A dermaplaning video starts with a close-up of someone’s skin, pores and blemishes clearly on display. Then, what appears to be a razor delicately peels off the skin.
Aided by its popularity in videos on YouTube and Instagram, dermaplaning has become one of the more sought-after skincare procedures requested of estheticians and dermatologists.
For many people, it’s gross, satisfying and addictive to watch. But it’s not right for everyone — but experts say it shouldn’t be replicated at home, no matter how easy it may look.
Here’s what you need to know about the trendy skincare procedure, including its purported benefits and risks.
What is dermaplaning?
Dermaplaning is a non-invasive technique in which a dermatologist or licensed esthetician will scrape off vellus hair (also known as “peach fuzz”) and a top layer of dead skin cells off the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. That’s according to Nayamka Roberts-Smith, a Los Angeles-based esthetician known as LaBeautyologist.
It doesn’t use a razor. In fact, a surgical-grade scalpel is used, according to Roberts-Smith. Dermaplaning also serves as a manual exfoliant, explained Roberts-Smith.
Per the American Med Spa Association, the procedure originated as a way to treat scarring from facial cystic acne, which tends to be small but deep.
Should you dermaplane at home?
Roberts-Smith and Houston-based dermatologist Rajani Katta say absolutely not. No matter how many at-home procedures bill themselves as easy and effective, the process, they say, should be guided by a dermatologist or licensed esthetician.
“You don’t want someone putting a scalpel to their face and trying to scrape off dead skin,” Katta said.
The risk of these “weird-but-pleasing” videos, both say, is that it may lead viewers to believe that the process can be done at home.
“People think they’re ‘learning’ how, or get obsessed with the idea of doing it themselves, but it’s really just for entertainment,” said Roberts-Smith. “It’s edited. It’s not for duplication.”
“It’s flattering that [professionals online] make our jobs look so easy but there’s so much that goes into the health and safety of our clients.”
What are the benefits of dermaplaning?
When done by a professional, dermaplaning can lead to smoother, brighter skin, for one. And no peach fuzz.
“If you [scrape] the top layer of the skin, then the skin has to regenerate,” said Katta. It may also reduce the appearance of acne scars, according to the American Med Spa Association.
As a bonus, by scraping off built-up hair and dead skin, it allows for greater penetration of creams, serums and the other skincare treatments that may be in your routine, Roberts-Smith says. It’s beneficial for “flawless makeup application,” Roberts-Smith says, since it will lay closer to the skin after the procedure.
Of course, these benefits only work if the procedure is done consistently. The frequency of dermaplaning ultimately varies, though the American Med Spa Association advises around every three to four weeks.
Are there risks? Does it hurt?
Contrary to the notions that shaved hair grows back thicker or longer, it doesn’t. “(Vellus) hairs don’t grow back thick or noticeably,” Roberts-Smith assured. And, for the most part, it’s a relatively non-irritating and painless procedure, she said.
But for anyone with a skin condition — sensitive skin, skin cancer, eczema, or severe acne — the benefits aren’t worth the risks.
And, as with every skincare procedure, it may not be effective for every individual. A dermatologist or esthetician may advise another procedure instead, including chemical peels.
Also, Katta advises making sure that whoever performs the procedure — whether it be a dermatologist or esthetician — is licensed and skilled in the practice. Although side effects are rare, she says, they can happen. Infection and scarring are the most severe side effects, per the American Med Spa Association.
“You can’t break open the skin barrier without the potential risk of side effects, so you need to make sure the practitioner knows what to do in the event that happens,” she said.
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