What Is Dermaplaning? Everything You Need To Know About This Soft Skin Hack
Someone holding a sharp blade to your face might seem a little, uh, horrifying—but in the beauty space, we just call it dermaplaning. Also called dermablading, microblading, or simply just blading, this procedure is the secret to soft, silky-looking skin. Here's everything you need to know about the treatment, plus exactly how to do it at home.
What is dermaplaning?
The name may sound technical, but essentially a licensed esthetician just shaves the top layer of your skin. With a super-sharp blade, they can gently scrape off dead skin cells and unwanted facial hair, leaving your skin velvety-smooth to the touch.
You can opt for an in-office treatment or brave the blade at home (more to come, below). Just know that an in-office treatment may be more thorough; according to celebrity medical esthetician Celeste Rodrigues, trained professionals use an actual surgical blade, whereas an at-home treatment usually involves a handheld, disposable tool (often dubbed a "tinkle" or eyebrow razor).
Benefits of dermaplaning.
Think about all the benefits you'd get from exfoliating, with a concentrated twist. As the blade lifts the top layer of skin, it can help reduce the appearance of acne scars and even help smooth fine lines, according to board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare Ellen Marmur, M.D. And just as exfoliation can brighten the skin and reduce hyperpigmentation, dermaplaning follows the same beat: "Dermaplaning is great for anyone looking to brighten and lift pigmentation," explains Rodrigues.
Dermaplaning, as mentioned, is also great for unwanted hair removal; whether you want to rid noticeable peach fuzz or even those vellus hairs you may not even know existed (such as the tiny hairs on your forehead), you'll be able to see those strands build up on the blade.
All that exfoliation can also lend itself to better product penetration; after the dead skin is quite literally scraped from your pores, you can pile on some good-for-you ingredients (may we suggest a few clean serums?) and let them work their magic. Just be sure to stick to gentle products post-dermaplane—a chemical exfoliant or heavy-duty retinol may spark some irritation on that fresh skin, Rodrigues notes.
Dermaplaning versus dermabrasion.
Similar? Perhaps, but they're not interchangeable. The main difference between the two treatments is the tools themselves: Dermaplaning requires a scalpel ("Yes, the surgical one," Marmur quips), while microdermabrasion involves crystals or a metal grit to quite literally suck debris from your skin—imagine a mini vacuum, suctioning up all the gunk.
Think of dermaplaning as removing that top layer of skin and facial hair, while dermabrasion exclusively exfoliates the skin (does nothing for hair), giving your pores a scrub-down. Both exfoliate by removing dead skin cells, but with different techniques.
Can you dermaplane at home?
Here's the thing: It's possible to DIY, but it's much better to wait until you can see a professional, if you can. "A trained esthetician will know exactly how many passes to do over the skin, so there's no danger of getting too much (or too little) exfoliation," says celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. A professional can also customize the treatment depending on your skin type and complexion goals (aka, they can take one look at your skin and know whether you need to follow with a chemical peel for the best, glowy results).
In addition to having higher-quality blades, licensed estheticians may have some high-tech tools to follow up the treatment such as professional-grade LED lights or facial ultrasound machines. These you simply can't replicate at home; according to Rouleau, "a cold ultrasound can hydrate the new cells with potent antioxidants to soothe inflammation and reduce post-procedure redness." You might not be able to recreate that experience in your makeshift home spa, no matter how DIY-obsessed you may be.
That said, there's still a way to dermaplane at home; it may be the bare minimum (no ahhh-inducing post-treatment massage, sigh), but it certainly does the job.
Step 1: Prep the skin.
Before diving into it, use a gentle cleanser on the skin to remove any lingering makeup. Just be sure to let the skin air dry for about 5 minutes before grabbing your tool. "When the skin is moist, the blade doesn't stick very well," explains Rouleau.
Step 2: Dermaplane with light strokes.
Grab your at-home tool, and shave away—with light, feathery strokes as you don't want to scrape too aggressively and cut yourself. Be sure to hold your skin taut, Rouleau advises, which makes the process a little easier. To do this, just lightly pull the skin with the other hand, like you might if you are using a gua sha stone. "Be especially careful when working in angled areas such as the eyebrows or crevice within the chin," she adds.
Step 3: Follow with a cool mask to soothe.
After your face is peach-fuzz-free, a cooling gel-based mask will calm the skin (bonus points if you store it in the fridge for a few minutes before slathering it on, which will give you an extra-soothing sensation). A hyaluronic acid serum will also feel lovely if you don't have a mask on-hand, says Rodrigues. Then a swipe of moisturizer and sunscreen, and you're good to go. But even with proper sunscreen, you may still want to limit your sun exposure, Marmur adds, as your skin may be more vulnerable to UV rays—you did just remove the top layer, after all.
Anyone who shouldn't do it?
As a general rule, those with acne (especially of the cystic kind) should avoid dermaplaning, as the blade can open zits and potentially cause scarring. Rouleau agrees: "You don't want to unnecessarily remove acne scabs or reopen inflamed blemishes."
Rodrigues mentions people with hormonal hair growth may want to steer clear as well—while dermaplaning is famous for shaving off hairs, she also explains that "when it's growing back in, the coarse hormonal hair can cause irritation and breakouts." Or, you know, otherwise known as razor burn.
As for those with supersensitive skin, you may want to proceed with caution. While some individuals may be able to handle the treatment, it's always best to know your own limits; for some, the scraping may just be too harsh.
Even though the at-home version is much lighter than an office treatment, it's still not something you should be doing on the daily: "It is still considered exfoliation, and it could cause irritation, especially if you're using retinols, prescription retinoids, and acid exfoliators," explains Rouleau. However, dermaplaning every once in a while can quite literally pave the way for a dewy, fresh look. As always, be mindful of your own skin—what works, what doesn't, and what could benefit from a little shave.
Heal Your Skin.
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Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.