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Dermaplaning is a path to smoother skin

You can thank reality TV for the resurgence in the skin resurfacing procedure known as dermaplaning. At least that's what the experts think.

A former "Real Housewives of New York City" participant underwent dermaplaning on air, prompting the blogosphere to light up with talk about the not-so-new but must-have procedure, which involves running a sharp blade over the face to get rid of dead skin cells. As a result, many dermatologists, plastic surgeons and aestheticians saw an uptick in requests.

Dr. Michelle Henry, a dermatologist and surgeon at Sadick Dermatology in Great Neck, was one of them. "Essentially, dermaplaning is a manual exfoliation of the skin, using a blade at a 45-degree angle," she said. It can help soften scars and fine wrinkles, meaning ones that aren't too deep. It also gets rid of peach fuzz or baby-fine hairs, called vellus hairs, around the chin, sideburns and lip area -- the bane of many a woman's existence. Henry said they don't grow back for about four weeks.

COULD BOOST COLLAGEN

But there's more. Henry said the trauma to the skin from the blade also may spur the production of collagen, one of the proteins that gives skin its supple and elastic properties most associated with youth. A person's natural supply of collagen dwindles with age.

Despite its use of a blade -- specifically, a surgical No. 10 blade -- dermaplaning is considered far gentler than laser skin resurfacing or dermabrasion, a skin exfoliation method that involves scraping away the outermost layer of skin with a rough wire brush (a burr) containing diamond particles that's attached to a motorized handpiece. But dermaplaning is more aggressive than microdermabrasion, a procedure in which tiny crystals are sprayed onto the skin to remove the outermost layer.

Still, dermaplaning is not right for everyone. "People who have skin of color should stay away from dermaplaning because, if the surgeon goes deeper than they should, you could develop dark spots," Henry said. It also can't be used on or around acne or other skin lesions.

The procedure often begins with a mild cleanser, to loosen dead skin cells, and a toner. Some doctors add other bells and whistles, such as chemical peels or masks, to enhance the effects of dermaplaning. Henry said the procedure isn't painful and does not require even a topical anesthetic. The blading itself involves small, quick downward swipes and takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Right away, skin should be smoother and brighter. Down the road, the procedure should improve the absorption of topical skin products.

IRRITATION THE NEXT DAY

That said, there's still some recovery time with dermaplaning. "The second day, your skin is red and hot like with razor burn," Henry said. She tells patients to skip wearing makeup for at least four to six hours after the procedure, and she often suggests using a gentle moisturizer or a prescription anti-inflammatory cream immediately after the treatment to ease any irritation.

It's also not a one-and-done procedure. "We get the best results with a series of four to six dermaplaning treatments that are done six to eight weeks apart," Henry said.

Although do-it-yourself kits are available, Henry advises against trying this at home. "You are using a blade at a precise angle," she said. "This is risky." She said dermaplaning should be done in a licensed aesthetician's or physician's office by an experienced provider.

RISKS, ALTERNATIVES AND COST

Not everyone has jumped on the dermaplaning bandwagon, however. Dr. James Marotta, a facial plastic surgeon and owner of both Marotta Facial Plastic Surgery and Long Island Hair Restoration in Smithtown, said the potential risks outweigh any potential benefits.

"There are risks of infection, cuts and bad scarring, especially in the wrong hands," Marotta said. "It may make skin quality look better and you may see some improvement in fine lines, but it doesn't go deep enough to make a really significant improvement," he added.

"Microdermabrasion, chemical peels and dermaplaning when in the right hands can improve skin quality overall, but for real improvements" -- such as eliminating age spots, precancerous lesions and deep wrinkles or folds and refining skin texture -- "you need lasers or intense pulsed light," Marotta explained.

As for cost, dermaplaning is generally less expensive than some of the more aggressive skin resurfacing procedures, but cost varies based on location of the procedure and whether add-on treatments are involved. It usually costs from $125 to $150 a treatment. By comparison, dermabrasion and microdermabrasion cost about $200 a treatment, and laser skin resurfacing can cost more than $1,000 a session.

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