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I Tried a Body

Aug 26, 2023Aug 26, 2023

Published on 8/23/2023 at 5:31 PM

My face wants for nothing when it comes to an extensive skin-care routine, but when it comes to my body, things are a little lackluster. I shave my legs a few times a week, exfoliate if I'm planning to use a self-tanner, and hydrate multiple times a day with lotion, but that's about it. Although I'm committed to dermaplaning my face once every couple of months, I've never thought about doing the same to any area below my neck.

One of my exes was the proud owner of what I like to call "dolphin skin," and while I don't think about him (or his skin) very often anymore, when I first heard about a spa treatment called "body planing," I wondered if it would be the thing to finally hand me a VIP membership to the elusive soft-skin club.

I didn't know much about what the process would entail prior to going into it, other than knowing it involved exfoliation. However, people online claimed it gave them skin softer than a baby's bottom, which was enough to convince me I needed to see what the hype was about. I wasn't sure if it included shaving the hair like dermaplaning does, but I figured my best bet would be to try a professional treatment. So to test it out, I visited the spa at the Conrad Los Angeles.

When I arrived, I was escorted to a treatment room, where I met the therapist who would be performing the body planing. Before the treatment even started, she showed me the tool she'd be using, which I have to admit looked a little intimidating. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was the Esker Body Plane Exfoliator ($45), which you can purchase for use on your own at home. It's essentially an updated take on a strigil, a curved blade that was used by ancient Greeks and Romans to scrape off dirt when bathing. This version works similarly, but it utilizes a sterling-silver blunt edge to remove dead skin while gently massaging the body.

After I plopped face down onto the massage table, the therapist positioned a steamer near my feet and legs to soften my skin. From there, she applied a detoxifying body oil, then she got started with the body-planing treatment. She started with my toes on the left side and gently moved the exfoliator in an upward motion in long strokes. The purpose of moving upward rather than downward, she explained, is to work energy up toward the heart center and stimulate the nervous system.

While I was nervous that the process would in some way hurt (I wasn't kidding when I said the tool looked intimidating), I quickly realized it was quite relaxing. After finishing with my left leg, the therapist moved the steamer, then repeated the process on my other leg, my back, and both of my arms, and then it was time to flip over.

When I flipped on my back, the therapist repeated the process, except I opted to have my stomach done as well, which required a little finagling with towels to make sure everything other than my belly was covered. Before I knew it, the hour was up. And while I did have that "just had a massage" calm feeling, the process wasn't entirely what I'd expected.

If you too were envisioning "body planing" as an intense rubdown to remove dead skin, that's not the case. This treatment felt more similar to someone dragging their acrylic nails all over my body. It didn't hurt at all, and when I sat up and touched my arms and then my legs, I could feel a stark difference in how my skin felt after the treatment versus before. It was noticeably softer and smoother and even looked a little glowier.

What really surprised me, though, was what I saw on the towel that the therapist showed me post-treatment. After each scrape of my skin, she had wiped off the remnants from the body-planing tool onto a white towel. What was left behind was one of the grossest things I've ever witnessed: dirty brown skin shavings.

I wasn't freshly exfoliated or even showered prior to my appointment (I had spent a couple hours at the hotel pool beforehand), but still, what I saw on the white towel was not what I'd expected and made me think that a body-planing treatment — whether done by a professional or at home — was something I needed to add to my weekly routine ASAP.