What’s up with Dermaplaning? Here’s What Scalpel Facials Are Actually Doing to Your Face
This is a thing now: Women are shaving their faces. If that sounds strange, well, to be honest, it sounded strange to us, too.
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But we’re not talking about your average shaving cream and Bic razor in the bathroom mirror situation. In reality, women are having their faces shaved by dermatologists, who call the procedure dermaplaning. Really that's just a fancy name for what amounts to a scalpel facial. (You might have seen it in action late last year when this video of the treatment went viral.)
So, what actually is dermaplaning and why on earth would anyone let another person get that close to their face with a scalpel? Here’s the deal.
The primary use of dermaplaning is to get rid of peach fuzz on the face.
During a dermaplaning session, the dermatologist or esthetician uses a medical-grade scalpel to scrape (not cut!) across the surface of the skin. The main reason people do it is to remove the vellus hairs on their faces, also known as peach fuzz. Peach fuzz can appear almost colorless, blonde, gray, or brown (or the same color as the hair on your head). Everyone has these fine vellus hairs coating our bodies, and they are meant to keep us warm and add another layer of protection to the skin. But some people’s vellus hairs are thicker and more visible than others, and so they might want to have it removed. Dermatologist Rosemarie Ingleton, M.D., tells SELF that it can be tough to get rid of these hairs with typical hair-removal methods like waxing and threading, which makes dermaplaning a better option.
According to dermatologist Jeanine Downie, M.D., contributing medical expert to Zwivel.com, you can laser away vellus hairs. However, it takes several sessions to see permanent results, and laser doesn’t work for blonde and gray hairs. (Laser hair removal is best for fair skin and darker hair types.) That’s one reason why Dr. Ingelton recommends dermaplaning. In order to keep the peach fuzz away, you have to come in about once a month to get a treatment.
While it might feel like getting rid of these hairs is easy to at home with a $2 blade, professionals warn against it. Any blade you get from the drugstore won’t be as sharp—or as effective—as the medical-grade scalpel used at the office. Also, there’s always the chance you will cut yourself in the process, causing scarring.
Some derms and aestheticians use it as a type of facial, or in conjunction with other skin-care treatments.
Dr. Ingleton says that the biggest reason she does dermaplaning in her practice is to remove vellus hairs, but that the blade also gets rid of a superficial layer of dead skin. “It’s not the same as shaving,” she says. “When you’re shaving you’re getting just hair, but this goes just a little bit deeper than that.” The brightening effect on the skin is immediate, and it can help skin-care products sink in better and makeup go on smoother. In Dr. Ingleton’s practice, dermaplaning is often an add-on done before other treatments like microdermabrasion or ablative lasers like Fraxel. The entire treatment takes about 15 minutes, and it can cost anywhere from $40 to $100.
When it comes to exfoliating, Dr. Downie is a fan of peels over dermaplaning—even for sensitive skin—and doesn’t offer dermaplaning in her practice. “Peels help to improve texture, tone, acne, and fine lines whereas dermaplaning simply removes hair,” she says. “They are not equivalent at all, and many peels give deeper exfoliation then a scalpel.”
There are a few instances where you should think twice before signing up for dermaplaning.
If you have acne, there is a chance that the blade could nick a pimple, says Dr. Downie, which means it would take longer to heal. So if you have a serious cystic breakout, it might be best to postpone. It’s not a complete no-go, but make sure you go to an experienced provider who has dealt with acne-prone patients before. Also, tell your dermatologist if you have a history of cold sores. “If you have a breakout of cold sores, you need to be on Valtrex, and the physician needs to avoid the area,” says Dr. Downie. Without the use of a preventative oral anti-herpes medication, the cold sores can spread due to microtears in the skin.
Also worth considering: Anytime a sharp object goes near your face, there is a risk of damage to the skin. Dr. Downie says that she’s seen patients with scarring after a dermaplaning session gone wrong. Her biggest advice: Go to a professional (preferably a board-certified dermatologist) who knows what they’re doing and works with similar skin types.
After dermaplaning, there are some things you should be careful about—and one false myth not to fret over.
Russo says the first thing people ask about dermaplaning is always: Will my hair grow back thicker? That’s a no. Whatever hair removal method you use, it has no effect on how your hair grows—the speed of growth is all a matter of genetics. So you won’t suffer a 5 o’clock shadow once you remove the hair.
After a dermaplaning treatment, you do need to take care of your skin. “You have to coat your skin with sunblock afterwards because you’re going to be more sensitive to sun,” says Dr. Downie. “You also have to be cautious of retinol and glycolic acids.” She recommends using a serum with growth factors to help with texture and tone of skin.
So, to recap:
If you are looking to get rid of blonde or gray peach fuzz, dermaplaning is a simple option that will also help brighten the skin. If you have darker vellus hairs, laser hair removal is a permanent option, but the cost and time it takes can rise as it takes several sessions to get results. Finally, if you’re looking for an exfoliating treatment, you’re better off considering other options, like a chemical peel.
This article first appeared in Self.