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What Is Microneedling, and Does It Hurt? We Answer All Your Burning Questions

woman getting microneedling procedure

If your skin needs a little rejuvenation after the cold winter months, microneedling might be just the thing for you. But while it may sound like a really scary and intimidating procedure, it’s actually quite simple! Minimally invasive, low-risk and safe for all skin types, microneedling increases collagen production and generates new cells and tissue for superbly smoother skin. And who doesn’t want fresh looking skin, right?

Some of the main microneedling benefits include treating scar tissue, lax skin and wrinkles. And yes, while it does involve piercing the skin, the needles are very fine and shouldn’t cause discomfort. 

After you’ve read this definitive guide, we can guarantee you’ll be fully informed by the time you think about trying microneedling.

In this article:

What Is Microneedling?

We know some people aren’t the biggest fans of needles, but microneedling isn’t as scary as it sounds, we promise. Whitney Conen, a certified physician’s assistant at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, explains: “Microneedling works by making controlled microinjuries in your skin, which your body will then heal while producing collagen.”

Collagen is naturally found in our bodies. In fact, it’s the most common protein, but as we age, we unfortunately produce less. This powerful little protein helps our tissues to stay strong and prevents stretching — which is why it’s so fabulous at helping skin look smoother and younger. Microneedling helps you enjoy more collagen benefits, no matter what your age (you look fabulous at every age, by the way).

Kate, a medical aesthetician from LaBella Skin Bar in Germantown, Tenn., says the biggest microneedling benefit is “on acne scarring, which speaks very highly of the process because that’s deep scarring/pitting.”

Not only this, but Whitney adds that microneedling is “also a great procedure to improve the appearance of fine lines, skin tone, and texture, and can even improve the appearance of stretch marks.” That’s a whole lot of benefits from a little needle.

Aesthetician Kate of LaBella Skin Bar in Germantown, TN, performs microneedling. “The biggest transformation I see is on acne scarring, which speaks very highly of the process because that’s deep scarring/pitting,” Kate says. Photo: @skincare_by_kate.

Microneedling Benefits

Microneedling is becoming an increasingly popular procedure for improvements to the epidermis (your skin). So, what are the main microneedling benefits that make this service so enticing?

  • Acne scars – Microneedling is Whitney’s most requested treatment for “diminishing acne scars.” Microneedling for acne scars works best for depressed blemishes, as raised scars already have too much collagen.
  • Hyperpigmentation – The skin regeneration properties of microneedling can help towards removing hyperpigmentation (which is when patches of skin can become darker). Your tissue is encouraged to heal with brand spanking new healthy cells that should match the rest of your skin tone.
  • Anti-aging – No procedure can promise to completely turn back time, but the boost of collagen that your body produces as a result of the microneedling treatment may help to fill fine lines and wrinkles on your face. This can contribute to the overall appearance of younger and smoother skin.
  • Stretch marks – We all have the odd stretch mark or two. These marks, which are caused by ruptures of elastance on our skin, could be minimized by microneedling. Microneedling for stretch marks may help to make stretch marks less visible by producing collagen in the damaged area.

What Are the Different Types of Microneedling?

Microneedling isn’t just one procedure. There are actually four different types of microneedling that you can pick from:

  • Mechanical
  • RF microneedling
  • PRP microneedling
  • Microneedling with mesotherapy

These four methods penetrate the skin with — yep, you guessed it — microneedles. Some also include extra treatment components to improve their results, including radio waves, vitamins and blood-plasma.

Mechanical

Mechanical microneedling is the standard microneedling method, which features a mechanical pen that pierces the skin. It works by damaging the tissue (but not too much) to encourage collagen production and accelerated cell regeneration.

RF microneedling

RF microneedling, or radiofrequency microneedling, is a treatment that uses radiofrequency waves. These snazzy high-tech needles release radio frequencies into the first few layers of your skin, heating the cells up, and causing further controlled “damage.” This technique is often used to enhance the effects of regular microneedling.

Microneedling with PRP

Microneedling with PRP combines traditional microneedling with platelet-rich-plasma, taken from your own blood. (This isn’t as strange as it sounds, don’t worry.) The therapist will take a small blood sample and use a centrifuge to separate the PRP. This is also known as a vampire facial — scary right? Well, not really. 

Whilst it’s a facial that uses a serum of your blood, it’s not as gory as it seems. “Your platelets have growth factors, which will help stimulate more collagen production,” Whitney says. After microneedling, the serum is applied to your face and deeply penetrates the skin for maximum results.

Microneedling with mesotherapy

Mesotherapy injects a whole bunch of good stuff, including vitamins, enzymes, hormones and plant extracts into the skin to help rejuvenate and tighten it, and it can also help to remove excess fat. Microneedling works together with mesotherapy to encourage the skin to heal and produce collagen, whilst benefiting it from added nutrients.

A woman getting microneedling done.

What Happens During Microneedling?

If you’re considering a cosmetic procedure for the first time and wondering what is microneedling and what will happen in your appointment, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve broken down what you can expect from your first microneedling experience:

What should I expect from my first treatment?

During your first microneedling session, your practitioner will take pictures of the treatment area. This is so they can establish the progress made after your treatment. Who doesn’t love a before and after?

They’ll then talk to you about what will happen during your appointment and answer any questions you might have. 

Your practitioner will then apply a topical anesthetic and a numbing cream before getting started. So don’t worry about the needles too much!

After your procedure, don’t be frustrated if you can’t see results straight away. For most people, the best results take around four weeks to show, so be patient! After the initial redness and swelling settles, your skin may look smoother and more radiant after just one treatment. However, multiple treatments are often recommended to get the best results.

How to prepare

  • It’s worth booking a consultation to talk to a professional about your skin goals beforehand. This helps to determine which is the right cosmetic method for you and your skin. 
  • Before your appointment, make sure that you don’t have any skin inflammation or infections. If you are suffering from a severe breakout, it’s best to reschedule your appointment.
  • Check your overall health before your session. If you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol — or any medication that causes dehydration — this could affect the results of the treatment.

During the process

Now for the main event – the treatment itself. Your procedure will likely include the following steps:

  1. Your practitioner will take pictures of your skin and apply the numbing cream.
  2. Once the area is numb, they will perform the treatment with a microneedling pen.  
  3. Vibrating microneedling pens use an automated stamping motion to create controlled injuries. This will last for between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the size of the treatment area.
  4. After the needling, most practitioners apply a skin-soothing product. This will penetrate even deeper into the skin through the tiny holes created by the needles. Kate uses a 100% pure hyaluronic acid serum, whereas Whitney likes to apply a hyaluronic acid mask.
  5. Depending on the product, you may need to leave this to soak afterwards. Whitney’s hyaluronic acid mask should be left on the skin for about six hours.

What to expect after your treatment

After your treatment, the downtime period is about three to five days. According to Whitney, on days one to three, it may look like you have a sunburn, and your skin may feel tight, dry, swollen, or sensitive to the touch. Don’t be disheartened: the microneedling will be working its magic.

On days three to five, your skin should start to return to its normal tone and any swelling should subside. Although, bear in mind, there’s still the possibility of some minor peeling or flaking.

How long does it take?

The duration of your microneedling appointment all depends on what you’re trying to treat. You can expect your first treatment to take around two hours altogether. This includes the consultation, the needling itself, and any aftercare required. Your practitioner will be able to advise on your aftercare.

How Much Does Microneedling Cost — and Other Things You Need to Know

Before you embark on your microneedling journey to better looking skin, it’s important to get the numbers and facts straight. Here’s the lowdown on everything else you need to know before your appointment:

How much does microneedling cost?

The microneedling treatment cost depends on where you live, the practitioner you choose, as well as the size of the area you wish to treat. Kate charges $875 for a package of four treatments at her Germantown, Tenn., med spa. The price can increase to around $700 per treatment in places like Chicago and New York. 

Microneedling costs also vary based on the type of procedure. Added hydrochloric acid could raise your radiotherapy cost up to $1600 a go.

Check out local microneedling deals near you to get started.

Does it hurt?

Some people may experience minor discomfort, however, the numbing cream applied before the treatment helps make it more comfortable. “You might feel some tiny pin pricks, as some areas of the face are more sensitive than others. Overall, it’s a very tolerable procedure!” Whitney assures.

How often should you get it?

The length of your microneedling journey depends on your specific goal and treatment area. Kate recommends spacing your appointments out three or four weeks apart.

How many treatments do you need?

“Acne scars typically require as many as six treatments, with treatments spaced four weeks apart,” Whitney says. But for general skin tone and texture improvement, you can usually get what Whitney calls “great results” in about three treatments. Kate recommends clients to have four treatments, three weeks to one month apart. Speak to your practitioner when you book and they’ll be able to advise you.

Can you do it at home?

You’ve probably seen dermarollers made for at-home microneedling treatments. However, here’s the thing about those devices: medical professionals tend to disagree on whether they’re a good idea. 

Some say that, although at-home microneedling is less effective than professional treatments, it can help maintain your results from between in-office treatments. But that’s only if you really take care of the device and carefully sterilize it, which can be a bit of a hassle.

Whitney advises against the shallow needle depths of at-home rollers and warns that they could spread a nasty infection. That could lead to worsened skin issues and scarring, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re after. She recommends only getting microneedling treatments from licensed medical professionals.

Microneedling Alternatives

If you like the sound of microneedling, these other anti-aging treatments could also be for you:

Laser skin resurfacing

This procedure is performed by dermatologists and uses lasers to improve skin texture. Your treatment could include ablative lasers, with CO2 or Erbium, that help with deep scars and wrinkles. Non-ablative lasers can also help to treat rosacea and acne.

The lasers penetrate your skin with thermal energy, much like RF microneedling, but without the needles. This breaks down damaged cells and encourages collagen production and cell regrowth.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels are skin-resurfacing treatments that can be altered to meet the needs of different patients. After all, everyone’s skin is different. It removes the outer layers of skin to improve the appearance of acne scars, fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Generally speaking, chemical peels work well on superficial imperfections, whereas microneedling pierces deeper into the skin to tackle more deep-rooted issues.

Dermarolling

Microneedling is the overall name for the treatment, whereas dermarolling refers to microneedling performed with a dermaroller device. “Dermaroller was the first device used for microneedling. It has specific needle lengths covering a wheel, which a provider will roll over the skin,” Whitney explains. She also says that microneedling pens “offer more consistent treatments, meaning you’re getting the same procedure each time.”

Top Tips

  • Book a consultation beforehand – Discuss your skin concerns with your practitioner. This will help them decide how to make the treatment work best for your skin.
  • Explore alternatives – If you don’t scare easily, take a look at the spooky sounding vampire facials — combined with microneedling, you could reap the benefits of platelet-rich plasma.
  • Quick recovery – Don’t forget that recovery time for microneedling is relatively quick! You should be able to return to work that same day (if you don’t mind a little redness).

FAQs

Is there anyone who should avoid microneedling?

Whitney cautions that “anyone with active acne breakouts, open wounds, cold sores, psoriasis or eczema on the treatment area should not have microneedling.” You should take care if you suffer from keloid scars or take blood thinning medication and “consult with a medical provider prior to treatment.”

But Whitney is confident that microneedling is suitable for most people — “it’s perfect for anyone that’s wanting an overall improvement to their skin.”

How long does microneedling last?

Again, this is very dependent on your individual skin concerns, as well as how long the new collagen lasts in your skin, but results could last up to three to five months.

Is microneedling good for your face?

Microneedling may greatly benefit your skin, making it look younger, smoother and more radiant. However, it’s important to understand that everyone’s skin is unique and could react differently to treatments.

Has microneedling pricked your interest? Find procedures, deals and special offers near you with Groupon’s local microneedling listings.

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