You may have heard of microneedling – after all, it’s been around in one form or another for over 50 years! But what is it exactly?
Microneedling, also called collagen induction therapy (CIT), is a process that involves using tiny needles to puncture hundreds of tiny holes in the top layer of the skin. In the past it was done mainly with a roller, but these days it’s more commonly performed by a dermatologist with an electronic tool called a Dermapen (which looks a little like an electric toothbrush). The Dermapen allows the practitioner to fine-tune the process to a client’s needs in different areas of the dermis.
Who Needs Microneedling?
Microneedling has been proven to be an effective treatment for everything from wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and dull skin, to issues such as stretch marks and scars. But it’s especially useful for diminishing deep facial scars from things like cystic acne or chickenpox that occurred earlier in life.
Kim Kardashian is a fan – in fact microneedling became very popular after she underwent a procedure called a “Vampire Facial” on her show. This procedure, called “microneedling with PRP” in the medical field, involves the practitioner injecting a client’s own platelet-rich blood into their face to supercharge collagen and elastin production. As Kim was pregnant at the time, she was forced to undergo the procedure without the benefit of skin-numbing cream… a painful decision she does not look back on fondly!
That being said, microneedling is certainly a very worthwhile procedure. In fact, a study on microneedling showed that 80% of patients saw a dramatic improvement in reduction of scarring and rated their treatment as “excellent!” I personally have witnessed the life-changing effects of microneedling in some of my clients, as it radically enhances the texture of your skin. Here is a recent before-and-after shot of one of my clients.
How does microneedling work?
The microneedles have two purposes. First, the needles create “microchannels” which allow potent skincare products to penetrate and be absorbed into the deeper layers of skin to deliver more powerful results.
Second, these tiny pinpricks trigger the body’s healing response, stimulating collagen and elastin production. This in turn plumps up the skin and improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, smoothing scars and minimizing pores.
The whole process usually only takes about half an hour. You can expect some redness and soreness for a few days after the procedure, but that subsides quickly and your new, smoother skin begins to show itself.
Repeated treatments are usually advised on a monthly basis, as microneedling is like exercising… the more you do it, the stronger and healthier your skin will become!
Is Microneedling Safe?
Microneedling is indeed considered to be safe and routine procedure, with a few caveats. The PRP variant, known as the “Vampire Facial” as described above, led to an outbreak of HIV and hepatitis infections in New Mexico several years ago, so I would recommend you only get such procedures done at a reputable, sterile dermatology clinic like ours.
Regular, non-PRP microneedling treatments involve no fluid transfers of any kind, so there is little to no risk of infection... again, if done by a licensed professional.
There is a small risk of complications when microneedling is performed on active acne sores or skin suffering from rosacea or eczema, so microneedling is best done on skin that has already healed from trauma as best it could. Think reduction of scar tissue, not healing of open wounds.
Another side effect that is occasionally reported is that the skin can become irritated by overly strong serum applications after the procedure, so it’s best to do a patch test of any serums after the skin has begun healing to see how sensitive your skin is.
For most clients, the most common result is a slight redness that persists for a few hours after the procedure. By the next morning, even this has subsided, and most people will be able to resume their regular activities and skincare regimen.
Is Microneedling Painful?
I’ve performed hundreds of microneedling procedures for my clients, and the general consensus is that it’s almost completely painless. We use a topical cream to numb the skin first, so for most patients, all they feel is a vibrating pressure in the affected area. If, like Kim Kardashian, you choose to have the procedure done without a topical anaesthetic, I imagine it might be very uncomfortable, but happily none of my clients has ever gone this route!
So that’s the down-low on microneedling! If you’d never dream of shedding blood to improve your skin, I have a few products I recommend below that will help reduce fine lines and wrinkles without the need for a microneedling procedure.
Many patients ask what products they should use after a microneedling procedure to take advantage of their newly irrigated skin. There are a few I recommend:
Interfuse Intensive Treatment by SkinBetter. This is a premium hyaluronic acid in a soft cream. Due to its high concentration of active ingredients it is only available to purchase in doctor's offices, and in fact we carry this one at The Idaho Skin Institute.
Intense Moisturizer by EltaMD. Comes in a ointment-like consistency which really feels soothing when you are post-procedure and skin is tender. Similar to the SkinBetter products, EltaMD is only available from physicians, and we do carry it at The Idaho Skin Institute.
Hyaline by NeoCutis is a hyaluronic acid in a premium-grade gel and is available from Amazon. It will penetrate deep into your newly-opened pores and work its magic down there, plus it's very rich and soothing.