Micro-needling: The practice of puncturing (injuring) skin with tiny, sharp points that may result in bleeding, but used as an effective treatment for acne scars. Among beauty treatments, this one potentially has quite an “ouch” factor and even sounds a little medieval. Understandably, many wonder if micro-needling is worth the pain.
Indeed, it’s smart to question the hype accompanying new skincare treatments and products. What’s touted as a miracle innovation may ultimately be ineffective, unsafe, or simply a waste of money. Fortunately, micro-needling has been repeatedly studied in clinical settings and proven an effective treatment for acne scars. When performed at home, micro-needling is inexpensive, especially when compared to professional treatments offering the similar benefits, such as ablative lasers. Safely using a micro-needling device requires an understanding how micro-needling effects the skin.
What Is Micro-Needling?
Source: Shanelle Thoreson
Micro-needling is used to treat textured acne scars, premature aging, stretch-marks, and cellulite. The procedure is also used to enhance the absorption of skincare ingredients (like vitamin C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid). While some beauty treatments change the appearance of skin by removing the surface layer of skin, micro-needling leaves several small pinpricks in the treated area. Puncturing the skin causes trauma, which the body then works to repair. This repair process releases growth factors that stimulate the production of collagen. Micro-needling is often described as “collagen induction.”
In the case of atrophic scarring (depressions in the skin), the micro-trauma at the dermis and the consequent production of new collagen minimizes the skin’s “memory” of scarring. Although the scarring may not completely go away, the skin will likely heal with a noticeably smoother surface.
3 Micro-needling Devices:
Micro-needling can be performed in a medical setting, at a spa, or at home. Here are the three tools used:
1. Derma Pen
Source: Total Dermatology
A derma pen looks like a pen and is fitted with a circular head featuring tiny needles. These needles may range from .25mm to 3mm or may be adjusted using settings on the pen. Derma pens are motorized and deliver tiny punctures to the skin using a stamping motion.
2. Derma Stamp
Source: Vaughter Wellness
A derma stamp is like a derma pen but may be a bit larger. It’s motorized or manual.
3. Derma Roller
Source: Sheffeild Medi Spa
A derma roller looks like a miniature lawn aerator or paint roller with spikes. This manual tool is rolled along skin rather than stamped. Derma rollers may have anywhere between 200 and 500 needles. Needles come in varying lengths.
Does micro-needling really work?
Source: Real Simple
The short answer is yes. Micro-needling, when performed properly, stimulates growth of new collagen, which has potential to improve skin’s appearance—but micro-needling may or may not be the best procedure depending on your skincare concerns.
Acne scars: Research overwhelming illustrates that micro-needling is a successful and relatively easy treatment for acne scarring but with one caveat: very deep scars. A 2009 study acknowledges that deep scars did not respond to the treatment as well as mild or moderately pitted scarring; deeper scars, however, would similarly not respond as well to laser resurfacing and would likely require surgery.
Aside from truly deep scars, however, micro-needling has been found to encourage smoother skin without scar formation. The process of treating acne scars with micro-needling is a gradual process that may require multiple sessions, but results are lasting. A 2014 study found that five sittings of derma roller treatment significantly decreased the appearance of atrophic acne scars while another study reported a high level of patient satisfaction and reduction of scar severity—if not total disappearance of scars.
When it comes to other micro-needling treatments, like those for anti-aging and enhanced product absorption, dermatologist Paula Begoun has her doubts: “There is absolutely not enough research to support a recommendation to use such tools as part of an anti-aging routine or to gain better results from deeper penetration of cosmetic ingredients.”
Anti-aging: Begoun’s first concern is that anti-aging regimens involving a micro-needling device recommend frequent (or even daily) use of the device. Repeated injury to the skin without proper downtime causes an imbalance in type I and III collagen (the two most prevalent types of collagen). When type I and III collagen are in balance, skin looks healthy. An imbalance of collagen types, however, results in stiffer less radiant skin. Bottom line: Allow significant downtime between micro-needling procedures; most sources recommend at least six weeks between sessions.
Product absorption: While it’s true that products will more deeply penetrate skin through the channels created by the needles, this is not necessarily a good thing. Begoun explains that this avenue of treatment has only been minimally explored to date—not to mention, most skincare products are intended to work their magic on the surface of skin. Trusted ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and retinol can be more sensitizing when they penetrate more deeply. Micro-needling’s effect on collagen and skin healing is dramatic enough. A gentle, minimalist moisturizer sunscreen combo is probably the best thing you can put on skin after a micro-needling treatment.
How to use a derma roller, derma stamp, or derma pen safely:
Source: By Dianawi
Device: The first step in using micro-needling at home is determining which device is best suited for you. While many home users report success with a derma roller (which also happens to be the least expensive option of the three), dermatologist Terry Loong prefers electric derma pens or derma stamps. The vertical penetration of derma pens and stamps reduces the potential for pain and bleeding while allowing for more precision maneuvering around the eyes, mouth, and nose.
Needle size: Needle lengths of .25mm-1mm may be used for general anti-aging procedures. For moderate acne scarring, a needle length of at least 1.5mm is recommended; it’s a good idea to discuss the use of longer needles with your dermatologist before jumping in.
Protect your skin. Although micro-needling is relatively non-invasive, your skin will probably be a bit sensitive and pinkish (like a sunburn) for a few days after treatment. Avoid washing skin for 6-8 hours post treatment, avoid makeup for at least 24 hours, and wear sunscreen religiously—especially if you are prone to hyperpigmentation.
Stay clean. Get friendly with rubbing alcohol, and sanitize your micro-needling device before and after treatments according to manufacturer’s instructions. Also, avoid needling over broken skin or active acne, which could spread bacteria.
Avoid micro-needling too much. In addition to allowing skin to heal for six weeks between treatments, be careful to avoid passing over one area of skin too many times. It’s generally advised to pass over one strip of skin no more than 10 times per sitting.