Dermabrasion and Microdermabrasion

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are dermabrasion and microdermabrasion?

Dermabrasion produces substantial changes the appearance of the skin by damaging it in a controlled manner. Dermabrasion is most often used to treat certain types of scarring and aged skin. Other options that produce similar results include laser surgery, moderate to deep skin peels, and the injection of fillers. Most often the facial skin is treated, but skin at any site can be treated. Dermabrasion is performed by dermatologists and plastic surgeons.

Microdermabrasion is a nonsurgical technique that affects only the superficial dead layer of the skin, producing transient changes. Microdermabrasion is often administered by nonphysician professionals.

Who is a candidate for dermabrasion and microdermabrasion?

Dermabrasion produces changes by carefully controlling the depth of skin damage. This produces a wound that heals in a manner that is cosmetically superior to what was there originally. The problems that seem to respond best to this approach include acne scarring, traumatic scars, rhinophyma (nose enlargement in rosacea), wrinkles, tattoo removal, and actinic keratoses (very early stage of skin cancer). Currently there are other available modalities, including laser surgery, which is more popular and probably more effective. Lighter-skinned individuals generally get more reliable results because they are less likely to develop increased pigmentation after the procedure. Patients who have recently been treated with isotretinoin (Accutane) should avoid dermabrasion for at least 6 months.

Microdermabrasion is a technique that affects only the most superficial layer of the skin. This layer is composed of dead horny cells which are exfoliated by this procedure. This procedure is safe for most people because it dose not produce any significant damage to the skin. Patients who have an active skin disease such as acne should not receive treatment to the affected skin.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/26/2015

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