If you’re prone to acne and can’t quite eradicate the pesky dark spots left after each breakout, allow me to refer you to microneedling. We’ve spoken to countless dermatologists about the benefits of microneedling, and they can all agree: The treatment does it all.
The minimally invasive treatment can be used all over the body – from scalp to ankles – to improve the appearance of scars, boost collagen or promote hair growth. Microneedling is also a standard treatment for fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage and stretch marks.
The practice dates back to 1995, but has gained significant traction in recent years thanks to new technology – and YouTube, TikTok, Instagram. As a result, the fascinating (albeit bloody) process stars tens of thousands of videos and before/after photos that would prompt anyone to book the service quickly. Here, dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD, Ph.D., who has published extensive research on microneedling, and Yale clinical professor and dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD demystify multi-purpose processing.
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Microneedling creates microscopic punctures in the skin.
Simply put, microneedling is the insertion of very fine, short, sterilized needles into the skin for rejuvenation. “When the skin feels these pinpricks, your body will naturally rush to heal them, resulting in a fuller, more youthful appearance,” says Alexiades. The most popular (and cost effective) microneedling device, a dermarollers, includes microfine needles that vary in diameter from 0.5 to 2.5 millimeters. But if the prospect of multiple small needlestick wounds sounds a little ominous to you, know that punctures are more like needlesticks that are only surface-deep.
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You can get it at the office or do it at home.
But those looking to transform their skin should look into in-office treatments. “The advantage of having microneedling done by your dermatologist is that it can be done with PRP, which makes it more effective,” says Gohara. But the disadvantages are that you have to plan time for the treatment and that it can be more expensive. “If you do it at home, it’s less effective, but you can do it however you want.”
In general, in-office treatments use slightly sharper needles that are safe when used by a professional. Devices at home still work, but they can be much gentler to reduce the risk of injury. If you choose to microneedle at home, make sure you use clean, sterilized equipment to avoid an infection.
Microneedling gives fairly immediate results.
“From microneedling alone, you’ll look plump, pink and luminous for a few weeks. In the short term, it plumps the skin and makes the skin look more radiant from inflammation and very superficial swelling,” says Alexiades. But because the effectiveness of microneedling comes from the skin healing itself, some people may only see intense results after a few sessions. But microneedling also promises improvement over time. Treating the skin with several microneedling sessions at least a month apart can produce an increase in collagen and skin elasticity.
You can supercharge it with a serum.
“I love using a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum with a dermaroller,” says Gohara. “I enjoy the ability to run in hydration. Antioxidants and niacinamide are also favorites.” We also love a serum-soaked sheet mask right after a dermarolling session at home.
There have been significant breakthroughs this year.
“Radiofrequency microneedling uses the added technology of flow needles to deliver radiofrequency energy into the dermis,” Gohara says of the in-office option. “That radiofrequency energy heats the dermis, which causes collagen production and tissue tightening.”
Microneedling can also work to reduce cellulite.
Alexiades is working with a new crop of microneedling devices like the Profound by Candela. She uses the machine for crepe-like fine lines as well as loose skin and cellulite.
Your dermaroller works well with other skin care treatments.
Alexiades recommends pairing microneedling with topical treatments (like her High performance face cream) and lasers. “Often we use this as an opportunity to apply anti-aging preparations that penetrate better through the needle points. When you combine with topicals, you have a shot at some collagen building. When combined with radio frequency, you can see tissue tightening over months ,” she says.
DIY microneedling is legal…
As long as your dermatologist approves! Gohara warns that people with eczema, rosacea, acne, keloids and perioral dermatitis should avoid rolling at home, as it can cause flare-ups or scarring. For a gentle introduction to at-home microneedling, try the beauty stamp from celebrity skincare guru Nurse Jamie. The handheld tool works exactly as its name suggests, imprinting the skin with ultra-fine needles designed to increase the effectiveness of your topical treatments and boost collagen (just like a traditional dermaroller). Again, it is always important to clean your microneedling tools before use, even if you are the only one using them. Ask your doctor if you are in doubt.
It is possible to OD on microneedling.
Frequent microneedling can lead to broken capillaries “and predispose the skin to a plastic appearance if you overuse it with repeated microneedling insults,” says Alexiades. Instead, avoid dependence on dermarollers by sticking to a once-a-month schedule and always allowing for full recovery between sessions.
You must be gentle with your skin after microneedling.
“Allow the skin to cool after microneedling,” says Gohara. “For the rest of the day, don’t wash your skin, expose it to high heat, or sweat excessively (that means no sun, no gym, no hot yoga).” Instead, stock up on skin-loving products like the ones below:
How do you know it’s working?
Marks will appear less noticeable, wrinkles will be finer and the quality of your skin will be generally healthier.
Microneedling alone provides only temporary results.
Alexiades notes that a recent AAD study found that microneedling alone can provide temporary results that don’t last. “As my over 10 years of research has shown, you need to combine microneedling with radiofrequency to get long-term wrinkle and scar reduction and improvements in skin quality,” explains Alexiades.