The concept of microneedling, an in-office skincare treatment that involves puncturing the face with tiny needles, is intimidating in itself, so DIY-ing the procedure at-home probably sounds terrifying. But, when armed with the right device and know-how, microneedling at home can be a cost-effective way to a clearer, youthful complexion.
To find out exactly how to do an at-home version of the effective treatment and how to pick the best device for your skin needs, we turned to Jordana Mattioli, licensed esthetician at CompleteSkinMD in N.Y.C.
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What Is Microneedling?
A microneedling device looks like a paint roller covered in spikes that punctures skin when you run it over your face. Piercing the skin with tiny holes stimulates collagen production and essentially kick starts the skin’s natural healing process. This is what makes microneedling such an effective method of minimizing acne scars and signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.
It also helps your skincare lineup work better, too. “These tiny punctures allow skin care ingredients to penetrate faster than they would on their own, therefore making changes in your skin faster,” explains Mattioli.
What's the Difference Between In-Office and At-Home Microneedling?
While in-office treatments are usually done with an electric or battery-operated device that can resemble a traditional roller or pen, at-home microneedling is most commonly performed with manual dermarollers, like the Cosmetic Roll-CIT by Environ. The main difference between having an esthetician or dermatologist perform the procedure rather than yourself is that the professional version will use longer needles that go much deeper to treat acne scars, wrinkles, and other skin damage.
“The at-home microneedling rollers simply get rolled onto the skin, there are tiny needles that make punctures on the skin (the at home versions will get your skin a little pink, but aren't deep enough where you'll see blood droplets),” says Mattioli. “At home microneedling with a roller isn't going deep enough to treat deep scars or deep wrinkles, but they will absolutely improve the texture of skin and make those deep wrinkles/scars look a little better.
Mattioli says that there’s two ways that at-home treatments will improve skin conditions except for active acne or rosacea: the needles penetrate just deep enough to stimulate your skin’s own epidermal growth factors to boost collagen and will help the topical skincare products you apply after rolling to penetrate deeper to enhance their results.
So, How Do I Know Which Device to Buy?
A foolproof way of purchasing the roller for your skincare needs to consult your esthetician or dermatologist so they can recommend your ideal needle length, as well as give you a quick tutorial on how to use it.
If you can’t talk to a medical professional, Mattioli recommends researching respected brands, reading reviews, choosing the correct needle length, and not skimpy with price to make sure you’re purchasing a quality roller.
To ensure you won’t break or tear the skin, Mattioli says to stick with rollers that have needles that are either .2mm, .25mm, or .3mm. “Never go over .3mm for the face,” she says. Her favorite rollers are from Environ, one of the first brands to make these devices accessible for at-home use.
How Do You Actually Use a Microneedling Device?
While you can use a roller on all skin types, Mattioli stresses that you should never use one if you active acne, extremely sensitive skin, or rosacea, and to never use one on cold sores or cuts. She also suggests doing the treatment at night since your skin will get a little pink from doing it, and starting off rolling once a week at first, working up to 3 to 5 times a week.
After you’ve cleansed and applied your serum of choice to your complexion, apply gentle pressure to roll the device over your skin vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. “You should do 2 to 4 passes/rolls vertically, followed by another 2 to 4 rolls horizontally, etc. on the same section then move on to the next area,” Mattioli says. Next, apply a second layer of serum (it can be the same one you used pre-rolling or a different product).
Once you’ve covered every area of the face, she recommends waiting a few minutes before applying any other creams or lotions other than your serum. Since rolling will enhance your products’ absorption it’s best to use caution when applying things like alpha hydroxy acids or retinols. Even better, avoid these ingredients on nights you’re rolling at first until your skin gets used to the procedure.
How Do I Keep My Device Clean?
As soon as you’re done using your roller, sterilize it in alcohol or specialized roller cleaner for 3 to 5 minutes and let it air-dry before storing it back in its container.
Equally important is replacing your roller when its time is up. “Replace the roller every month if you are using it frequently,” says Mattioli. “Your first roller will last about 3 months, but if you're using it a few times a week, you'll want to get a new one each month since the needles will dull.”