Many of us have endured some level of discomfort (or downright pain) in the name of beauty. But even those of us who stride fearlessly into our bikini wax appointments might quake at the prospect of microneedling, a treatment that intentionally punctures microscopic holes in your face for the sake of better skin.
“Microneedling [a.k.a. dermarolling] is a process in which small needles are used to create controlled micro-injury to the skin,” explains NYC cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah, founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology. Bizarre as it may seem, there are legitimate benefits to the treatment. Specifically, the micro-injuries (imperceptible to the naked eye) spur collagen and elastin production by triggering the body’s natural injury response, Shah explains. By encouraging the production of these skin-plumpers, dermarolling can actually fill in crevices — thereby fading fine lines, deep wrinkles — and even acne scars. Here, we delve into everything you need to know.
How do I microneedle?
Generally speaking, there are two microneedling methods. The first is with an at-home roller, such as the Beauty BioScience® GloPRO® ($199), which features teeny-tiny needles (0.3mm so there’s no risk of unintentional injury). These needles puncture the topmost layer of skin and create openings — microchannels, if you will — which allow products to sink in more deeply and work more effectively. That said, it’s imperative to avoid potentially irritating ingredients (like retinol and acids) for at least 24 hours post treatment. Instead, stick to products made specifically for post-microneedling skin (try BeautyBio The Ultimate Hydrating HyperVitamin Cream, $75), which won’t cause irritation.
If turbocharged product absorption is your primary goal, DIY devices are an excellent choice. “They’re really meant to improve delivery of skincare products rather than [trigger] collagen stimulation,” Shah asserts.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking to reap some serious collagen-churning benefits, Shah suggests seeing a trained specialist (e.g. a dermatologist) who can safely administer a more intense microneedling treatment. “The deeper the needle penetrates, the greater the injury to the skin, which results in more tissue response,” explains Dr. David Cangello of Cangello Plastic Surgery.
People with severe acne scarring (i.e. “ice-pick” scars) can benefit from longer needles — sometimes attached to derma “pens” instead of rollers — which can span up to 3mm. “Longer needles can stimulate collagen production response robustly enough to potentially fill the concavity produced by the scar,” Cangello says. Conversely, if you’re simply looking to restore some skin elasticity or soften moderate facial lines, your practitioner will likely use shorter needles (albeit longer than the ones in DIY devices).
What does it feel like?
Now for the burning (er, prodding) question: does microneedling hurt? It depends. If you’re opting for the DIY route, the process is virtually painless. However, if you go in for a more intense treatment, you could experience a bit more discomfort — both during the deed and post-procedure. Many offices offer numbing cream to offset any irritation from those longer needles (which can actually draw blood!). Of course, the payoff for deeper injury is more collagen synthesis. No pain, no gain, right?
How long does it take to see results?
Some microneedle converts swear its skin-plumping effects are instant, but Cangello says to approach this perception with skepticism: Puncturing the skin elicits an immediate inflammatory response that can minimize fine lines, pores, and the appearance of scars (which can be misconstrued as results from the treatment itself). In actuality, collagen induction takes a few weeks, and you won’t notice it’s skin-plumping effects until some time has passed.
Depending on the treatment’s severity, Shah advises scheduling an appointment every four weeks or so. On the other hand, DIY devices can be used three to four times per week.
How long will recovery take?
Because of the potential for inflammation, downtime for an in-office microneedling procedure is generally one to two days. Depending on how intense the treatment is, you can expect your face to look red and/or puffy during that time.
Another potentially painful repercussion: you need to forgo makeup for at least 24 hours post-procedure, lest foundation clogs the open skin! Consider planning your treatment for a laidback weekend at home.) However, the pricks of an at-home device are much more superficial — so if you’re DIY dermarolling, you can apply makeup after just a few hours.
As with most medical procedures, make sure you wait a few weeks before showing off your results at a big event. And when you do, don’t be surprised when your friends start asking for details on your new skincare routine. Time to get (derma)rolling.
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