How Abrading the Skin Produces Cosmetic Results

How Abrading the Skin Produces Cosmetic Results

You've heard of dermabrasion, right? It's all the rage among celebrities and anyone who wants to improve the appearance of his or her skin. But what is this procedure, and why does it make a difference in the way you look?

Abrading: What It Is

Think back to when you were a kid and you fell off your bike and skinned your knee. The scrape probably wasn't deep; it just took off the top layer or so of skin. You may have heard it referred to as an "abrasion."

Now, reliving the memory of unpleasant falls probably isn't your favorite pastime, but it can help you understand what abrading is. It's simply a medical process in which the top layer of skin cells is removed.

Think of it as intense exfoliation. That's a word you might be more familiar with, and it usually conjures up more pleasant imagery than childhood skin scrapes do.

Abrading: Why It Works

Although falls and scrapes are painful and to be avoided, dermabrasion is a welcome procedure. There are two main reasons that many men and women opt to have this elective procedure done. First, it's a relatively pain-free experience that involves local anesthetics and mild pain relievers as needed. More important, however, is the fact that dermabrasion is an effective procedure that with satisfying cosmetic results.

Why does abrading the skin make a difference in your appearance? A dermabrasion procedure removes the outer, damaged layers of skin. New skin cells arise to take their place. The new layers of skin are fresh, so they don't look as dull or as damaged as the previous skin cells. This gives you smoother skin and a fresh, rejuvenated, more youthful appearance.

Keep in mind that, unlike with an accidental fall, the skin removal that happens during dermabrasion is intentional and controlled. Rather than being at the mercy of the sidewalk, you're in the capable hands of an experienced doctor who knows exactly how to lightly remove just the top layer of skin cells.

Just like with a scraped knee, a scab will form after the skin layers are removed. Underneath, the new skin cells are preparing to be revealed to the world. In dermabrasion, even the scab is carefully controlled for optimal healing. The doctor expertly removes this layer about one week after the procedure. Once the scab is lifted away, you will be able to see your new and improved skin.

Good Candidates for Dermabrasion

Abrading the skin can improve the appearance of a number of skin conditions for both men and women. Small wrinkles around the mouth are a popular reason to get dermabrasion. Many people know these fine lip wrinkles as "smoker's lines," but non-smokers can get them too, so a better name is "perioral lines."

Various types of scars can also benefit from abrading. This includes minor scars from injuries or surgeries. For such scars, the doctor may first perform a scar-revision surgery and follow it up with dermabrasion. Acne scars can also be improved through dermabrasion; in fact, reducing acne scars one of the most common reasons to look into dermabrasion.

However, dermabrasion is not for everyone. It works only for people with light skin tones. Performing dermabrasion on a person with dark skin can result in noticeable skin lightening. Dark-skinned people will get more satisfactory results from other cosmetic procedures.

Furthermore, there are some medical conditions and medications that might make you a poor candidate for dermabrasion. When considering dermabrasion, be sure to give your doctor an accurate medical history and list of prescriptions.

Dermabrasion Expectations and Results

A dermabrasion procedure can definitely improve the look of your skin, but there is a limit to what it can accomplish. In particular, acne scars will not entirely disappear after treatment. Often, this type of scars looks about 60 to 70 percent better after an abrading procedure.

Keep in mind that while dermabrasion improves your current appearance, it cannot prevent future problems. In other words, your treated skin could develop new wrinkles or scars down the road.

What Dermabrasion Is Like

Before you commit to abrading, you will meet with the doctor to determine whether you are a good candidate. At this consultation, you'll also learn about the procedure and its costs. If you decide to move forward with dermabrasion, you will start using a preparatory cream a few weeks before the scheduled date.

The dermabrasion itself is an in-office procedure. You will be given sedation and a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable during the procedure. The doctor will then use specialized equipment to remove your upper skin layers.

Recovery from Dermabrasion

This is an outpatient procedure, and you can go home afterward. Because of the anesthetic, you may need someone to drive you.

Plan to rest and relax after the procedure. Although you may not need pain relief, you can take medication if needed. A prescription topical antibiotic cream will help with healing. To reduce swelling, use small ice packs frequently during the first few days after the procedure and rest with your head elevated. You will be off work for about one week.

You will have a follow-up appointment one week after the procedure. The doctor will carefully remove the scab that has formed. Once that is done, you will be able to see the fresh new layer of skin. The area may continue to be pink or red for another week or so, but it will gradually return to normal.

Learn Whether Dermabrasion Is Right for You

Dr. Bustillo is a fellowship-trained facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in the Miami area. He is certified by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and is a trusted source of information on the radio, in articles and in book chapters.

This is a contribution from one of our contributing writers.


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