If you’ve seen beauty enthusiasts on social media carefully gliding small razors across their faces, you may have wondered what the heck dermaplaning is, what it can do for your face, and whether it’s actually safe to try at home.
Yes, the skin-care trend might look like an easy DIY treatment for exfoliating skin or getting rid of peach fuzz, but many experts say you should avoid trying this one at home in most cases. Plus, dermaplaning is not recommended for all skin types or for people with certain skin conditions.
Below, dermatologists explain what you should know about dermaplaning, including the risks, the benefits, how often you should dermaplane, and how much the treatment can cost (which may affect how often you can have dermaplaning done).
What is dermaplaning, exactly?
Facial dermaplaning is a cosmetic procedure that involves gently scraping your face with a scalpel to remove the epidermis—your top layer of skin—and small hairs, Jenny Kim, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology, medicine, and nutrition at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, tells SELF. Traditionally, people have the procedure done in a dermatologist’s office; however, you can find blades at the drugstore marketed for at-home use, like this Schick Hydro Silk tool ($6, Amazon), or you can splurge on a sonic device like Dermaflash Luxe+ ($200, Dermaflash) for an at-home experience closer to the dermatologist’s office. That said, it’s safer for a professional to perform the treatment in most cases. (More on this below.)
During a dermaplaning session performed by an expert, a dermatologist (or licensed esthetician in practice with a dermatologist) uses a medical-grade scalpel to scrape across the surface of the skin. The treatment typically takes about 15 to 30 minutes, and the dermaplaning cost can be anywhere from $40 to more than $150, depending on where you live and where you go (it will be more expensive to get a treatment from a board-certified dermatologist because they have more training).
Is dermaplaning the same as shaving?
Not exactly. Facial dermaplaning does involve shaving off layers of skin—primarily just that upper epidermis, the very top layer, Desmond Shipp, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. That exfoliating effect is why dermaplaning is often done in combination with facials (in what’s known as a “dermaplaning facial”), he adds.
With an in-office dermaplaning procedure, dermatologists typically use a no. 10 scalpel blade or an electric-razor-like device called a dermatome, according to Dr. Shipp, whereas shaving entails a straight razor blade or a three- to five-blade razor. Another key distinction: Shaving is meant for hair removal, not exfoliation—it only cuts hair at the skin level, and should not remove any layers of skin.
One more difference with dermaplaning is that the scalpel or dermatome also allows for a smoother, closer removal of those tiny, fine facial hairs known as peach fuzz, since the blades aren’t guarded like a body-hair razor is.
What are the benefits of dermaplaning?
It can remove peach fuzz.
The main reason people do it is to remove the vellus hairs on their faces, which, again, some people refer to as peach fuzz. Everyone has these fine vellus hairs coating their bodies, and they serve a purpose: Vellus hairs keep us warm and add another layer of protection to the skin. But some people’s vellus hairs are thicker and/or darker (so more visible) than others, and depending on how they feel about that, they might want to have them removed. Removing peach fuzz with dermaplaning also “allows makeup to go on much smoother, and can make skin look and feel more rejuvenated,” Dr. Shipp says. (In other words, your baby-smooth face will likely glow.)
Of course, dermaplaning is just one way to do that. There are many at-home hair removal kits that may get the job done. However, board-certified dermatologist Rosemarie Ingleton, MD, tells SELF that typical hair-removal methods like waxing and threading don’t always provide the results people are looking for (especially in terms of exfoliating and removing finer hairs), which makes dermaplaning an appealing option.
You may have heard that shaving hair on your face makes hair grow back thicker—that’s technically not true. But it may look thicker or darker, since shaving can cause hairs to have a blunter tip as they grow out, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, Dr. Shipp asserts that the hair doesn’t typically grow back thicker or darker following an in-office dermaplaning session that was done with a precise scalpel.
People might also try laser hair removal for longer-lasting results, Jeanine Downie, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New Jersey, tells SELF. But note that your hair can still grow back with this method, it takes several sessions to see changes, the cost per session ranges from $300 to $400, and people with darker skin are generally more prone to hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and burning after laser hair removal compared to people with lighter skin.
And it can also help exfoliate your skin.
While the biggest reason Dr. Ingelton does dermaplaning at her office is to remove vellus hairs, she says that the blade also gets rid of a superficial layer of dead skin called the stratum corneum. This can make your skin look brighter, help your skin-care products sink in better, and help your foundation go on smoother. In Dr. Ingleton’s practice, dermaplaning is often an add-on done before other treatments like microdermabrasion or lasers like Fraxel in order to get a jump-start and exfoliate the top layer of dead skin cells before these exfoliating procedures.
When it comes to exfoliating, there are no studies showing how dermaplaning compares to other treatments like retinoids or chemical peels, says Dr. Kim. That’s one reason why Dr. Downie prefers to use 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,” she says. “They are not equivalent at all, and many peels give deeper exfoliation than a scalpel.”
What are the cons of dermaplaning?
While it might feel like getting rid of these hairs is easy to do at home with an inexpensive blade, most professionals warn against it if you have the option of seeing a dermatologist for the treatment. Any blade you get over-the-counter won’t be as sharp—or as effective—as the medical-grade scalpel used at a doctor’s office. And there’s always a chance that you’ll cut yourself in the process of dermaplaning your own skin (since you’re not trained to perform the procedure), potentially causing scarring.
Anytime a sharp object goes near your face, there is a risk of damage to the skin. “The main risk is cutting the skin, which can lead to infection, scarring, and dyspigmentation,” Anthony Rossi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells SELF. It’s easy for skin to get infected from bacteria if you don’t properly clean it (or if the tool you’re using isn’t clean) beforehand—and if there’s an active infection in one area of your skin, you can end up spreading that to other areas of your face as you dermaplane, adds Dr. Rossi.
Dr. Downie also says that she’s seen people with scarring after a session of dermaplaning gone wrong. Although some medical spas offer dermaplaning, she recommends seeing a professional board-certified dermatologist for this kind of procedure. Board certification is an extra step that shows a physician completed advanced training in their specialty. (You can find a board-certified specialist by visiting the American Academy of Dermatology website.)
Dermatologists can assess the full picture of your skin’s health and make sure dermaplaning is right for you, says Dr. Rossi. Also, dermatologists may be in partnership with trained aestheticians who offer dermaplaning, and if you’re going to see an aesthetician for this treatment, it’s best to see someone who’s in practice with a dermatologist.
How often should you do a dermaplaning session?
In order to keep the hair away, you might have to get treated about once a month. (Of course, the exact timeline will look different for each person.) Dr. Kim says this is not a treatment you should do too frequently. Your epidermis helps protect you from allergens and other potential irritants in the outside world—dermaplaning too often may irritate or damage that top layer of protection, she says. Again, this is why it’s best to consult with a physician who can help you decide on the appropriate frequency for your skin and needs.
How to take care of your skin before and after a dermaplaning session
For the best exfoliation results, it’s smart to prep your skin by steaming your face—either as part of your in-office treatment or with an at-home steaming method, like hopping in a hot shower—before a dermaplaning session. “The heat will loosen dirt and sebum and help to remove the dead skin cells easier. It also makes the skin more pliable, softer, and the vellus hairs easier to remove,” says Dr. Rossi.
Rehydrating your skin post-dermaplaning is just as important in order to protect the epidermal barrier you’re exfoliating, Dr. Rossi adds. Since you’re removing that layer of dead skin cells and stripping the skin of that outer protective barrier, you’ll want to wash your skin with a gentle cleanser and then apply a rich moisturizer (think hydrating, skin barrier-protecting ingredients like hyaluronic acid and strengthening ceramides).
You’ll want to keep up the moisturizing for a couple of weeks too. Since the skin cells in the epidermis take about 14 days to turn over (or up to 40 to 50 days as you age) and create a new outer layer of skin, it’s important to moisturize your face to replenish the barrier of the skin that was just removed, Dr. Rossi explains.
After a dermaplaning treatment, you should also stay out of the sun as much as possible until your skin barrier restores and you stop seeing redness, tenderness, or swelling. “You have to coat your skin with sunscreen afterward because you’re going to be more sensitive to the sun,” says Dr. Downie. The exfoliation exposes a new layer of skin that isn’t typically exposed to sunlight, so it can more easily cause U.V. damage. “You also have to be cautious of retinol and glycolic acids,” adds Dr. Downie, for that same reason.
Dermatologists recommend that people with sensitive skin use a light moisturizer like Vanicream ($36, Amazon) because it doesn’t contain fragrances or other irritants, which may inflame your already-sensitive skin.
When should you avoid dermaplaning?
There are a few instances where you should think twice before signing up for a dermaplaning facial or other dermaplaning treatment. For one, you’ll want to avoid dermaplaning if you’re experiencing an active acne, rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema flare-up, since the treatment could cause further irritation and excessive skin peeling, says Dr. Rossi. There’s also a chance that the blade could nick a pimple, adds Dr. Downie, which means it would take longer to heal.
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 an anti-viral medication like Valtrex, and the physician needs to avoid the area,” says Dr. Downie. Without the use of a preventive oral anti-herpes medication, the cold sores can spread due to microtears in the skin.
The bottom line: Consulting with a dermatologist will help ensure the safest possible dermaplaning experience—and the best, most glowing results.