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Can You Use Sandpaper To Remove Hair? A Derm Says Not So Fast

Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
Image by Delmaine Donson / iStock
July 6, 2021

Whether you choose to remove your body hair or not is personal: Do whatever makes you feel comfortable! Now, we may not care if you decide to remove your hair, but we do care how you do it if you choose to do so. Case in point? All the out-there trends we see for hair removal on social media.

Recently, one eyebrow-raising trend made the rounds on TikTok: using sandpaper. Yes, users have been taking to their body hair with that grating paper typically used for home improvement projects. 

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What this derm says about using sandpaper on your skin. 

Scroll through the social media app and you'll see videos of people scrubbing their legs and arms with sheets of sandpaper—quite aggressively. And, shockingly, the hair starts to shed off. Magic? Trickery? No, according to board-certified dermatologist and mindbodygreen Collective member Whitney Bowe, M.D., it works! But that doesn't mean you should do it.  

"It's trending because it works. But do I recommend it? Absolutely not," she says. The sandpaper works by essentially exfoliating the hair and skin away. In her video, she breaks down what's happening to the skin in the process—and the side effects. "If you do this, you're doing three things that you don't want to do":

  • Releasing histamines in the skin. Histamines are part of your skin's normal immune system. You've likely noticed them if you touch something you're allergic to. "Doing this will cause your skin to release histamines called mast cells, and this will cause your skin to be itchy," she says. 
  • Compromising your skin barrier. Your skin's function is to act as a living, dynamic shield. When you do too much to it—you know, scrubbing it away with sandpaper—you impair that function. "You're damaging your skin barrier and increasing something called transepidermal water loss, which means your skin is going to be even more dry," she says.
  • Increasing your chances of hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation—dark spots, sun spots, and so on—can affect any part of your body. Hyperpigmentation can also be the cause of intense trauma to the skin. "You stimulate your melanin-secreting cells, your melanocytes, to pump out more pigments leading to hyperpigmentation," she says. 
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The takeaway. 

Just because something "works" doesn't mean you should use it. If you want to remove your body hair, stick to shaving, sugaring, or waxing. 

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Alexandra Engler
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director at mindbodygreen. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She has worked at many top publications and brands including Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends and updates in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as travel, financial wellness, and parenting. She has reported on the intricacies of product formulations, the diversification of the beauty industry, and and in-depth look on how to treat acne from the inside, out (after a decade-long struggle with the skin condition herself). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.