What is Microneedling and Should You Try It?
If you want firmer, younger-looking skin but you loathe the thought of plastic surgery, there is a less invasive treatment that might be worthy of your consideration—microneedling.
Microneedling involves inserting myriad tiny needles into the skin to boost collagen production and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. As invasive as it may sound, the needles are tiny and the treatment feels more like pinpricks than anything else. Even if you’re afraid of needles, you should have no trouble sitting through this anti-aging treatment.
By using the body’s own natural healing process, microneedling could be the anti-aging solution you’ve been looking for. Let’s take a closer look at how it works as well as the associated risks and benefits.
How Does Microneedling Work?
If you’re not a fan of the term microneedling, maybe you’ll be more comfortable with this one—collagen induction therapy. It’s a minimally invasive treatment that dermatologists have been using for decades to treat facial scars, but it has recently become popular as an antiaging treatment, particularly with the release of at-home microneedling devices called dermarollers or micro-rollers.
Microneedling involves rolling a needle-covered device over the skin, poking hundreds of tiny, shallow holes in the surface of the skin.
Though the thought of being punctured by hundreds of tiny needles may not be your idea of fun, it can actually do great things for your skin. The needles create micro-injuries which prompt the skin to start the natural healing process that begins with collagen production. As your skin produces more collagen, you’ll find that fine lines fill in and wrinkles become less noticeable. Your skin will be fuller and suppler, giving you a youthful glow.
In addition to boosting collagen production for anti-aging benefits, microneedling can also fade acne scars, stretch marks and surgical scarring in addition to improving your overall skin tone and texture. It may help reduce the appearance of age spots and large pores as well. Though it is primarily used on the face, it can also be used on other areas of the body.
What Happens During the Procedure?
From start to finish, the average microneedling procedure takes about two hours.
Anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes before the treatment itself, your doctor will apply a topical anesthetic to the treatment area to help numb the pain. Once your skin is thoroughly numbed, your doctor may also apply a topical infusion treatment such as hyaluronic acid to improve skin hydration and to boost the benefits of the treatment.
Following the infusion treatment, your doctor will begin the procedure which takes about 30 minutes.
During the procedure, your doctor will use a pen-like tool called a dermaroller or micro-roller to create tiny micro-injuries in top layer of the skin. The roller is covered in stainless steel needles which penetrate the skin in a controlled and precise manner, creating micro-channels in the dermis layer of skin. Depending how deep the needles go, you may experience a mild tickling sensation or a stronger pinching sensation.
After the micro-channels are created, your doctor will apply a second infusion treatment such as an antioxidant serum or growth factor, depending on the condition you are having treated. The micro-channels allow the infusion treatment to penetrate deep into the skin.
Following the procedure, your body will begin the healing process, increasing collagen and elastin production to heal the micro-channels. The result is smoother, firmer and younger-looking skin. These results will develop over the course of weeks or months, depending how many treatments you have.
Treatments for acne scarring and stretch marks are typically performed two weeks apart and your doctor may recommend anywhere from four to six treatments. For anti-aging, single treatments every three months is the standard.
What Are the Risks of Microneedling?
Microneedling is generally recognized as safe for healthy individuals, but not everyone is a good candidate for the procedure. If you are in good health and have certain skin conditions or problems that haven’t responded to at-home treatments, it might be an option to consider.
But what are the risks associated with microneedling that you should be aware of?
During the procedure, your doctor will use a pen-like tool to make tiny pinpricks under the surface of the skin. The pinpricks are so small that you won’t be able to see them after the procedure, but the fact is that your skin is still being punctured so there is a small risk for infection. Your risk may be higher if you have certain skin diseases, or if you have open wounds on your face.
Prior to the procedure, your doctor will apply a topical anesthetic to numb the area, but you may experience some soreness, itching or minor irritation after the procedure. Other side effects may include bleeding, bruising and peeling. If you experience any of these side effects, contact your doctor.
You may not be an ideal candidate for microneedling if you have a history of skin scars, if you are pregnant or if you’ve recently had radiation therapy. People with open wounds and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis may not be recommended for the procedure.
What Should You Know Before You Try?
Whether you’re headed to the spa for a mud mask or trying a new beauty product, you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you actually do it. Microneedling is generally considered safe, but there are still certain things you should know before you go in for your first treatment:
How Much Does It Cost?
On average, microneedling costs anywhere from $100 to $700 per session, depending on the size of the area being covered. Most sessions cost around $300 and you may need more than one session to achieve the desired result. You should also know that microneedling is considered a cosmetic procedure, so it is unlikely to be covered by your insurance. If you’re worried about the cost, ask your doctor about financing options.
In addition to considering the cost of the procedure itself, you should also think about costs associated with your recovery. Though microneedling is a minimally invasive procedure, you may want to take a few days off work until the irritation subsides. Factor this into your plan when thinking about the costs associated with microneedling.
Is It Going to Hurt?
There is no way that having your skin punctured hundreds of times won’t cause any pain, but your doctor will apply a topical anesthetic about 30 minutes prior to the procedure to help dull the pain. Know that longer needles will hurt more, but most microneedling procedures are performed using needles that are less than 1mm long. After the procedure, you should expect to feel some irritation and your skin will be a little red—like a sunburn—for a few days after.
If, after undergoing your first microneedling procedure, you aren’t sure you can endure another, know that your skin will become thicker as it heals. In each subsequent session, however, the doctor will insert the needles a little deeper each time. Depending on your tolerance for pain, this can range from minor discomfort to a burning sensation.
Does It Work for Acne Scars?
Though typically used for anti-aging, microneedling can also be used to reduce the appearance of atrophic scarring such as acne scars. An atrophic scar is an indented scar that heals below the outer layer of skin. It happens when the skin is unable to regenerate skin tissue and it is often the result of acne or chickenpox.
Several studies have shown the benefits of microneedling for atrophic scarring, specifically for facial scars caused by acne. In a 2015 study, 10 patients were subjected to three months of microneedling treatments—six sessions spaced two weeks apart—then tested for collagen synthesis and evaluated for the severity of their scarring. At the end of the study, all 10 exhibited noticeable improvements in their scars and there was a statistically significant increase in collagen production.
What’s the Recovery Like?
Compared to many cosmetic procedures, microneedling has a short recovery period. For several days after the procedure your skin may be a little red and you may experience some minor irritation. For the most part, however, side effects are mild and subside within a few days.
Should You Try It at Home?
Though you can find dermarollers for sale online, most dermatologists recommend against performing the procedure yourself at home. In fact, the FDA has announced that it will begin regulating the use of at-home microneedling devices due to the perceived risks.
As simple as it may seem to just roll the device across your skin, you should remember that you’re actually creating a wound in the skin. This opens you up to a risk for infection and, if you do it wrong, additional scarring. After microneedling, your skin may also be more sensitive to certain skincare products, so it is best to have the procedure performed by a licensed and experienced professional.
Whether you’re looking for a long-term solution for wrinkle reduction or you have facial scarring from acne that you’d rather live without, microneedling is an option to consider.
Before you consent to the procedure, be sure to do your own research so you are fully prepared for the procedure itself as well as the aftercare. Though minimally invasive, microneedling does come with certain risks and it is up to you to take care of your body by making smart, informed decisions regarding your health and wellness.
If you want more tips on how to keep your skin looking healthy, fresh and young, check out our blog.