Cosmetic Surgery Procedures Guide - HOME
Your Online Guide to Skin Aging and Cosmetic Surgery Procedures.
Skin Care Guide Canada



Author: Dr. Bryce J Cowan BSc MSc MD PhD FRCS(C)
Plastic, Reconstructive, Mohs & Aesthetic Surgeon

Dermabrasion is one of three commonly used office-based surgical skin resurfacing and rejuvenation procedures. The technique takes its origin from ancient Egypt in 1500 B.C. where healers used a form of sandpaper to even out scars. Today the technique has seen over 3500 years of evolution.

Dermabrasion mechanically removes the most superficial layers of the skin and allows your skin's normal healing properties to rejuvenate the skin itself. It is designed to reduce or remove moderate wrinkles, fine lines, blemishes, and uneven surfaces. In addition to wrinkles treatment, the technique has been used to treat acne scars, hide, or camouflage surgical or traumatic scars and in select cases to remove precancerous lesions.

. Microdermabrasion is a separate procedure from dermabrasion, and will be briefly discussed. Microdermabrasion is a less invasive procedure with little to no recovery period. In this procedure, a device that sprays aluminum oxide micro-crystals to superficially peel the skin surface is used. Being a more mild procedure, non-medical personnel may offer this treatment, and is seen being offered in spas and clinics, however, because they are less powerful, may require multiple treatments.

Skin rejuvenation can also be performed with lasers or chemical peels. These modalities will not be discussed in this section. The use of fillers and Botox® will be discussed in other sections in the guide.


Patients with darker skin complexions may experience permanent skin discoloration or blotchiness with dermabrasion procedures. Patients of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent should specifically be cautioned about the possibility of skin discoloration.


Patients with a history of oral herpes infections should be placed on oral acyclovir prior to this treatment to avoid a herpes flare or extension of the condition following dermabrasion.


Dermabrasion is performed in an out-patient setting under local anesthesia. Full-face dermabrasion, on the other hand, is often performed under general anesthesia, although this is not always the case. A small motorized hand piece rotates a wire brush or diamond fraise at speeds of 15,000 to 30,000 rpm. Skilled manipulation of the rotating brush or fraise removes the upper layers of skin in the areas requiring treatment. This results in a raw, open, partial thickness (through skin) wound that heals by epithelialization of the surface of the skin in a relatively short period of time. Initially the small pinpoint bleeding of the raw wound may be alarming but will subside rapidly with appropriate wound care.


The recovery period following dermabrasion is approximately 2 to 3 weeks. In the early post-operative pain can be controlled with prescription medications for the first days following procedure. The skin may weep for the first 10 to 12 days, but this will stop as the surface layers of the skin are restored. Redness is also expected to stop within 3 to 4 weeks of the procedure. It is imperative that sun avoidance is observed continuously, even after the healing period, as the sun damage likely caused the initial skin problems that lead to seeking dermabrasion.

Make-up can be used to cover the early skin discoloration once the skin has healed. Please ask your physician or surgeon for directions on when make-up can be used safely.


In any procedure, a thorough discussion of potential complications is imperative. Although uncommon, it is important to know the potential complications associated with dermabrasion. The potential complications are divided into early and late complications, and shown below:



  • Excessive surface bleeding
  • Redness (fades with time)
  • Infection (viral)
  • Skin sensitivity
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Hypopigmentation
  • Milia
  • Asymmetry (between sides)
  • Residual wrinkles
  • Scarring

For a more detailed discussion on expected results, recovery, and specific complications, please see your individual surgeon.


Dermabrasion procedures are considered elective, and are not covered under the Canadian Medical Services Plan. The final cost of the procedure will be at the discretion of the plastic surgeon performing the procedure. The average cost of this procedure is $1000 or more, depending on the number of areas being treated.


This website does not cover all of the medical knowledge related to dermabrasion nor does it deal with all possible risks and complications of skin resurfacing procedures. Although it is designed to provide the patient with greater depth of information in some areas, it is not intended to substitute for the in depth discussion between patient and surgeon that must occur prior to any surgical or treatment procedure. For a more detailed discussion on expected results, recovery, and specific complications, please see your plastic surgeon or dermatologist.