For some, the idea of a few needle pricks for Botox or filler is a scary hurdle to overcome. But needle pricks covering nearly every square millimeter of your face? That sounds like madness! And yet microneedling, a treatment in which a dermatologist pricks your skin with short micro-fine needles, usually with a dermaroller device, is gaining traction for those seeking facial rejuvenation.
Rejuvenation via tiny puncture wounds?
“Yes, this process leads to increased collagen formation in the second layer of the skin, which reduces the appearance of fines lines and wrinkles,” reports Dr. Ted Lain, an Austin, Texas-based board certified dermatologist and Allergan physician trainer.
The Benefits of Microneedling
The benefits of microneedling are plentiful: According to Dr. Lain, the treatment helps even out textural irregularities caused by uneven thickness of the uppermost layer of the skin; can help improve pigment issues if used in combination with corrective skin care products; and can reduce the appearance of rolling and boxcar-type acne scars, especially if its newer scar tissue. But fine lines and wrinkles are where microneedling’s benefits really shine. “The resulting collagen production not only improves fine lines and wrinkles, but also skin plumpness and a youthful appearance,” says Dr. Lain.
What to Consider Before Microneedling
“Certainly cost is an important factor, but microneedling compares very favorably — about $625 per session on average — to many other procedures that purport to grow collagen, like lasers,” reports Dr. Lain.
Though the procedure can be a little bit painful (tons of pin pricks, anyone?), numbing cream applied prior to the procedure helps to minimize discomfort.
If you’re queasy about blood, don’t watch microneedling sessions on YouTube; it can be a semi-bloody affair — but nothing too extreme. Dr. Lain shares that downtime after a procedure relates to “the depth and vigor of the treatment,” but that most patients experience redness for one to two days and then slight peeling for about five to seven days.
How Many Treatments Will You Need?
“Since we’re causing collagen production and are relying on the patient’s own skin to do most of the work, multiple treatments are required,” shares Dr. Lain. He recommends monthly sessions for at least three months, though many patients opt to continue sessions beyond three months for maximum benefits, which makes sense: A 2008 study found that microneedling sessions spaced one month apart for four months can increase collagen by 400 percent.
The Risks of Microneedling
Anything that involves open wounds can present a risk for infection. “Patients need to ensure that they keep their face clean and moisturized after the treatment, and avoid dirty environments for two to three days,” says Dr. Lain. That includes dirty phones: He recommends cleaning your phone screen daily to reduce the amount of bacteria or viruses coming in contact with the skin after a microneedling treatment.
If you have a ruddy or red complexion, microneedling recovery time can be lengthier. “It can lead to a prolonged flushed appearance, though sunscreen and calming moisturizers may help to reduce this,” Dr. Lain says.
The expense of in-office microneedling may prompt you to consider an at-home device, but Dr. Lain warns against it. “The risk of infection is high,” he says. You need to be on top of sterilization and cleanliness: Research if the device has been properly sterilized by the manufacturer before purchasing it, be extra diligent about cleaning the device after each use with rubbing alcohol, and be sure your skin is cleansed prior to needling to avoid infection. Beyond that, Dr. Lain reports that — rightfully so — at-home dermarollers aren’t built to the same level of efficacy as in-office devices. “The needles get blunt even after one treatment, meaning more pain with subsequent treatments and less benefit,” he says.
Microneedling as Procedure Partner
Though microneedling can be an effective treatment alone, it is also a great complement to other cosmetic procedures. “Platelet-rich plasma can be added during or after a treatment, with the idea that the growth factors and peptides in the plasma may provide a turbo boost to the collagen production,” says Dr. Lain. Red LED light is also a popular add-on after microneedling due to its ability to improve collagen production, providing a double whammy of collagen regeneration.