In the name of smooth, glowing skin, some women are willing to do just about anything. They’ll extract platelets from their blood and inject it back into their skin or smear their faces with Nightingale droppings. Some will even opt to “shave” their skin’s surface with a 10-gauge scalpel.
The latter may sound terrifying, but dermaplaning—or a “scalpel facial,” as some may call it—is relatively painless and not so scary at all…so long as you’re in professional hands. (Hear that ladies? Don’t try this in front of the bathroom mirror at home lest you want things to look straight out of a horror movie). To understand more about dermaplaning, we reached out to two consulting experts: board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman and board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Peter Schmid. Whether you're trying to clear your skin or even try new ways to remove the dark brown peach fuzz on your face, find out why the blade-wielding process might not be right for everyone, below.
What is dermaplaning?
Dead skin cell buildup is a concern many people face. Maybe you’re someone who’s all too familiar with it. Maybe, to your bewilderment and frustration, you’ve tried every scrub and exfoliator in the beauty aisle, and yet your skin remains clogged and congested looking. That’s where dermaplaning comes in. Dermaplaning is an in-office, manual exfoliation procedure, using a scalpel to scrape dead skin cells from the surface of your skin to help reveal smooth, radiant-looking skin.
But dermaplaning isn’t just about the dead skin cells on skin’s surface. Some people may be interested in dermaplaning as an alternative method of facial hair removal as it can—in the process of removing dead skin cells—remove peach fuzz, the barely-visible baby hairs that may be on your face. And yes, okay, there is a scalpel involved. But before you get all skittish, let’s take a second to explain to you how it works.
How does dermaplaning work?
“Dermaplaning is the act of exfoliating and shaving the skin’s surface layers with the use of a sharp surgical scalpel, comparable to shaving with a blade,” Dr. Engelman says. It sounds harsh, but the process can be very gentle, if done correctly. According to Dr. Engelman, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the dermaplaning must be completed in office by a licensed practitioner, dermatologist, or esthetician. “It requires precision,” she says. (Again, we can’t stress this enough—don’t try this at home.) This precise motion scrapes dead skin cells and hair from the skin’s surface, which can help reveal radiant-looking skin as a result.
What are the benefits of dermaplaning?
According to Dr. Schmid, dermaplaning removes the dead surface layer of skin. By removing impurities and pore-clogging dead surface cells, you’re allowing your skin to better catch the light and look more luminous. What’s more, Dr. Schmid advises that dermaplaning—since it is a method of exfoliation—can allow the skin to better absorb subsequent skin care products.
Who is not a good candidate for dermaplaning?
That said, dermaplaning is not the right choice for all. “It is not recommended for people who are prone to ingrown hairs or who have sensitive skin after shaving,” Dr. Engelman says. Jittery patients should also heed with caution. “The patient must be very still during the procedure,” she says. “If they flinch or sneeze mid-blade all of a sudden, there’s high potential for a nick and a resulting bloody mess.”
Dr. Schmid recommends against dermaplaning for patients with a pre-existing skin condition. “Dermaplaning should be avoided in those patients with active skin infections or acne, cold sores, warts or rosacea,” he explains. Dr. Schmid warns that patients who have recently received another treatment, such as a chemical peel or resurfacing procedures, should also steer clear of dermaplaning.
Dermaplaning vs. dicrodermabrasion: Which one reigns supreme?
You may notice a couple of similarities between dermaplaning and its skin care cousin, microdermabrasion. For the unfamiliar, microdermabrasion is another exfoliating method that gently exfoliates the top layer of the skin to remove dead skin cells and help skin appear smoother, brighter, and more even.
So, how does dermaplaning match up? “Chemical peels and microdermabrasion reduce the chances of error when compared to dermaplaning,” Dr. Engelman says. “Meaning we won’t have an open wound should the patient flinch or sneeze. Also, dermaplaning is more superficial; if you’re going to a professional for a deep exfoliation, microdermabrasion and chemical peels are a better option.” When in doubt, visit your dermatologist for personalized advice on whether or not dermaplaning is right for you.
How To Prepare For A Dermaplaning Appointment
Okay, so your interest in dermaplaning has been piqued. Before you book an appointment, let’s go over a few things you can do in order to prepare for your first dermaplaning session.
Consult your dermatologist first.
Even though you’ve done your research, it’s always a good idea to first consult your dermatologist or skin care professional prior to getting any sort of procedure done—dermaplaning included.
Plan dermaplaning around other skin procedures.
Remember what Dr. Schmid said, make sure to avoid dermaplaning if you’ve had another skin procedure not too long beforehand. It’s wise to play it safe and refer back to step #1, consult your dermatologist or skin care professional if you are unsure if the timing is right for you.
Be prepared for the after care.
Your skin care professional will give you details on how to care for your skin after your dermaplaning appointment. One thing they may recommend is that you follow-up with applying broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays and taking other sun protection measures. You may want to bring a hat or visor to your appointment to wear upon leaving to help further shield your facial skin from the elements, including the sun.
Interested in more expert tips? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.