What is Microneedling? Benefits, Costs, Side Effects, and More

Here’s everything you need to know about the popular procedure.

What Is Microneedling?

Microneedling is a cosmetic practice that’s used to treat a number of skin issues. “It’s been practiced for more than 20 years in some way, shape, or form,” says Manish Shah, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Denver. “With the evolution of the equipment and techniques, microneedling has become more prevalent within skin-care practices.” You may have heard microneedling referred to as collagen induction therapy, skin needling, or percutaneous collagen induction, Dr. Shah says.

The idea is to improve the way the skin looks and feels. According to Shah, microneedling can help with these concerns:

  • Acne scars
  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Enlarged pores
  • Hyperpigmentation and sunspots
  • Lost elasticity
  • Uneven skin textures
  • Stretch marks
  • Uneven skin tones

In most cases, microneedling is done in a doctor’s office, though there are also at-home options available (more on that below).

How Does Microneedling Work?

Microneedling involves puncturing the skin with small needles, according to Emory Aesthetic Center. If you’re having the procedure done in a dermatologist's office, the skin will likely be numbed before treatment to eliminate or at least decrease pain and discomfort, Shah says. “And then a penlike tool named a dermaroller is utilized in order to insert tiny stainless-steel needles into the skin to cause microinjuries or punctures,” Shah says.

Skin Benefits of Microneedling

Finally, a small study found that microneedling can help minimize the appearance of stretch marks, with marked to excellent improvement noted in about 44 percent of the study participants following three monthly sessions.

When to Expect Results From Microneedling

You’ll likely see results from microneedling almost immediately, Shah says. “As soon as the microwounds are created within the skin, the body's wound-healing processes respond to heal them,” he says. Peterson Pierre, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Thousand Oaks, California, says your skin may look plump and radiant for up to two weeks following the treatment. The best results, however, can take six to eight weeks to appear. That’s when the increased collagen effects become evident, Dr. Pierre says.

Microneedling vs. Other Cosmetic Surgeries

Like microneedling, chemical peels can improve texture, fine lines, pores, acne, and acne scars, and usually require multiple treatments, Pierre says. “Laser treatments can also provide similar benefits but can do so more rapidly [than microneedling],” he explains. “Depending on the laser, you may end up with more downtime but require fewer treatments.”

Where to Get Microneedling Done (and From Whom)

“Microneedling is a medical procedure and really should be performed in a board- certified dermatologist's office,” Pierre says. “This is your face, after all, so you want it in the best hands so you can get the best results while minimizing any side effects.”

That means you’ll need to steer clear of medical spas, where doctors may work but they aren't necessarily board-certified dermatologists, who must undergo 12 years of education and hands-on training to hone their expertise, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. Check the doctor’s credentials — they should be certified by the American Board of Dermatology. Pierre adds that it doesn’t have to be the doctor who performs the procedure. “Any staff member in the dermatologist's office who has been properly trained and supervised by the doctor — for example, a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, registered nurse, and in some states, aestheticians and medical assistants — can be qualified to perform these treatments,” he says. Board-certified plastic surgeons are also equipped to perform microneedling treatments.

How Much Does Microneedling Cost?

An in-office treatment will set you back somewhere between $100 and $700, depending on the size of the area being treated, Shah says. Though it’s most commonly performed on the face, microneedling can be done on other parts of the body, too, such as the neck, décolletage, arms, and legs.

DIY Microneedling: Should You Try It?

Pierre says these at-home tools do have some benefits, though: They’re more affordable, enhance exfoliation, and help products you apply afterward (such as hyaluronic acid and vitamin C) penetrate deeper into the skin. “You may achieve brighter skin at best but minimal skin rejuvenation,” Pierre says.

If you decide to go this route, Pierre suggests applying even pressure while rolling the device in multiple directions around your face. Be sure to clean the tool thoroughly — not doing so can result in infection, Pierre says. Follow the cleaning instructions specific to your device (usually it involves rinsing the roller in soap and water and soaking it in isopropyl alcohol).

DIY microneedling is not a complete waste, but “for more dramatic, long-term results, microneedling is a better option than a store-bought roller device,” Pierre says.

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