditions you have as a patient and choice of clinic.
More alternatives and options for dermabrasion treatment:
- Find clinics that perform dermabrasion in our Clinic Directory
- Share your thoughts and experiences of Dermabrasion in our forum
- Ask a question or read answers about dermabrasion in Ask the Expert
The text on this page has been examined by dermatologist Tore Nilsen at Vaxsjo Medical Centre. It should be regarded as general guidance for those who are considering a dermabrasion but cannot however replace a visit at the Doctor’s.