Does microneedling hurt?
I’m not going to lie to you – stabbing your skin with lots of sharp needles is not the world’s most pleasurable experience. Unsurprisingly, the level of discomfort depends on the length of the needles used. At the shallow end, the sensation is prickly but not painful. However, when you’re in at the deep end those needles are going down into your nerves and it would be foolhardy to go in without some numbing anaesthetic cream beforehand. In my experience, even with the cream and at the hands of a highly skilled practitioner, the 3mm needles are a challenge.
Is microneedling safe?
Yes – as long as your practitioner uses the device with respect for the skin, and is scrupulous about hygiene. All those sharp needles making holes in the skin open up the potential for infection, so the skin has to be prepared properly before treatment, and the tips of the needles to be sterile. Actually, with automated needling devices, you need more reassurance than a clean sterile needle-tip can offer, because of the potential for cross-contamination. If blood from one patient gets into the body of the device, well, it, and any blood-borne diseases it was carrying, could be transferred to the next patient, despite the new sterile needle-tip. Does this happen in practice? In the interests of research, the meticulous Dr Stefanie Williams conducted some extreme needling tests on a number of automated needling devices and found that blood found its way into the mechanism of some of the devices, which is worrying. Her research findings identified that just one device (SkinPen Precision) didn’t leak. So if you are considering treatment with an automated device, check that it is one where cross-contamination cannot happen.
What are microneedling results like?
Impressive. I had a course of 3mm microneedling done (with anaesthetic, obviously!) and after 3 sessions, six weeks apart, my skin was definitely firmer, clearer and smoother – so a really good result all round.
Would it work for you? In short, yes. Brutal as it may sound, needling has been proven time and again to stimulate the growth of new collagen in the skin. It’s a natural response that occurs in everyone’s skin, so you can be confident that your pain will not be without gain.
How long do microneedling results last?
I’ll only talk about the deep microneedling here as results from shallow microneedling depend on the products used afterwards and are more of an on-going process. When you have microneedling that gives you pinprick bleeding, this means you’ve hit the sweet spot for collagen production. The effects from this level of treatment last for several months, the exact duration depending on how quickly your skin cells renew, and the age and original condition of your skin.
Does microneedling at home work?
Due to the relative simplicity of the concept – i.e. lots of little needles on a roller, or in a mechanical pen-type device – there has been a spate of home-use devices coming onto the market. These can range in price from around £15 off Amazon up into the hundreds for more sophisticated, multi-functional devices. They go up to 3mm, just like the clinical ones, and since the procedure isn’t particularly technical to perform, these devices have rapidly gained popularity.
I say you should approach home needling with caution and stick to rollers with very short needles – remember that skincare products only need to get through the first 0.02mm of skin – and disinfect them scrupulously. I have a GloPro home use microneedling device which I like but I use it lightly, no more than once a week and am careful about which products I apply afterwards.
I go into this in more depth in my downloadable microneedling factsheet.
At first, I was a big fan of microneedling at home. It seemed like a quick win and a way to get more out of your – often very expensive – skincare products. However, having spoken to a number of dermatologists about this issue, I’m less convinced than at first. The problem is that, with a home-use device, you are liable to cause unnecessary and regular trauma to the skin. Moreover, the majority of readily available skincare products on the market are made up of many ingredients, some of which absolutely are meant to penetrate deep into the skin, but many of which are designed to sit on the surface. Using a product with fragrance, for example, after microneedling will invariably lead to irritation in the skin.
When writing my book, The Tweakments Guide: Fresher Face, I spoke about this with Dr Eric Shulte, whose expertise is as a trauma and cosmetic surgeon with a special interest in wound-healing. His is one of the beauty industry voices who feels that home microneedling is ‘going in the wrong direction’ for our skin. He is happy for needling to be done by an expert under clinical conditions, but feels that ‘aggressive procedures like this don’t belong in the hands of laymen at home.’ I tend to agree with Dr Eric.
What does microneedling look like afterwards?
The holes are tiny, so your face won’t look like a colander when you’re done. That being said, I’d put aside a good three days after the treatment during which you should expect to have tight, red, slightly sore skin. It feels very much like sunburn and needs very gentle treatment for the first four days. I certainly wouldn’t do this a couple of days before a date, a party, or any other kind of social occasion where you don’t want to look like a walking tomato.