After-care plays a way bigger role than I ever imagined.

By Laura Reilly
Updated: Apr 29, 2019 @ 1:45 pm
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Liliya Rodnikova/Stocksy

It’s 2019 and taking care of our skin has never been a more scrupulous act. We don’t just use face lotion anymore, we use a retinol-containing nighttime moisturizer. We don’t blindly buy into three step solutions — we flip the box over and study the ingredients.

Naturally, our facials are getting more sophisticated, too. By now, you’ve likely heard the praise for microneedling — a medical facial that’s replacing the classic spa facial that feels nice but doesn’t do much. Microneedling is a procedure that can be conducted by a cosmetic surgeon, dermatologist, esthetician, or even by yourself.

I met with plastic surgeon Dr. Melissa Doft in her Park Avenue office to chat about everything microneedling, plus experience the procedure myself. It turns out, there’s a lot that’s in your hands when it comes to having a great microneedling experience.

Here’s her expert advice on getting the glowiest skin ever, plus the steps I took to have the best microneedling experience possible.

Before you microneedle

“Watch out for over-exfoliation or anything that’s a little bit harsher,” Dr. Doft advised. “You want to have your skin in its most calm state beforehand.”

The last thing I wanted to do before dragging a bunch of needles across my face was send my skin into a freak-out spiral using too many actives. My usual routine includes a moisturizer with alpha-hydroxy acids and bakuchiol, but I decided to be cautious and set it aside for a while in lieu of something milder.

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To buy: $6; amazon.com

My favorite boring (and exceptionally gentle) moisturizer is Pond's Correcting Cream ($6; amazon.com), a non-irritating lotion packed with glow-inducing niacinamide. In the days leading up to my appointment with Dr. Doft, this, plus Thayers Cucumber Witch Hazel With Aloe Vera ($10; amazon.com), became my go-to routine.

The experience

In a private room at the back of Dr. Doft’s mood-lit offices, my face was beginning to go numb. The doctor had just applied a “specially formulated” topical numbing cream and, as The Weeknd lyrics provided a mental score, a slack sensation spread across my cheeks, chin, and forehead.

Twenty minutes later, it was time. Dr. Doft wiped the lidocaine off my face and proceeded to ‘draw’ lines across my face with a pen-like, handheld microneedling device. “The depth of the needles is controllable,” she told me. “That’s one of the biggest differences between doing it at a doctors office versus at-home microneedling — that you can go deeper and you can control the penetration.”

As she completed sections of my face, Dr. Doft would coat my skin with a proprietary hyaluronic acid-based serum. “These teeny needles open up the skin barrier and also stimulate collagen production. Once you open up the skin barrier is a great time to infuse whatever the focus is for that particular patient's skin,” she said.

While my treatment was focused on hydration and collagen production, there are many different concerns your session can address, and a range of topicals that can be used. “For anti-aging purposes, perhaps you’d use a retinol or vitamin C,” says Dr. Doft. “Also for anti-aging, we do a lot of PRP injections — platelet rich plasma. It’s also called the vampire facial. I would draw blood from your arm, spin it down, take out the platelets, and then reinject the platelets where you want to build collagen — by your eyes, between your eyebrows, maybe your smile lines, things like that. You can also use it as an infused serum, and, as you’re doing microneedling, you can push it into all of the little holes you’re creating.”

Microneedling at home

While my microneedling was conducted by a professional, it’s also possible to achieve comparable effects with at-home microneedling tools like a dermaroller or microneedling pen. When shopping for these products, it’s important to purchase from a reputable source. Using an improperly constructed roller or pen might save you some cash, but it’s not worth the risk of long-term damage. The Ora Electric Microneedle Derma Pen System ($82; dermstore.com) and the BeautyBio GloPRO® Microneedling Facial Regeneration Tool ($199; sephora.com) are trusted customer faves.

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To buy: $82; dermstore.com

“There are certain parts of your face where you can go deeper, and certain parts of your face where you need to be more shallow,” Dr. Doft advises. “Over the forehead, for example, you can’t microneedle quite as much as you could over your cheek, which is much thicker. I usually don’t microneedle anywhere around the eyes. Around the mouth would be ok but I wouldn’t go on the lips. I would start by going not very deep and see how that’s tolerated.”

When it comes to what serums to apply to your freshly pricked skin, err on the side of clean and cautious. “We use medical grade serums, but if you’re doing this at home, go for products that are cleaner — meaning they don’t have a lot of fragrances, they don’t have a lot of essential oils that can be irritating, and just things that are basic ingredients.”

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To buy: $48; amazon.com

Dr. Loretta’s Intense Replenishing Serum ($70; dermstore.com) is a choice candidate for those seeking anti-aging effects, as it is dermatologist-created and features youth-boosting ingredients, as is the cult-favorite Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil ($48; amazon.com).

After microneedling

“After you’ve had microneedling, your skin is like a sponge — it will soak up whatever you want it to soak up, but it also soaks it up pretty quickly, so you want to keep it very moist and hydrated.”

She wasn’t kidding. When I got home after leaving the clinic, my skin was already thirsty for more moisture. To take advantage of my skin’s increased rate of absorbance, I put on a single layer of the best vitamin C in the world, SkinCeuticals’ CE Ferulic ($166; dermstore.com), and then let it sink in for a bit before moving onto my next layers.

Dr. Doft’s office uses this product by Alastin, but if you’re looking for something less… $450, any hyaluronic acid product will do just fine. Personally, I kept this bottle of Kora Organics Noni Glow Sleeping Mask ($48; sephora.com) next to me as I watched The Sopranos and reapplied just about every 15 minutes.

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To buy: $48; sephora.com

The next day, I woke up to skin that was still moist, not to mention ABSOLUTELY glowing. Save for the slight lingering redness from the procedure, it was the most nourished my skin had looked in months.

“Go home that night and just reapply, reapply, reapply and then go to bed,” Dr. Doft had said. “You soak it up in such a way that, by morning, you just look radiant.”

A week later, I'm truly shook by just how poreless my cheeks still look and feel. My skin seems to have leveled up it's ability to retain moisture, as it stays plump and hydrated throughout the day. Friends have commented umprompted on how healthy my skin looks, only to have me launch into my newly adopted diatribe about how everyone can benefit from microneedling. If you're looking to take your glow to the next level, microneedling (plus proper home care), is it.

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