Microneedling may sound like an intimidating procedure, no thanks to the word "needle" in its name, but the treatment can be considered a more effective way to do a facial—aside from the numbing cream involved. "You're really building collagen and thickening the skin, so instead of looking good for a few days after your traditional facial, your skin is smooth and radiant for much longer," explains Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon Dr. Sheila Nazarian. "It's such a safe procedure, and is great for filling in acne scars." Of course, the idea of getting needles inserted into your face for the sake of skincare can seem intimidating, but if you've seen the before and after shots, there's no questioning the treatment's effectiveness, and instead of using injectable fillers to repair an indented area, the process kick-starts your body's own natural collagen production to heal the skin on its own. We asked Dr. Nazarian for a crash course on the treatment, so you can determine whether or not it's right for you.
What Is It?
Also referred to as Dermapen and Rejuvapen, microneedling is a treatment that involves using a tool with 11 super-tiny needles in the very tip, which can be adjusted by your professional between 0.5 and 2.5 millimeters. "0.5 millimeters is the smallest amount, which penetrates the stratum cornea, or the superficial layer of skin," Nazarian tells us. "You can think of microneedling as collagen induction—or collagen induction therapy, which is another name for it—and the treatment creates micro-punctures from the needles inyour skin. Your body treats a small wound the same way as a large wound, and sends fibroblasts to create more collagen in the affected area. We are basically tricking your skin into thinking it has been wounded, but as a result, we're thickening the skin and improving the texture with this procedure." At Nazarian's practice, the treatment begins by first cleansing the face, then a growth factor serum by Tensage is then applied all over. Your doctor will then needle the serum in, apply another layer, then use a mask over the top to seal everything in. Keep in mind, this is not the same procedure as a "vampire facial," which uses growth factor from your own blood, and is recommended for very advanced signs of aging.
Who Should Do It?
If you need to grow a thicker skin—not necessarily in terms of your friends roasting you in the group chat—you're probably a good candidate. "It's great for acne scarring, and because it doesn't use heat and is totally mechanical, it's safe for all skin colors and types," Nazarian says. "The treatment is wonderful for smoothing out the skin and filling in acne scars, but if you have those small bumps from clogged pores, it can help to clear all of that up as well." Just make sure there aren't any inflamed or infected areas on your skin, and if you have a cystic breakout, wait until it clears up before going in for your appointment.
Does It Hurt?
It shouldn't, provided that your practitioner numbs the area first. "We use a cream to numb the skin really well, so we can go as deep as we need to," she says. Afterwards you can expect the skin to be a little pink, and at the very worst, a few tiny punctate scabs that fade in a few days.
Which Areas on the Body Can Be Treated?
Microneedling isn't exclusive to just the face area. The treatment can be done anywhere the skin on the body needs to be thickened, particularly those that have stretch marks, like the legs, chest, or butt, and 4 to 6 sessions on average usually do the trick.
How Often Can I Get It Done?
Depends on the severity of the issue. "If your skin is generally fine and you take care of it, you can microneedle every 3 to 6 months, but someone with dramatic acne scarring should plan to do one session per month for 4 to 6 months," Nazarian explains. "After that, you can come in once a year for a touch-up whenever you feel like you need to give your skin a reboot."
What Should I Do Afterwards?
Ideally, you'll want to avoid putting on makeup for the rest of the day, but if you have prior commitments, it's totally safe to wear later in the night. "We advise people not to use retinol or anything too active for a few days, and we send them home with a box of the growth factor serum to put on before bed, and then again in the morning," Nazarian says. "You can apply more in the morning, and you can go back to your regular makeup routne then, and the vials of growth factor serum should be used every night until you run out."
How Do the At-Home Dermarollers Compare?
"When you come in for a microneedling treatment, I'd compare that to working out with a trainer, whereas a dermaroller is like working out at the gym by yourself," Nazarian explains. "Working out by yourself is definitely good, but you'll have more dramatic results and a better workout with a trainer." If you choose to incorporate a dermaroller like GloPRO's ($200; neimanmarcus.com) into your home routine, Nazarian advises doing it on completely cleansed skin before bed, then applying a serum over the top. "Microneedling at home is pretty safe since the at-home dermarollers are about 0.5 mm and I can't imagine you'd be able to go much deeper, but you want to make sure you're under the right circumstances," she adds.
How Can I Find a Professional?
Just like with any procedure, do your research to find a licensed practitioner, and ask your fair share of questions. "A lot of places won't do a mask or serum, or even numb the patient, so that's why I think price ranges can vary," Nazarian says. "You should ask if they numb, if they use a growth factor serum, if they use a mask, and if aftercare is provided. These all help to get the best result."