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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 by a 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, and age spots. 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.

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