Call us crazy, but the word “needle” isn’t necessarily one we associate with our daily skin care routine. But thanks to the internet, microneedling—an anti-aging procedure that, until recently, had stayed locked away in the dermatologist’s office—has become the beauty term of the moment. We decided to get to the bottom of this buzzy term to see if this procedure is really all it’s touted to be.
First Things First: What Is It?
Microneedling is actually known as “collagen induction therapy” in the derm world, and it’s meant to encourage collagen production to deliver a more youthful, plumper appearance. According to board-certified dermatologist S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, CEO and founder of Miami Skin Institute, microneedling is done with a five- to six-inch roller that is covered with semi-blunt needles (yes, real needles). It’s these needles that are the key to collagen production. They actually create small “channels” or “openings” in the skin that will then heal quickly and cause collagen contraction in the skin—aka growth.
Another popular term you might have heard partnered with microneedling is PRP or platelet rich plasma. “PRP refers to a procedure where a patient’s blood is drawn and the platelet rich portion is either injected to the treated area after needling or applied to the skin after microneedling,” explains Dr. Francesca Fusco of Wexler Dermatology in New York City. “The growth factors present in the blood cells stimulate collagen, regeneration, and possibly hair follicles.”
Who Can Get Microneedling?
Here’s the good part: everyone! Dr. Jegasothy explains that microneedling is actually a favorite procedure of many derms, as it’s safe for even the darkest of skin tones because it doesn’t cause hyperpigmentation.
And it’s not just an anti-aging wunderkind. Microneedling serves a variety of patients. Dr. Fusco explains that although the procedure is often used on the face and neck for those concerned with wrinkles and crepey skin, it’s also used to treat those suffering from acne scars. Fun fact: Microneedling can even be used on the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
What You Can Expect
First off, if needles aren’t your thing, this might not be the right procedure for you. But if you’re raring to go, there are a few things to expect before booking your appointment with your derm.
Most importantly: It shouldn’t hurt. According to the pros, your doctor will apply a topical numbing cream to your skin, so you shouldn’t feel much discomfort during the process.
If it’s your first time, Dr. Jegasothy says you can expect mild redness and perhaps a “raw” feeling for one day. “After that, skin should be mildly pink for one to two days, and then you will begin to experience the benefits of microneedling—a smoother, more glowing complexion,” she says.
Immediately post treatment, your skin care routine should change ever so slightly. According to Dr. Howard Sobel, founder of DDF Skincare, you should apply a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 25 or greater to protect the newly treated skin. And for the next few days, he says you should treat your skin to a gentle cleanse with tepid water and a dry pat-down. As for products? Your doctor might recommend certain serums or creams to use, but hold off on the makeup. For the first twenty-four hours post-procedure, Dr. Sobel recommends going au naturel to give your skin time to recover.
Lastly, the procedure takes about thirty minutes, and depending on the intensity of your treatment, it doesn’t have to be repeated for quite a while. Dr. Sobel explains that milder treatments might be repeated every two to four weeks, while deeper treatments (like those for healing scars) might be repeated every four to six weeks. You should consult your derm to see how frequent your treatments should be.
Should You Try It at Home?
The short answer? No. While all the dermatologists we spoke to say microneedling isn’t painful necessarily, they do caution patients about trying the procedure out themselves for safety and efficacy reasons.
First off, Dr. Fusco explains there might be a difference in the type of roller (and thus the results) used in the doctor’s office versus the one you purchase for OTC. “In office microneedling devices may go deeper and can be adjusted to go to varying depths,” she says. In addition, she adds that professional-use devices might be partnered with radiowave frequency to improve the results. Your at-home roller likely will not have the same bells and whistles, so your results might not be the same as a pro’s.
Secondly, our experts warn against the risk of infection and possible scarring when needling at home. “You’re creating a wound in the skin, which always carries with it the potential for scarring,” explains Dr. Sobel. “The procedure is effective and valuable but best done by a dermatologist.” And really, creating a totally sterile environment at home is pretty darn difficult!
Bottom line: Microneedling just might deserve all that buzz after all, but it's best practiced at the derm's office.
Photo Credit: Britt Rene Photography