Essential Exfoliators

There was a time when simple at-home exfoliation was considered enough of a skincare routine. Today, however, clients are opting for more effective regenerating procedures that increase the rate of cell turnover and maximize the power of their favorite potions and serums. On the hunt for more well-rounded skin management systems, spa-goers are turning to treatments like dermaplaning and dermarolling. Although they may sound alike, they’re actually quite different.

Take the tools, for example. While dermaplaning uses a scalpel or surgical blade to delicately remove the outermost layers of hair and dead skin, derma-rolling (also known as skin needling) employs a small, manually operated roller to puncture minuscule holes into the top layer of skin. According to Suen Lee, medical esthetician at TriBeCa MedSpa (New York City), one advantage of dermaplaning is no downtime. The inexpensive treatment results in a noticeable textural improvement, she says, and clients will appreciate the instant gratification. Vellus hair—the fine, blonde fuzz on the face—causes dirt and oil to collect in the follicles, so removing it gives the patient healthier looking skin, explains Lee. “Removing the epidermal skin allows products to penetrate more readily into the deeper layers,” she says, adding that practitioners often recommend dermaplaning before medical procedures like laser treatments or deep chemical peels. “It helps prepare the skin and results in a more refined and glowing appearance.” When it comes to the benefits of dermaplaning, Mitchell Chasin, M.D., medical director of Reflections Center for Skin & Body (Livingston, NJ), promotes the procedure for its anti-aging value. “It works to unclog pores, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, and even skintone,” he says. It is also a service that keeps clients coming back for more, as treatments are generally recommended approximately every four weeks to accommodate the normal skin-growth cycle.

Meanwhile, skincare expert and esthetician Melanie Simon compares dermarolling to aerating a garden. “You make small holes so that the fertilizer, water, and oxygen can make it to the root system,” she explains. “It’s a similar concept when you’re puncturing minuscule holes in the top layer of the skin. By doing so, the dermis—the lower level of skin where there are blood vessels and nerve endings— will be exposed to almost ten times the active ingredients in any serum that’s applied.” However, the holes left behind are so tiny that the skin is still intact. This, says Simon, is one benefit dermarolling has over dermaplaning, which completely removes several layers. “Dermaplaning is a different form of a peel or microdermabrasion, while dermarolling is like a vitamin injection.”

A High-Tech Alternative

Although dermarolling isn’t necessarily painful, Simon says that some clients can find it irritating. Patients sensitive to traditional dermarolling have another option called Meta Therapy. Robert Waters, vice president and general manager of Dermatude/Nouveau Contour, uses the company’s digitally controlled Meta-Ject FX50 device and integrated handpiece on clients as a dermarolling alternative. The tool’s ultra-thin needles create micro-perforations that the skin interprets as damage, thus activating a natural repair mechanism while stimulating the production of collagen and elastin. “This restores the skin from the inside out through regeneration of tissue,” says Waters.

As with dermarolling, special serums with active ingredients are then massaged into the skin. These can allow for a specific and targeted experience. Slack or mature skin, for example, is treated with a blend of vitamins A, C, and E to rejuvenate, protect, and neutralize free radicals. For dehydrated or dry skin, Waters recommends a cream containing hyaluronic acid.

For Safety’s Sake

Something that all three therapies have in common is that properly trained estheticians and medical professionals can perform the procedures. However, Annet King, director of global education for Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute, warns that dermarolling treatments with needles one millimeter or longer should be performed only by trained medical experts. “The longer, thinner needles are more hazardous,” she says. “The potential for breaking the skin, drawing fluids, or causing injury is much higher, and therefore, extreme caution must be used, as it’s considered highly invasive.”

Patients with acne or otherwise infected skin should avoid the procedures. However, those interested in anti-aging should consider a series of dermarolling sessions. “I have seen the best results on people with wrinkled tissue around the mouth and chin area,” says Simon. While not recommended for anyone with a nickel allergy (the metal from which most blades are made), dermaplaning is safe for almost everyone else, including pregnant and lactating women. “Pregnant women are good candidates for dermaplaning, because it does not expose the skin to harsh chemicals found in peeling agents,” says Chasin. That can also be a selling point to other spa-goers interested in avoiding such ingredients.

Growing in popularity, these treatments reflect a new skincare approach that not only encourages better product absorption but also activates the body’s defense mechanisms. Ideal for treating a host of skin-related concerns, they are proving an effective means of improving the look and texture of the skin. It’s no surprise, then, that spa-goers are so willing to go under the knife— or roll with it.