Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Healthy skin & hair centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion

Dermabrasion, or surgical skin planing, is a procedure in which the skin is frozen and a specialised instrument “sands” the skin. This abrasive or planing action improves skin contour as a new layer of skin replaces the treated skin. The new layer generally has a smoother appearance. The procedure is performed by a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon.

Microdermabrasion (also known as “power peel”) is more like softened sandblasting. It involves tiny crystals being sprayed on the skin and works best on superficial problems like fine lines, dullness, mild acne scars and age ( liver) spots.

Cosmetic surgery is not normally conducted on the NHS, so you must ensure the establishment doing the procedure is registered with the Healthcare Commission.

When is dermabrasion or microdermabrasion used?

When dermabrasion was first developed, it was used predominantly to improve pox marks and scars resulting from accidents, acne and other diseases. Today, it treats other skin conditions, such as tattoo scars, wrinkles, age spots, and other skin lesions. Dermabrasion is not effective in treating congenital (present at birth) skin defects, most moles or pigmented birthmarks, or scars due to burns.

Microdermabrasion is less invasive and can improve superficial skin problems. It works on all skin types and colours, producing subtle changes and causing no skin colour change or scarring. However, it is not effective for deeper problems like scars, stretch marks, keloids (an overgrowth of scar tissue at the site of a healed skin injury) or the effects of deep acne.

There is also less downtime than with dermabrasion; skin fully recovers within 24 hours. And, being a non-surgical procedure, there are none of the risks associated with even minor surgery like dermabrasion, where anaesthetics are used and the skin bleeds.

What can I expect?

During the dermabrasion consultation, the surgeon describes the type of anaesthesia to be used, the procedure and what results might realistically be expected. The doctor also explains the possible risks and complications. Pre-operative and post-operative instructions are given at this time.

Medication may be given prior to the procedure to relax you. The affected area is thoroughly cleansed with an antiseptic cleansing agent and then the doctor will apply a special spray that freezes the skin.

A high-speed rotary instrument with an abrasive wheel or brush is used to remove the outer layers of the skin and improve any irregularities in the skin surface.

During the microdermabrasion consultation, there is a similar evaluation of risks and benefits.

The procedure itself involves tiny crystals being sprayed onto the skin in a gentle abrasion technique that removes the dead outer layer of skin. It is basically an exfoliation and skin rejuvenation procedure. Age spots and fine lines can be erased, creating softer, smoother skin that has a younger feel to the touch.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Healthy skin &
hair newsletter

Skin care tips and treatment options.
Sign Up

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman_holding_head_in_pain
How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
79x79_causes_of_fatigue_and_how_to_fight_it.jpg
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
period_questions_answered
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
girl_sneezing_into_tissue
Treating your child's cold or fever
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning and organising tips
adult man contemplating
When illness makes it hard to eat
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
cold sore
What you need to know