The Ultimate Guide To Microneedling
A lot of our clients tell us they are overwhelmed by all the conflicting information floating around about skincare and all the various treatments. In our new series of long-form blog posts, we give you the best evidence-based information on our treatments as well as the conditions we treat.
So read on for everything you need to know about microneedling straight from the experts. You can also use the links in the sidebar to jump to a specific section.
Over the past year or so, microneedling has become the go-to ‘celebrity treatment’ for rejuvenation and anti-ageing. In fact, microneedling is not as complex as some would have you believe. In this post, I’m going to give you an overview of how it works, the conditions it can treat, and the best after-care regimen.
I also cover at-home versus in-clinic treatments and how needling compares to other treatments you may be considering.
History of microneedling
Microneedling is also referred to as ‘collagen induction therapy’ (CIT), ‘skin needling’, ‘micro-needle therapy’, or simply ‘needling’. The premise of skin needling traces its origins to acupuncture, an ancient therapy from traditional Chinese medicine that involves penetrating the skin with thin needles. Originating thousands of years ago, the premise is similar to microneedling in that a needle is inserted into the skin. But unlike modern micro needling, acupuncture needles are left in for a longer period of time and are considered by practitioners of Chinese medicine to encourage overall health and well being, often targeting maladies far away from the treatment area.
Microneedling is a far more modern treatment and rooted far more firmly in modern scientific research. Through the 1990s, a lot of research investigated the effects of microneedling on wound healing. This involved many tests using tattoo guns with pigment over facial scars. Even one to two years after the pigment from the tattoo gun had faded it was replaced by actual melanin from the skin and the scars themselves had improved in texture. Researchers eventually realised that the puncturing of the tattoo gun itself was helping break down the scar collagen and in turn stimulating the skin to form new collagen.
On the back of this research, in 1996 the first modern microneedle was created by Dr. Desmond Fernandes. This was a stamp made of hypodermic needles that were created to add medicines and peptides to the skin to activate the production of new collagen. Fernandes went on to design a roller with 70 needles which was much easier to use. This then led to many different designs such as mechanical needling pens, vibrating rollers, LED light rollers, and many more. Today there are cosmetic needles which may be used at home, as well as medical microneedling which should only be done in a specialised clinic by a trained aesthetician.
How does skin needling work?
There are broadly two types of skin needling: cosmetic microneedling and medical microneedling.
Cosmetic microneedling penetrates the skin at relatively limited depths of up to 0.3 mm, only reaching the outer layer of the skin: the epidermis. This promotes the release of growth factors and promotes the upregulation of epidermal growth factors. When used to infuse serums, a cosmetic roller makes channels into the epidermis that allow 80% more product into the skin compared to 10% with topical application.
Although limited in its effect, cosmetic needling encourages the skin to strengthen and thicken. This also delivers nutrients to the fibroblasts in the skin, encouraging them to make collagen and elastin as well.
Medical microneedling can penetrate the skin at far greater depths ranging from 0.5 mm to up to 3.0 mm. Penetration of these deeper layers of the skin produces far more impressive results.
Create a controlled injury
The stainless steel needles penetrate the dermis stimulating the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. This creates controlled micro-injuries to stimulate the skin’s own natural healing response. The injury response triggers clotting to the cell to stop bleeding and close the wound, which then leads to immune cells protecting the wound and preventing infection. The resulting bleeding is essential in triggering the desired healing response.
White blood cells kill bacteria and remove damaged tissue in order to improve the healing of the healthy tissue. This releases chemical factors like growth factors and fibroblasts.
Creation of new cells
Subsequent to needling, new tissues with fibroblasts form producing type III collagen. This fills the defect left by the open wound replacing scar tissue with healthy collagen.
What is microneedling effective against?
Skin needling for skin rejuvenation and anti-ageing
Microneedling has a general rejuvenating and anti-ageing effect, due to new collagen being created and the skin getting thicker. As your skin ages, it gradually loses its collagen and elastin. Repeated facial movements such as frowning or squinting begin to leave lines and wrinkles as our skin cannot bounce back as it once could. Medical microneedling stimulates greater production of collagen and elastin whilst also thickening your skin, in turn smoothing out wrinkles and lines as well as preventing future wrinkles from forming.
Microneedling for pigmentation, sun damage, and UV damage
Hyperpigmentation is due to overproduction of pigment that can be due to a number of factors, including:
- UV rays and sun damage;
- reactions to medications;
- post-inflammatory reaction to skin conditions such as acne; or
- adverse reaction to products such as fragrances and essential oils.
Microneedling encourages even pigmentation in the skin by:
- encouraging even keratin cell production;
- stabilising melanin production;
- increasing the availability of nutrients and antioxidants in the skin;
- releasing growth factors;
- encouraging fibroblasts to develop; and
- fostering better communication between cells.
Needling for scarring and acne scars
There are many different types of scars, most of which can be treated with medical microneedling. Many scars are caused by an overabundance of collagen from scars that have not healed properly. For example, acne scars have most likely been caused by a scab that did not heal properly.
Microneedling heals scars by breaking down the existing scar tissue. This allows for new natural wound healing and production of new collagen. Multiple treatments of microneedling will continue to improve the scar tissue and fade or remove the scar.
Treating stretch marks with microneedling
Stretch marks are caused by torn tissue that results from rapid weight loss or gain, or pregnancy. Stretch marks can also be a result of reactions to medication, medical conditions, or genetics. Medical microneedling can target the deeper layers of the skin to heal and smooth away the stretch marks.
Skin needling for rosacea
Rosacea is typically characterised by inflamed skin, resulting from an overreaction to stimuli. It is extremely common among fair-skinned people from Northern Europe (such as Ireland) and also affects more women than men. You can find out more about the causes of rosacea and the range of treatments here.
As a treatment for rosacea, skin needling stimulates epidermal growth factors to increase the thickness of the skin and increase the availability of cell nutrients. The strengthening of the skin and repair of the skin barrier prevents and lessens the hyperactivity of the skin and reduces inflammation.
Before and after pictures of microneedling treatments
Skin needling aftercare
After microneedling, it is essential to adhere to a well formulated skin care protocol. A copper wash must be used to prevent infection and encourage the healing process – copper is essential for the skin fibroblasts to create collagen. Copper peptides and SPF should also be used to protect and repair the skin throughout the healing process – typically for a minimum of 48 hours following the treatment. Exfoliation, skin surface treatments, and direct sunlight should be avoided for a minimum of two weeks.
Skin needling with a pen versus a roller
Microneedling can be done with either a mechanical pen (like the Rejuvapen) or a manual roller (such as the Dermaroller). Typically mechanical pen needles are usually more advanced than rollers and used in medical in-clinic treatments by aestheticians. However, the less deeply penetrating roller treatment is useful for anti-ageing and less severe conditions.
What to look for in a professional microneedling treatment
If you are based in Dublin, then we can, of course, offer you the highest quality microneedling treatment available with either the Rejuvapen or Dermaroller.
- Before & after photos: whether on their social media or website.
- Highly rated: Check their reviews on social media, Google, or relevant review sites.
- The microneedling system: What brand of microneedle do they use? Is it a known brand? Do your research on what pen/device they use. Not all devices are created equal.