With the skincare industry rapidly growing, new and innovative ways of keeping your skin clean, fresh, and youthful keep resurfacing. In fact, making the decision which way to go can become quite overwhelming at times! In the past, those striving to improve skin elasticity and achieve a more youthful look had face-lifts and botox as their immediate go-to procedures.

Today, we have a vast array of non-invasive treatments at our disposal that can help us achieve the desired effects and postpone going under the knife. Dermaplaning and Microdermabrasion are two of the newest skincare treatments which are a big hit at the moment, and we’re here to help you decide which treatment is the right choice for you!

When deciding which one of these treatments to include in your beauty regiment, it’s important to keep a few simple things in mind:

Understand How Skincare Treatments Work

When considering any skincare treatment (or any treatment in general!) it’s important to know what exactly it is that you’re singing up for, and how the treatment actually works. So let’s quickly go over the basics.

When talking about these and other exfoliation processes, the phrase “removal of dead skin cells” is constantly thrown around, but what does that exactly mean? Basically, our skin consists of two layers, the dermis (“young” skin cells) and the epidermis (“dead” skin cells). The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin, the part of our skin coat which is in direct contact with the outside world. The very surface of the epidermis is called the stratus corneum.

That is the protective layer on the one hand, but also the layer which is the home to wrinkles, dark spots and blemishes. And that is the layer that is being referred to in every “dead skin cells removal” story.

Both of the procedures remove the stratus corneum, which gives way to a deep cleaning of the pores. With the removal of this top layer, the blemishes and fine lines, as well as scars from acne or chickenpox, are also removed. The new skin that we are left with, the one that was previously under the stratus corneum but is now our top layer, is softer, more elastic, and looks much smoother and younger.

An additional benefit is that the absence of that top, protective layer allows other skincare products to reach the dermis much faster, making them more effective. Make up is also easier to use, as the colors are more vivid and less product use is necessary. However, the absence of the protective layer makes the skin more vulnerable, as well – any exposure is more effective, not just the one we want.

For example, this means that you should avoid the sun, as you're much more likely to experience sunburn, skin discoloration or skin cancer if you sunbathe after you’ve just scraped your entire protective skin layer off.

Know the Differences Between Microdermabraison and Dermaplaning

Although both microdermabrasion and dermaplaning remove the top layer of dead skin cells, the procedure itself is quite different.

Microdermabrasion

In microdermabrasion, the technician uses a specialized tool which sprays tiny, abrasive crystals over the skin. The tool is then used to put pressure on the skin, and as it is steadily moved over the target area it removes both the crystals and the leftover dead skin cells, effectively getting rid of the stratus corneum. The microscopic crystals are aluminum oxide, sodium chloride and/or sodium bicarbonate. After the treatment, you will be a bit swollen, and get crèmes or lotions which will help soothe the skin. Read Silkpeel Dermalinfusion Vs. Microdermabrasion.)

Dermaplaning

Dermaplaning, on the other hand, has a nickname which is quite telling – it's commonly known as the “scalpel facial”. During the treatment, the cosmetic dermatologist will use a 10-inch medical grade scalpel to scrape off the layer of dead skin cells – and most importantly, any hair that’s there. The treatment itself is not painful, but it is slightly uncomfortable.

Ironically, although it sounds more aggressive than microdermabrasion, it actually isn’t. Though you can expect that some leftover skin cells will peel from your face in a dandruff-like manner on the day of the procedure, there is no swelling or redness, and you can feel free to make regular plans and go about your day normally right after the treatment. (Read Dermaplanning and You: Your Comprehensive Guide to Scalpel Facials.)

Both treatments take half an hour to an hour to be completed, and both have effects which last up to four weeks.

Know Your Skincare Professional

One of the big differences between microdermabrasion and dermaplaning is that a microdermabrasion can be done by any technician or aesthetician, while dermaplaning has to be done by a dermatologist or licensed professional. The scalpel which is used in dermaplaning is an actual medical grade scalpel which is used in surgery, and you should make sure the person who is scraping your face with this potentially dangerous tool is a licensed professional who knows what they’re doing!

While both treatments are done by professionals, microdermabrasion is something that you can do at home as well. Microdermabrasion crèmes and scrubs which have the same ingredients as the ones professionals use in the salons are available for purchase, as well as the tools for the removal of the used crystals and leftover skin cells. Dermaplaning is, however, something only a trained professional can perform.

Know Your Goals

The most important question in this dilemma is the question of unwanted vellus hair, commonly referred to as peach fuzz. Peach fuzz is the light, soft, fuzzy hair that covers our body, and for some people it’s more visible than it should be in certain areas, like the upper lip, sideburns, neck and chest areas. If your main goal is to get rid of this hair, dermaplaning is the way to go.

The scalpel facial’s primary goal is to get rid of all this unwanted hair in a thorough and effective way. Unlike shaving, dermaplaning removes the hairs with their roots, meaning they will not grow out faster or thicker, but the contrary. Unlike the laser treatments, dermaplaning will remove the very light, blond or grey hairs as well, and unlike waxing, dermaplaning is perfect for very sensitive skin that bruises or gets infected easily.

Another benefit of dermaplaning is the sole purpose of microdermabrasion – the removal of the top layer of dead skin cells, which in turn means the removal of acne or chicken pox scars, blemishes, dark spots, and fine lines.

Time and discipline also come into question. In order to achieve the full effect, microdermabrasion must be performed on a regular basis. This means that the real effects will start showing several treatments in. Dermaplaning has immediately visible effects, as it affects the texture of the skin more dramatically.

When going in for microdermabrasion, it is best to treat yourself to a “me-day”, as your skin will be a bit swollen and you will have some redness and sensitivity after the treatments. Dermaplaning is the opposite – you will need no “down time” and be able to carry on with your day, so the treatment itself is much easier to fit into your schedule.

Know Your Skin

Before undergoing any facial, you should assess the level of sensitivity of your skin. Skin types vary – some are dry, some are very moist, and some are highly sensitive on top of that. Generally, the sensitive skin category entails skin that bruises and scars easily, reacts strongly to chemicals (i.e. detergent, paint, any cleaning supplies) or weather changes, and is allergy-prone.

If you would identify as a person with sensitive skin, microdermabrasion isn't recommended. The treatment is by no means dangerous, but it's quite aggressive, putting a lot of pressure on the skin. Swelling and redness are expected for normal skin types, which means that if you're skin is sensitive you can expect double the trouble – resulting in the treatment causing more problems than it solves. Dermaplaning, on the other hand, is designed particularly for those with sensitive skin, and thus poses no threat.

Always share your skin history with your skincare professional during a consultation. Most dermatologists will first want to test a small area of your skin to see how it reacts and what feeling you’re left with, which is probably the safest way to solve any dilemma you might have about how your skin will take the treatments.