Dermabrasion and derma planing help to “refinish” the skin’s top layers through a method of controlled surgical scraping. The treatments soften the sharp edges of surface irregularities, giving the skin a smoother appearance. 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, such as those around the mouth. Both dermabrasion and derma planing can be performed on small areas of skin or on the entire face. They can be used alone or in conjunction with other procedures such as facelift, scar removal or revision, or chemical peel.
Dermabrasion and derma planing can enhance your appearance and your self-confidence, but neither treatment will remove all scars and flaws or prevent aging. Before you decide to have a skin-refinishing treatment, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
Men and women of all ages, from young people to older adults, can benefit from dermabrasion and derma planing. Although older people heal more slowly, more important factors are your skin type, coloring, and medical history. 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.
In addition, most surgeons won’t perform treatment 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.
Dermabrasion and derma planing can be performed fairly quickly. The procedures usually take 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.
In dermabrasion, 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.
In derma planning, the surgeon uses a hand-held instrument called a dermatome. Resembling an electric razor, the dermatome has an oscillating blade that moves back and forth to evenly “skim” off the surface layers of skin that surround the craters or other facial defects. This skimming continues until the lowest point of the acne scar becomes more even with the surrounding skin.
Right after the procedure, your skin will be quite 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. In any case, you surgeon will give you detailed instructions to care for your skin after surgery. For men, this will include delaying shaving for a while, then using 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. Your new skin will be a bit swollen, sensitive, and bright pink for several weeks. During this time, you can begin gradually resuming your normal activities. You can expect to be back at work in about two weeks.
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Refinishing treatments can offer dramatic improvements in the surface of your skin, but it will take some time before you see the final results. A personal consultation with your plastic surgeon is the best way to gain information about how to treat your particular situation.