Rough, irregular skin texture caused by sun damage, aging, and acne makes skin appear older. Dermaplaning is a simple and safe treatment that promises a painless path to smooth, radiant skin, sans irritating chemicals. Basically, a dermatologist or licensed medical aesthetician removes the very top layer of dead skin cells and facial fuzz (which can make skin look dull or uneven) with a very sharp scalpel. The trendy skincare procedure is oddly satisfying to watch on YouTube and Instagram.
Dermaplaning has become a highly sought-after skincare procedure because it’s more affordable than laser treatments, plus it’s chemical-free and non-invasive. Read on to find out how this mechanical exfoliation method works, how it compares to other hair-removal and skin-resurfacing procedures, what results you can expect, and more.
How Dermaplaning Works
A dermatologist or licensed esthetician takes a sharp No. 10 surgical blade and gently pulls your skin tight to lightly glide the blade over your skin at a 45-degree angle, in an upward motion using delicate, feathering strokes. The procedure takes less than half an hour. Not only does this gently scrape the top layer of dead skin cells off the epidermis, but it also scrapes off vellus hair, aka peach fuzz.
So, It’s Like Shaving?
Nope. Not unless you shave with a surgical-grade scalpel. Razor blades are cut with a machine, but scalpels are laser-cut, so they are sharper and less likely to irritate hair follicles. Razors pull on the hair root, causing razor burn. As opposed to the three or four blades on a razor, scalpels have one, single-edged blade that can get closer to the skin for optimal exfoliation.
Dermaplaning vs. Dermabrasion
Both dermabrasion and dermaplaning use controlled surgical scraping to “refinish” irregularities on the skin’s surface, which makes it appear more smooth. Since all that is needed is a scalpel, dermaplaning is cheaper than dermabrasion, which requires more elaborate machinery. Instead of a blade, dermabrasion removes the outer layers of skin using a wire brush or a diamond wheel that rapidly rotate to level out the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and scars. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, “Both dermabrasion and dermaplaning can be performed on small areas of skin or on the entire face” and both “can be used alone or in conjunction with other procedures such as facelift, scar removal/revision or a chemical peel.”
Dermaplaning is commonly used to treat deep acne scars, whereas “dermabrasion is most often used to improve the look of facial skin left scarred by accidents or previous surgery or to smooth out fine facial wrinkles” according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Dermaplaning is similar to microdermabrasion in that both treatments only remove the stratum corneum.
Skin serves as both a wall and a window. Latin for “horny layer,” the stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the epidermis. It helps skin maintain homeostasis by protecting the underlying tissue from infection, dehydration, chemicals, and mechanical stress. The cells that dermaplaning scrapes off are called keratinocytes, which form a barrier against heat, UV radiation, water loss, pathogenic bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses.
The Clinical Relevance of Maintaining the Functional Integrity of the Stratum Corneum in both Healthy and Disease-affected Skin by Dr. Jacqueline Levin states that the stratum corneum regulates water content; acts as an antioxidant; prevents infection by fighting off microbes, allergens, and other toxins; and protects skin cells from UV radiation damage. Cells shed from the surface stratum corneum on their own, so do they really need our help? Dermatologist Monty Lyman would argue no. According to the New Yorker, Dr. Lyman’s “only fully endorsed beauty treatments are sun protection, a healthy diet, and the avoidance of smoking, excessive drinking, and long-term stress.”
Results and Benefits
No treatment can fully eliminate fine lines, wrinkles, and scars, but dermaplaning does improve the look of skin, making it appear smoother, brighter, and more even-toned. Skin possesses remarkable regenerative abilities and when scraped, keratinocyte cells proliferate in response to local damage. Removing the buildup of dead skin cells reveals clear, smooth, glowing skin. Results can vary—as with any skincare procedure, it may not be effective for everyone.
“Dermabrasion and dermaplaning can enhance your appearance and your self-confidence, but neither treatment will remove all scars and flaws or prevent aging.” the American Society of Plastic Surgeons admits. However, since your peach fuzz is gone (for the moment, anyway) makeup glides on like you used the best primer ever invented. Some say that this manual exfoliation technique increases product absorption and efficacy. Harpers Bazaar UK affirms that dermaplaning “removes any barriers which would stop your skincare from penetrating—meaning your products often work much more effectively after a treatment.”
Does Dermaplaning Hurt?
If carried out correctly, the procedure should be totally painless and require zero downtime. Some liken the sensation to a credit card being gently scraped against the skin. American Med Spa rates the pain as a two on a scale of 1-10. By all accounts, it is much less painful than waxing, lasering, or threading on the hair removal front.
Who Benefits from Dermaplaning?
Although older people heal more slowly, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons asserts that “men and women of all ages, from young people to older adults, can benefit from dermabrasion and dermaplaning.” Cosmo says that as long as it’s professionally done, dermaplaning is safe for virtually everyone, “especially those with sun damage, fine lines, dry patches, and dull skin.”
Who Should Steer Clear of Dermaplaning?
Anyone who has a skin condition should step away from the blade. The benefits do not outweigh possible risks for people who have the following:
- Highly reactive, sensitive skin (rosacea or keratosis pilaris)
- Inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis
- Skin cancer
- Radiation treatments
- Open skin lesions
- An allergy to nickel
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Dermatitis (skin irritation)
- Use of Accutane currently or in the past six months
- use of prescription retinol within a week of treatment
- Active acne (greater risk of infection, can irritate acne and worsen existing breakouts)
- Tan or sunburn
- A bad skin burn
- A previous chemical peel
If you are prone to cold sores, dermaplaning can re-activate them. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons states that “People who develop allergic rashes or other skin reactions, or who get frequent fever blisters or cold sores, may experience a flare-up. Notify your dermatologist so they can write you a script for an antiviral to prevent outbreaks.
Can I Try Dermaplaning at Home?
DIY Dermaplaning is not a thing—in the traditional, scalpel sense anyway. However, the Tweezerman Bright Complexion Facial Dermaplaner and StackedSkincare’s Dermaplaning Tool are designed for at-home use with blades that aren’t as sharp or as effective as a medical-grade scalpel.
Incorrect treatment can lead to complications such as irritated skin, dermatitis, nicks, ingrown hairs, and stubble. American Med Spa states that “Dermaplaning is normally safe when performed by a qualified, experienced board-certified physician.” Many states don’t allow estheticians or cosmetologists to dermaplane because technically a scalpel is a medical instrument that should be wielded by a professional under the supervision of a physician from the dermatologist’s or plastic surgeon’s office.
Elena Tsiaklis, the Senior Managing Esthetician at Skin Spa SoHo in New York, says to get ready for your appointment by discontinuing all exfoliants, including “AHAs, BHAs, enzymes, microbeads, and retinoids” for a week before your procedure. Also, you might as well stop with the hair removal since the treatment will take care of that for you. As mentioned earlier, if your face is breaking out, reschedule.
You just got rid of a layer of skin—be kind to the brand new one. Avoid chemicals and let your skin breathe. Moisturizer—especially with SPF—is your newly-exfoliated skin’s BFF. Better yet, stay out of the sun for a few days to avoid UV damage.
Dermaplaning Side Effects
“You can’t break open the skin barrier without the potential risk of side effects,” as USA Today puts it. Side effects such as infection and scarring are rare with skin-refinishing treatments, According to the American Med Spa Association, but they are possible. It’s more typical to experience red or swollen skin.
Does Dermaplaning Make Hair Grow Back Thicker?
Nope. Your “baby hairs” will return just as fine as ever. Because the hair was cut straight across, it might feel different when it starts to grow back, but in reality, it’s the same texture and color as before, growing at the same rate as always.
How Much Does Dermaplaning Cost?
Blades are more affordable than lasers! Dermaplaning can cost anywhere between $40-250, depending on where you live, the person’s experience who is performing the treatment, and the time and effort it requires as per the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
How Frequently Do I Need to Get Dermaplaned?
Exfoliating skincare products can offer similar improvements. Other skin rejuvenation and resurfacing treatment methods such as laser treatments and caustic chemical peels (where results can last three to six months) are all more effective and proven options to consider. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, generally, “a chemical peel is used more often to treat fine wrinkles, and dermabrasion and dermaplaning for deeper imperfections such as acne scars.” However, they do state that individuals with slightly darker skin may prefer the dermaplaning since it is non-caustic and less likely to produce extreme changes and contrasts in skin color.
As far as removing peach fuzz goes—consider other facial hair-removal options like waxing, threading, and hair removal cream or more permanent solutions such as laser hair removal or electrolysis.