Dermabrasion is commonly referred to as “sanding” and includes many techniques for the physical removal of superficial skin. Dermabrasion is an outpatient treatment and can be effective for the improvement of scars (from acne, trauma, or surgery), tattoos, wrinkles, sun damaged skin, superficial discolorations, and other conditions. Specific techniques vary and may include an abrasive spinning wheel, sandpaper, laser, or a curette (sharp instrument that rubs away at the skin). The depth of skin removal depends on the condition treated, the abrasiveness of the device and the physician technique. In general, deeper dermabrasion will achieve more benefits than superficial dermabrasion. Excessively deep skin removal, however, may result in complications, such as scars and prolonged discoloration.
Microdermabrasion involves a device that simultaneously blasts and vacuums abrasive particles against the skin. Of the above procedures, microdermabrasion removes the least amount of skin (only the outer skin layer (epidermis) is affected). Its effects may be compared to a rough facial scrub.
Patients may be pre-treated with topical medications (tretinoin, bleaching agents) or oral antibiotics. Dermabrasion usually requires some form of local anesthesia (except for microdermabrasion) but as an outpatient procedure, patients return home after treatment. Depending on the depth of skin removal, patients may either return to work immediately (microdermabrasion) or after 7-14 days of healing. The healing period requires careful moist wound care, sun protection, and compliance with all medications prescribed. After 1-2 weeks, the skin is healed but there may be residual redness and discoloration, which resolves in several weeks. Best results are often not seen until several months later. Sun protection is critical during all phases of healing. Scars are less visible, and skin after dermabrasion is usually smoother, less discolored, and more rejuvenated.