In this era of show-and-tell skin care that is 2023—when sharing an acupuncture facial session on Instagram is as common as an #OOTD—there’s a good chance you’ve heard of microneedling. The minimally invasive procedure, which involves inserting fine short needles into the skin, can help diminish the appearance of acne scars, wrinkles, and even some stretch marks when performed by a trained expert. And while the idea can sound slightly scary, there’s actually not much to be afraid of. Experts love microneedling and assure you that it’s really no big deal. Here, they break down everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the transformative treatment.
What is microneedling?
To begin, New York City-based dermatologist and Mohs surgeon Mary Stevenson, MD, clarifies the difference between at-home microneedling and the in-office procedure. “In general,” she says, “[at home methods] of microneedling are less effective.” In a doctor’s office, however, the treatment has been proven to help skin’s overall texture and stimulate collagen production. “The needles range from 0.5 to 2.5 millimeters and rotates over the skin from a pen-like device, which creates tiny wounds that breach the stratum corneum—the top-most layer of the skin—to reach the epidermis and deeper dermis,” she explains. “If we are able to create tiny controlled injuries, then we are able to promote collagen formation,” which in turn allows the skin to remain tighter and thicker as we age. The procedure is often paired with a topical application of platelet rich plasma, or PRP, which helps speed up healing.
What are the benefits of microneedling?
“Microneedling can be used to help with a variety of concerns,” Stevenson explains. “The treatment can minimize pore size and improve skin quality and texture,” plus help reduce the appearance of acne scars, stretch marks, and even fine lines and wrinkles. Aesthetic nurse practitioner Anne Marie Fombu builds on this: “I always recommend microneedling for reducing the appearance of enlarged pores, fine lines, wrinkled “crepey” skin, mild scars (especially from acne or burns), hyperpigmentation and stretch marks.”
What are the side effects of microneedling?
When done correctly, risks should be minimal. You may experience some redness and tenderness for a few days after treatment, but those side effects typically go away on their own. Especially for in-office treatments, it is important you see a well-trained licensed technician with experience to avoid any complications. Hadley King, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist, says that infection can occur if a practitioner overdoes it with the needle pressure creating bigger wounds than intended or if an at-home microneedling device isn’t properly cleaned.
King says that while this is safe for most, she wouldn’t recommend it for someone who has extremely sensitive skin as it might cause irritation. She also says to avoid this treatment or derma rolling at home on inflamed skin, cystic acne, and breakouts to avoid creating more damage.
What’s the recovery process like?
Post-microneedling recovery is quite simple and if you get it as an in-office treatment, your dermatologist will outline instructions for any aftercare. These micro wounds should also heal fairly quickly, though you might not see immediate results until a few weeks later. King recommends applying a hyaluronic acid, growth factor, or peptide serum after so that the active ingredients can absorb into the skin and address the concerns you wanted to treat. Sunscreen use is also recommended to protect the skin.
To avoid irritation, adds you should not apply makeup on freshly microneedled skin and to take a break from products like retinol and alpha- and beta hydroxy acids until your skin is fully healed. You’ll also want to avoid any activity—swimming, intense workouts, and the like—where you might excessively sweat.
Can I DIY microneedling at home?
There are many at-home microneedling tools on the market which, over time, can have skin-brightening and tightening effects. But, Stevenson explains, “at-home devices do not go as deep as in-office procedures,” which makes them less effective.