For those looking to improve the look of scars, boost collagen, or encourage hair growth, microneedling can offer a minimally invasive solution. The practice dates back to 1995, but has gained significant traction in recent years thanks to new technology—and YouTube and Instagram, where the mesmerizing (albeit bloody) process stars in tens of thousands of videos. Here, dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD, PhD, who has published extensive research on microneedling, along with fellow Yale clinical professor and dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD demystify the multi-purpose treatment.
Microneedling creates microscopic punctures in the skin.
Simply put, microneedling is the insertion of very fine short needles into the skin for the purposes of rejuvenation, explains Macrene. The most popular (and cost effective) microneedling device, known as a dermaroller, is made up of micro-fine needles that range in diameter from 0.5 and 2.5 millimeters. But, if the prospect of multiple needle wounds sounds slightly ominous to you, know that the punctures are more like pin-pricks that enter only surface-level deep.
Microneedling offers fairly immediate results.
"From microneedling alone, you will look plump, pink and luminous for a couple of weeks. On a short-term basis, it plumps the skin and makes the skin look more radiant from inflammation and very superficial swelling," Alexiades says.
But microneedling also promises improvement over time.
According to a 2008 study, skin treated with four microneedling sessions spaced one month apart produced up to a 400% increase in collagen and elastin six months after completing treatment.
Microneedling stimulates dormant hair follicles.
This equals new hair growth, confirms Gohara. In a recent study, 100 test subjects were divided into two groups: One set was treated with minoxidil lotion and the other received minoxidil lotion plus microneedling. After 12 weeks, 82 percent of the microneedling group reported 50 percent improvement versus 4.5 percent of the minoxidil lotion-only group.
Microneedling can also work to reduce cellulite.
Alexiades works with a new crop of microneedling devices like the Profound by Candela. She uses the machine for crepe-like fine lines as well as sagging skin and cellulite.
Your dermaroller plays well with other skincare treatments.
Alexiades recommends pairing microneedling with topical treatments (like her 37 Extreme Actives anti-aging cream or serum) and lasers. "Oftentimes, we use this as an opportunity to apply anti-aging preparations that will penetrate better through the needle punctures. When you combine with topicals, you have a shot at some collagen building. When combined with radiofrequency, you can see tissue tightening over the course of months," she says.
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As long as it's blessed by your dermatologist, says Gohara, who cautions those with eczema, rosacea, acne, and perioral dermatitis against rolling at home, as it might cause flare-ups. For a gentle introduction to at-home microneedling, try the Beauty Stamp from celebrity skincare guru Nurse Jamie. The handheld tool works just as the name suggests, by stamping the skin with ultra-fine pin-pricks designed to increase the efficacy of your topical treatments and boost collagen (just like a traditional dermaroller).
It's possible to OD on microneedling.
Frequent microneedling can lead to broken capillaries "and predispose skin to a plastic look if you over abuse it with repeated microneedle insults," says Alexiades. Instead, curb dermaroller dependency by sticking to a once-a-month plan and always allow time for full recovery between roll-sessions.
You need to be gentle on your skin after microneedling.
Both dermatologists suggest pairing gentle but powerful products with the microneedling procedure. Shop a few products to pair with the procedure.
Microneedling alone only gives temporary results.
Dr. Alexiades notes that a recent AAD study showed that microneeedling alone can only give temporary results which do not last. "As my over ten years of research has shown, you must combine microneedles with radio frequency in order to get long term wrinkle and scar reductions and improvements in skin quality," explains Alexiades.