Dermabrasion and dermaplaning 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. It's also sometimes used to remove the pre-cancerous growths called keratoses. Dermaplaning is commonly used to treat deep acne scars.
Both dermabrasion and dermaplaning 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.
If you're planning "surface repairs" on your face, you may also be considering chemical peel, an alternative method of surgically removing the top layer of skin. However, dermabrasion and dermaplaning use surgical instruments to remove the affected skin layers, while chemical peel uses a caustic solution.
Many plastic surgeons perform all three procedures, selecting one or a combination of procedures to suit the individual patient and the problem. Others prefer one technique for all surface repairs. In general, chemical peel is used more often to treat fine wrinkles, and dermabrasion and dermaplaning for deeper imperfections such as acne scars. A non-chemical approach may also be preferred for individuals with slightly darker skin, especially when treating limited areas of the face, since dermabrasion and dermaplaning are less likely to produce extreme changes and contrasts in skin color.
Dermabrasion and dermaplaning 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.
Men and women of all ages, from young people to older adults, can benefit from dermabrasion and dermaplaning. 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 dermaplaning are normally safe when they're performed by a qualified, experienced board-certified physician. The most common risk is a change in skin pigmentation. Permanent darkening of the skin, usually caused by exposure to the sun in the days or months following surgery, may occur in some patients. On the other hand, some patients find the treated skin remains a little lighter or blotchy in appearance.
You may develop tiny whiteheads after surgery. These usually disappear on their own, or with the use of an abrasive pad or soap; occasionally, the surgeon may have to remove them. You may also develop enlarged skin pores; these usually shrink to near normal size once the swelling has subsided.
While infection and scarring are rare with skin-refinishing treatments, they are possible. Some individuals develop excessive scar tissue (keloid or hypertrophic scars); these are usually treated with the application or injection of steroid medications to soften the scar.