For years, we’ve been told to break habits that hurt our skin (i.e. don’t pick at scabs) but could we be doing it wrong? Could hurting our skin actually make it look better? Many plastic surgeons and dermatologists say yes.
RealSelf asked 500 board-certified doctors to predict the hot aesthetic trend for 2016. The answer that came up most often? Microneedling.
How Does Microneedling Work?
A non-surgical procedure, microneedling uses tiny needles to puncture the skin and create “micro injuries.” Those small wounds trigger the skin to repair itself by producing new collagen. More collagen, of course, means plumper, smoother, and healthier-looking skin.
“The point is to stimulate healing by causing damage,” said Seattle dermatologic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Reichel. “One of the good things about the treatment is that as long as you get the needles down deep enough, you’re not hurting the top layer of the skin, so it’s safe for all skin types.”
This has inspired doctors to use microneedling to address a litany of common skin issues, including fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, and enlarged pores.
“There is no skin type that doesn’t benefit from it,” said Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Sheila S. Nazarian. “You know that gorgeous glow you get after a facial that only lasts a short while? This gives you that glow, and it lasts four to six weeks.”
The terms “Dermapen” and “dermarollers” come up a lot when researching microneedling. What’s the difference?
“Microneedling is the procedure and Dermapen is one brand of microneedling — like tissue and Kleenex,” explains Dr. Nazarian. Dermarollers, meanwhile, are what people use at home and, she adds, they aren’t as effective.
“Because they’re on a roller, those at-home devices are sending needles in and out of your skin at an angle,” she said, noting that the needles are often a third the length of an in-office device. “They’re actually nicking the skin as they come out, so it’s causing more damage than you want.”
There’s also a risk of infection, which increases the chances of a breakout if the skin isn’t sterile enough before treatment.
What to Expect
That risk of infection is why in a doctor’s office a patient’s face is thoroughly cleaned before treatment. Then a topical anesthetic and human growth factor serum are applied. The serum, often a cream or a gel, varies from office to office. Sometimes it’s something as commonplace as hyaluronic acid, other times it’s something more exotic like snail slime. Needling, doctors say, increases the effectiveness of the serum and inspires the skin to do more to look good.
The needling itself typically feels like a slight vibration, sometimes a slight tingling, on the skin. All told, the procedure takes about an hour and might result in some redness. That often lasts less than an hour for darker skintones and sometimes several days for fairer, more sensitive skin.
“You know that gorgeous glow you get after a facial? This gives you that for four to six weeks.”
The New Frontier
There’s now also a supercharged version of microneedling called EndyMed, which combines microneedling and radiofrequency technology for enhanced results. According to Charlotte’s Book expert and New York City dermatologist Dr. Doris Day, it can even be used to treat cellulite and stretch marks.
But Does Microneedling Work?
There are a few caveats. Dr. Day and fellow Charlotte’s Book dermatologist Dr. Mitchell Kline both note that there are no large scale clinical studies that document whether or not the treatment is effective.
“I’m a little bit concerned because I still think it’s a little bit of the wild, wild west,” said Dr. Day. “We don’t really have standardized protocols or data on this technique.” However, anecdotal evidence and procedures like serial photography demonstrate that the treatment does work. Just go into it with appropriate expectations, said Dr. Day.
Most RealSelf consumers seem to be convinced. Three-quarters of those who’ve had microneedling say it was worth their time and money. Interest is also up, increasing by 57% in the months since microneedling became a topic on RealSelf.
Doctors are noticing that uptick in popularity too.
“I’ve seen younger microneedling patients with acne scars and older microneedling patients with sun damage and wrinkles,” said Nashville plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Burgdorf. “It’s becoming wildly popular with all of them.”
Interested in learning more about any of these procedures? Ask a doctor.