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dermabrasion: What it is, How it Works, Benefits, Risks, and Aftercare


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Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure that involves controlled surgical scraping of the skin's outer layers to treat surface irregularities, such as acne scars, burn scars, fine wrinkles deep scars, and skin discoloration. It is also used to remove precancerous skin patches and pox marks.


Fine Facial Wrinkles

Fine facial wrinkles are a common sign of aging and are caused by a variety of factors such as repeated facial expressions, exposure to UV radiation, and a decrease in skin elasticity. Repeated facial expressions, such as squinting or smiling, lead to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, as each time a facial muscle is used, a groove forms beneath the skin.


Precancerous skin patches

Precancerous skin patches, also known as actinic keratoses (AKs) or solar keratoses, are rough, scaly patches or bumps that develop on skin that has been exposed to the sun over the years. These patches are a result of UV damage to the skin, and some AKs may turn into squamous cell skin cancer if sun damage is left untreated. Dermabrasion, a skin-resurfacing procedure that involves the use of a special instrument to remove the outermost layer of skin, can be used to treat AKs by removing the damaged skin cells and promoting the growth of healthy skin cells. However, it is important to note that dermabrasion is not a treatment for skin cancer, and any suspicious growths should be evaluated by a dermatologist.


Treat Deep Acne Scars with Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion can be effective in treating acne scars that are not too deep. However, for deep acne scars, dermabrasion may not be as effective. In some cases, dermabrasion can help make deeper scars less noticeable, but it is usually reserved for more severe scarring. During the procedure, the top layer of skin is removed with a rapidly rotating brush or other device. It is important to note that dermabrasion can potentially cause severe side effects such as scarring and changes in skin color.


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How Dermabrasion Works:

Dermabrasion is an outpatient procedure, meaning that patients do not need to stay overnight in a hospital


During the procedure, the dermatologic surgeon uses a special instrument to remove the outer layer of skin, stimulating the growth of new skin. The skin resurfacing dermabrasion procedure is usually performed under local anesthesia, but in some cases, general anesthesia may be used. The procedure typically takes several weeks to fully heal.


Benefits of Dermabrasion:

Dermabrasion is a popular cosmetic procedure that can treat a variety of skin irregularities, such as acne scars, burn scars, fine wrinkles, and skin discoloration. It can also help treat deep acne scars that cannot be treated by chemical peels.


Possible Risks and Side Effects of Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion is not recommended for individuals with active herpes simplex virus, bacterial infection, or cold sores.


It can cause fever blisters to develop on the treated area of the skin. This is because the procedure can irritate the skin, causing the herpes simplex virus to reactivate and cause blisters to form.


Dermabrasion can help to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, but it can also be a risk factor associated with the procedure. Dermabrasion can cause the pores to become more noticeable or even enlarge in some cases. This is because the procedure can cause the skin to become thinner and less elastic, resulting in the appearance of larger pores. However, this risk can be minimized by following proper aftercare instructions and avoiding sun exposure.

Additionally, the procedure may cause a flare up, skin reactions, and allergic rashes. Dermabrasion can also result in permanent discoloration or darkening of skin color in the treated area, especially in those with darker skin tones.


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Who is a Good Candidate for Dermabrasion:

It is important to discuss your medical history with your dermatologist before going ahead with the procedure. Individuals with fair skin tone and Fitzpatrick skin types I-III are good candidates for dermabrasion. It can be an effective treatment for thick skin as it helps to remove the outer layers of skin, reducing its thickness and improving its texture.


Dermabrasion may not be a suitable treatment option for individuals with darker skin, as it can cause changes in skin pigmentation and increase the risk of scarring and keloid formation.

Individuals with active acne, active herpes simplex virus, bacterial infection, or cold sores should not undergo the procedure until the condition has been treated.


Dermabrasion may not be a suitable treatment for individuals who have undergone radiation treatments, as it can further damage the already compromised skin.


Previous surgery can impact the suitability of dermabrasion as a treatment option. Dermabrasion may not be recommended for individuals who have recently undergone surgery, as the skin needs time to heal before undergoing further treatment. It is important to inform your dermatologist of any previous surgeries before considering dermabrasion as a treatment option.


How to Prepare for Dermabrasion:

Before the procedure, the individual should avoid sun exposure and alcohol consumption. Dermatologic surgeons who perform dermabrasion may also recommend stopping certain medications, such as steroid medications, which can affect wound healing.


Antiviral Medication

Antiviral medication is commonly prescribed before and after dermabrasion to prevent viral infections such as herpes simplex virus (HSV). Dermabrasion can cause open wounds and create an entry point for viruses to infect the body. Therefore, healthcare providers may prescribe antiviral medication, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, from two days prior to two weeks after the procedure to patients with a history of HSV. It has even been suggested that all patients should receive antiviral prophylaxis prior to dermabrasion. The use of antiviral medication helps to prevent infections and ensure a smooth recovery from the procedure. It is important to follow the healthcare provider's instructions and take any prescribed medications as directed to reduce the risk of infection and promote healing after dermabrasion.


What to Expect During the Dermabrasion Procedure:

The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the treated area. Numbing medication or local anesthetic is applied with gentle pressure, used to minimize discomfort during the procedure. Local anesthesia is usually applied to the treatment area before the procedure, and in some cases, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia may be necessary. The type of anesthesia used will depend on the extent of the procedure and the patient's individual needs.


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The dermatologic surgeon will then use a special instrument to remove the outer layers of skin or scar tissue, creating a wound that will heal to reveal new skin.


Dermabrasion Recovery Process and Aftercare:

After the procedure, the treated area will be covered with a moist dressing to aid in the healing process. Immediately after the procedure, the treated skin will be reddish and swollen. However, the skin that grows back is usually smoother and younger-looking.

During the recovery process, patients can gradually resume their normal activities. However, it is advisable to avoid any activity that could cause a bump to the face for at least two weeks. More active sports, especially those involving a ball, should be avoided for four to six weeks. Patients can expect to be back at work in about two weeks.


Aftercare for Dermabrasion involves keeping the treated area clean and dry to prevent infection. Patients may be prescribed pain medication to manage any discomfort. Patients also should not drink alcohol within 48 hours after the procedure.


Additionally, it is essential to keep the treated area moisturized to promote healing. Patients should avoid sun exposure to the treated area and wear protective clothing and sunscreen when going outdoors. Temporary or permanent darkening of the skin can be caused by too much sun exposure.


It is also important to avoid smoking, as it decreases blood flow and can impede the healing process.


Alternative procedures and Other cosmetic procedures

There are several other procedures that can serve as an alternative or complement to dermabrasion, depending on the individual's skin condition and desired results. For individuals with dark skin, microdermabrasion is a less invasive alternative to dermabrasion, which involves using a minimally abrasive instrument to gently exfoliate the skin. Chemical peels are another alternative that involves applying a chemical solution to the skin to remove the outer layer and stimulate new cell growth. Both dermabrasion and laser resurfacing are complementary procedures that uses a laser to vaporize the outer layers of the skin, encouraging collagen production and resulting in smoother, tighter skin.


Chemical Peel

Chemical peel and dermabrasion are two distinct procedures used to resurface the skin and reduce fine wrinkles, scars, and other imperfections. Chemical peel is a non-invasive method that uses a chemical solution to remove the top layers of the skin, while dermabrasion involves manually removing the skin's top layer using a high-speed rotating brush.

Both procedures have similar goals and can help improve the appearance of the skin by making it smoother and younger-looking. Chemical peels are mainly used on the face, while dermabrasion can be used on different areas of the body. Dermabrasion can also be more effective in treating deeper scars and wrinkles.


It's important to note that the recovery process and aftercare for each procedure can differ. After a chemical peel, the treated skin may be red, swollen, and sensitive to the sun for several weeks, and it's essential to protect the skin from sun exposure and use moisturizers and other products as recommended by a healthcare provider. After dermabrasion, the treated area may be covered with a moist dressing, and patients are usually advised to avoid any activity that could cause a bump to the face for at least two weeks.


Overall, chemical peel and dermabrasion are both effective procedures for improving the appearance of the skin, but they have different methods and recovery processes that should be discussed with a healthcare provider before deciding on a treatment plan.


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