Exfoliating Spatulas Are The Latest Skincare Craze, But Do Dermatologists Back Them Up?

Whenever you browse through TikTok's skincare tags, you're guaranteed to find some new product or hack that claims to work wonders for exfoliation. We've seen everything from body scrubs to exfoliating gloves. But, just when it seems like we've seen it all, along comes the skin spatula, another offbeat product that numerous TikTok users swear by. Simply put, it's a small, gently vibrating device that resembles a spatula and you're supposed to move it all over your face for deep exfoliation. 

The videos featuring the skin spatula are almost always accompanied by gross but oddly satisfying footage of the creator scraping their face with it and releasing all the gunk that seems like it's been sitting there for literal years. For the most part, it does look like it's doing its job of exfoliation. But is it really? To get an accurate reading of the skin spatula's efficacy, you need to know what the term exfoliation truly means because it's loosely thrown around in pretty much every skincare video.

Exfoliation is the process of scrubbing dead skin cells off the top layer of your skin using a chemical exfoliator, a physical scrub, or dermatological procedures. Proper exfoliation cleans out your pores to prevent acne breakouts and leaves your skin feeling soft and looking youthful. While it's vital to exfoliate regularly, you shouldn't overdo it because over-exfoliation can make your skin dry, sensitive, and irritated. Now that's out of the way, let's delve deeper into the exfoliating skin spatula. 

Using a face spatula can be quite beneficial

One of the most popular variants of the skin spatula, the LaBelle Skin Spatula, comes with two primary functions. The first claims to deeply clean out your pores, and the second helps with the overall absorption of skincare products. At first glance, the skin spatula doesn't appear to be doing much except vibrating, but this is arguably the secret behind its success. Speaking to Byrdie, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, MD, explained the effect the vibrations have on your skin.

"Cells start 'talking' to each other and your pores open wide, so dirt and debris are gently vibrated and scrubbed away," she noted. So yes, it definitely exfoliates! But the skin spatula might not provide the deep cleansing exfoliation you're looking for. In fact, Renée Rouleau, a celebrity esthetician and skincare entrepreneur, admitted to Elle that she doesn't believe it's great for blackhead removal, for instance, because the tool's flat angle merely scrapes the surface instead of reaching down to scoop out all of the gunk. 

Rouleau added, "You don't get the precision like you do with a comedone extractor." However, the skin spatula's gentle exfoliation might work in some people's favor. If you have acne-prone skin, for instance, it's a relatively safe alternative to exfoliate without the use of any harsh chemicals that can cause an adverse reaction, as board-certified dermatologist Dr. Scott Paviol, MD, confirmed to Byrdie. 

An exfoliating skin spatula isn't a cure-all

The process of using a skin spatula is relatively simple. Wash your face as normal but don't pat dry like you usually would, because the device needs moisture to work properly. Once ready, simply move the spatula while keeping it at a downward angle and wipe the waxy skin excrement away as you go. However, Dr. Katina Byrd Miles, M.D., F.A.A.D, a board-certified dermatologist, warned Shape, "People equate more with better and subsequently, overuse can lead to skin irritation and skin thickening, which can cause it to feel rough and contribute to acne formation."

It's also important to be gentle. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Aanand Geria, MD FAAD, explained to The List, although the idea of removing blackheads is undeniably enticing, "too much pressure could damage the skin" especially if it's sensitive or you regularly use retinoids. Moreover, Dr. Geria cautioned: "This device also shows the removal of sebum from the pores; however, they will fill right back up. This renders the device useless. Sebaceous filament oozes out when skin extractions are performed in a dermatologist's office on clogged pores. When a skin spatula is used, only a milky liquid is secreted. This is equivalent to squeezing blackheads with your fingers."

Likewise, a skin spatula won't reduce the appearance of pores either. As always, the best method of extracting dirt and impurities is with a professional so if you do invest in a skin spatula, proceed with care and don't overdo it.