Blade Runner

A cutting-edge treatment can bring back your skin's youthful glow.

The phrase "going under the knife" has a whole new meaning.

Actually, the process of scraping away dead skin and those "peach fuzz" facial hairs, known as dermablading, is not a new technique at all in our quest for the fountain of youth, but with the arrival of other high-tech procedures, it has made a comeback.

"Dermablading has been around for at least 30 years," explains Mona Sappenfield, owner of Mona Spa and Laser Center. "But when we combine the process with newer treatments, like laser therapy, it's a perfect complement."

So what exactly does dermablading involve? Using a sterile, disposable, number-10 scalpel, a nurse or trained esthetician holds small sections of facial skin taut, then carefully scrapes the blade along its surface in short, quick strokes. Dead skin cells and hair are shaved off, leaving clients with smoother, brighter complexions. Afterwards, skin is primed for laser treatments that can do anything from reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles to getting rid of redness.

"Lasers are very target-oriented, and sometimes, the dead skin buildup on skin's surface prevents the laser from 'seeing' its target," says Sappenfield. Those targets include fine lines and wrinkles, as well as sunspots and freckles. When freckles are treated with a laser, the light literally "cooks" the damaged area, and brings it to the surface. A few quick strokes with the scalpel again after this treatment, and the offending spots are flicked away. Though the process involves one of the sharpest of tools, it is nonetheless a non-ablative procedure, which means the skin's surface is not cut or otherwise compromised.

Sound too good to be true? I thought the same thing, which is why I had the treatment myself. After lying down and being instructed by Sappenfield not to move or speak, out came the shiny, threatening-looking scalpel. A few minutes later, the scary scrape was over, and out came the laser.

As promised, the two-part procedure was completely painless.

Also as promised, my skin was completely smooth and hairless, which made for a very clean, bright look. Makeup went on smoother, and places where brown spots once reigned supreme were now freckle-free. In addition to a vanity booster, the process also can remove precancerous sun damage, which might help patients justify the trip to the spa.

"The dermablade procedure speeds up the whole process by wicking away the damaged spots the laser brings to the surface. It's perfect for today's clients who want results right here, right now," explains Sappenfield, who adds that most of her clients will return for the treatment four to six times each year. Clients are also asking for the treatments on shoulders and chests, where the summer sun takes its toll on even the most diligent sunscreen slatherers.

Of course, the hair does eventually grow back, but when it does, it is a very uniform growth, and repeat procedures discourage hair regrowth.

But a few words of caution before you ring your favorite medical spa or dermatologist: If you're the jumpy or nervous type, this procedure is not for you. Though it is painless, one twitch and you could find yourself with a nick to the face. Patients are also advised to return for a checkup 10 days to two weeks after the initial dermablade procedure to ensure the skin has adjusted properly. "Every time the dermablade procedure is performed, it compromises the barrier function of the skin, which can make it a host environment for breakouts or infection," Sappenfield cautions. "Oils and other toxins exit the skin through the hair shaft, but that way out is removed during the treatment. If not done in a sterile place by a professional, or patients don't protect the skin with a hydrating cream or DNA-repairing enzymes afterward, they could be in for a bad reaction."


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