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It’s no secret that many celebrities are pretty keen on their skincare treatments, so it makes sense to keep an eye on what they’re up to. One treatment that’s proving to be very popular among them is microneedling. The line up of stars includes the likes of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Kim Kardashian and Demi Moore, just to name a few. But what is all the fuss about?
So what is it?
Micro-needling (also known as collagen induction therapy) is a procedure that uses a device with a number of tiny needles to puncture the first layer of your skin ( this sounds worse than it actually is!) which creates tiny micro-injuries in it. These micro-injuries trigger the body to create healthy, new, collagen-rich tissue. It has lots of boasts about its results including improving large pores, acne scars, melasma, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, fine lines and dull skin to name a few. The overall effect is one of a whole face rejuvenation. As our skin ages, the production of natural collagen reduces drastically, especially in women.
Is there any science behind the hype?
Even though it feels like this is a new fad, microneedling has actually been around for quite a number of years and has been refined over time. It initially started out with a single needle being repeated stabbed into the skin and developed from there onto roller devices and more recently the mechanised pen devices. The roller types of devices have now largely been replaced in most established clinics to be replaced with the mechanised pen devices. Do make sure your clinic is using a reputable and safe brand - there have been recent reports warning of safety issues with some of the cheaper devices.
It works by delivering tens of thousands of tiny microscopic punctures to the skin causing micro-injuries. These controlled wounds cause a cascade of changes which release growth factors in the skin that stimulate the wound healing response - which is to produce more collagen and elastin! This leads to fresher, more rejuvenated and refined-looking skin.
The science of microneedling looks good, with proper peer-reviewed journals showing improvements to the amount of collagen and elastin in the skin after treatments and a significant improvement to dermal and epidermal health and thickness.
Another (often forgotten) aspect of medical microneedling, is that these tiny open microchannels provide the perfect way to get any products you put on the skin afterwards to where they are needed. The skin normally is a fantastic barrier and keeps out the majority of those impressive-sounding ingredients from those creams you buy, but with these open gateways to the dermis, they can really make a difference! A word of caution though, you need to be careful not to put anything too harsh onto the skin as the product is not usually given such ready access to the lower layers of skin and can cause irritation.
It’s not only creams and lotions that can capitalise on these openings in the skin barrier. Is clinic we have access to other products (such as mesotherapy) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) - more about these later!
These microchannels start to close up very quickly after treatment, from about 20 minutes the process starts. By 24 hours later they are all but closed. This is another great advantage of the procedure as this prevents water loss from the skin and also stops potentially harmful things getting in such as bacteria, irritants and toxins.
Does it hurt?
In short – no it doesn’t. After having some numbing cream on your face for 30 minutes all you can usually feel is the device passing over your skin with a buzzing sensation – no pain at all. This medical-grade needling really isn’t something that can be done without proper numbing. The needle depth is often changed to different settings for different areas of the face for a controlled treatment and it is all finished off with a cleanse and facial products. Because of the open micro-channels from the needling, these nutrient-rich products can really sink into the skin and get to where they needed to.
What do you look like after?
The great thing about this treatment is there's really no significant downtime. Straight afterwards you will be a bit red of face for the first few hours to a day and then the next couple of days the skin may be slightly pink or dry but nothing major – you can still do your normal things. A good clinic will recommend a product to use afterwards for the first 24 hours while the needling micro-channels are still open. Normal products might irritate.
There are surprisingly few potential problems with medical microneedling. Of course, you will look red-of-face afterwards, but that starts to settle really quickly within a couple of hours. There is a risk of infection whenever the skin barrier is damaged - but as long as the practitioner has a good clean technique the risks are minimised as the microchannels close so quickly. There is a small risk of the skin becoming slightly pigmented if you get too much sunlight immediately after treatment. While scarring is a potential risk for many cosmetic procedures (including this), microneedling is often used to treat scars - so we believe the risks to be very small indeed.
How many treatments will I need?
I typically recommend a series of 3 treatments spread a month apart, although acne scars will require more sessions. Once completed, a top-up once or twice a year should keep on top of things. There isn’t really a ‘maximum’ number of treatments you can have as microneedling is so good at stimulating proper natural regeneration of the skin.
Roller or Pen Device?
In my view, the roller devices are a thing of the past that now needs to be forgotten about. These devices had their use for crudely ripping holes in the skin, but nowadays things have progressed. The modern mechanised microneedling pen devices are pieces of precision kit that form accurate vertical skin needling hundreds of times per second. This causes more dermal stimulation without the shearing effect of the rollers. The disposable heads on these mechanised devices are also adjustable. This means we can alter the needle penetration into the skin from just 0.25mm all the way to 2.5mm depth. We can use this to treat different parts of the face even the really delicate skin around the eye sockets!
What’s the downside?
It’s easy to get carried away with the science of medical microneedling as we know how well it works to stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin. The problem is that this is a slow process. It can take three months for the skin to produce maximum collagen after one episode of microneedling n- this can feel like an age! Also, when you are looking at your own face in the mirror every day you will find it very hard to notice changes over time. We know the science is great. We know that it can only improve the skin. We know that improving skin quality improves any other aesthetic treatment you have. We know all this and yet it is still hard to not be a little disappointed at the end of our microneedling course. We look for ‘wow’ treatments as that is what we have come to expect, but this isn’t one of them. This is all about regeneration. Getting the building blocks of your skin to the best quality level we can.
How to take medical microneedling to the next level
If you really want to stimulate and harness the regeneration of the skin, microneedling can be combined with a ‘booster’ such as Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) or an infusion of products designed to drive new growth (Growth Factors) or provide nutrients or anti-oxidants (mesotherapy) to where they are needed most. This can be done in a variety of ways including directly injecting the solution into the skin after microneedling or putting it on during and after the procedure itself. These boosters do really seem to add up and I usually encourage all of my clients to use them if possible as I have seen such impressive results over the years.