The idea of sweeping a miniature paint roller covered in spikes over your face may seem barbaric, but allow us to convince you otherwise. Microneedling is a do-it-all, minimally invasive treatment that's like the Swiss army knife of the aesthetics world. It can improve the appearance of scars, pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. As well as providing instant radiance, it also makes your skincare work harder – but what exactly is microneedling? And, all importantly, does it hurt?
Here, we called on certified dermatologists and facialists to demystify the treatment…
What is microneedling?
Otherwise known as derma-stamping or dermarolling, microneedling is the use of tiny needles to create a controlled micro-injury on the skin's surface. The most popular at-home rollers use micro-fine needles that range in diameter from 0.5 to 2.5 millimeters. So while it sounds a little scary, at-home rollers have shorter, less punchy needles so only create pin pricks in the surface layer of the skin.
The premise is the same for professional microneedling but the treatment is more invasive (yes it can draw blood) "as it utilises a much longer needle,” says clinical facialist Kate Kerr.
Whichever way you choose to proceed, microneedling stimulates collagen and elastin production for plumper, more radiant skin. Put simply, the skin reads the tiny hole that's created in the skin as an injury and rushes to send in the foot soldiers to heal it. "This, in turn, jumpstarts the skin's repair cycle, inducing collagen and elastin synthesis," assures Dr Maryam Zamani, an oculoplastic surgeon, aesthetic doctor and creator of MZ Skin.
Microneedling improves most skin concerns
Kate is a fan of microneedling for its skin rejuvenating results. “I offer a range of micro-needling treatments in clinic as it’s an extremely effective treatment for the reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, pore size and the collagen stimulation also improves skin texture, as well as improving the appearance of acne scars."
As if that wasn't good enough, it creates a channel to the deeper layers of skin to fast-track your skincare ingredients to make them work even harder.
"It's an all round skin treat," says Fatma Shaheen, skin expert and founder of cosmecuetical skincare and treatment brand, Skin Design London. "It delivers instant radiance to the skin and is an inexpensive, easy and effective way to rejuvenate the skin and deliver a healthy glow."
However, if you have active acne, rosacea or a skin infection, it's best to opt out of microneedling as it could aggravate the skin.
It's especially good for scarring and pigmentation
According to the experts, microneedling works on all skin types but is especially effective on those who have scarring and pigmentation. “It can be used in acne treatments to help improve the appearance of scars by breaking up the scar tissue and stimulating the induction of new collagen and elastin,” says Dr Zamani.
"It can also be used on hyperpigmentation because it helps shed the top layer of the skin while also helping the absorption of topical agents that can be used concurrently to help prevent the formation of new pigmentation," she continues.
You can get it in-clinic or do it at home
At a time when beauty treatments seem increasingly high-tech (Frotox, hydrofacials, and injectable moisturiser, anyone?), the beauty of microneedling is that it is available in clinical settings, but it can also be done at home a few times a week for similar benefits. Good at-home microneedling tools include the cultish Beautybio GloPRO Microneedling Regeneration Tool, Face Gym's Youthful Active Roller and the Nurse Jamie Beauty Stamp 1 Piece.
That said, at-home microneedling is a divisive subject for dermatologists. Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, founder and medical director of the Adonia Medical Clinic, is quick to point out the hygiene issues of using a dermaroller on your skin, throwing it into a dusty draw overnight and then rolling it over your skin again, potentially transferring bacteria and dirt into the tiny indentations.
If you do want to try the treatment at home, keep the roller on a sterilised surface and spray it with colloidal silver or isopropyl alcohol before and after each use.
Likewise, Kate is a big believer in the merits of professional microneedling, which, although more invasive, serves up more transformative results. “With at-home microneedling the main benefit is to increase product penetration,” she says. "Although professional treatments create a micro-channel for effective product penetration, the goal is to initiate trauma deep within the skin,” she says. “This will kick-start the wound-healing cascade, leading to the production of hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin within the body.”
In other words, if you have acne scarring or hyperpigmentation, you may need to hold out for a professional appointment.
How to do microneedling at home
After cleansing your skin apply a serum as it will elevate the experience and enhance the results. "To tackle pigmentation, scarring and wrinkles, opt for something with a high-quality retinol or lactic acid in it to boost cell renewal," says Shaheen, who likes to pair the treatment with her own Skin Design London Retexturing Serum, which is infused with antioxidants.
Begin microneedling by passing the tool upwards, sideways and then in a diagonal direction. Do this three times ad then finish with another layer of serum.
Choose gentle aftercare products
For Kate it's all about gentle hydration and keeping the skin clean. "Anything containing hyaluronic acid is great to use post-treatment," she says. You might have a little redness afterwards so it's worth having a cream with anti-inflammatory properties to hand. Kate Somerville DeliKate Recovery Cream is excellent.
What you need to know before trying it
“I've never been one to shy away from a treatment, especially if it's bound to be beneficial to my skin, and the fact that at-home dermarolling claimed to make my existing products work harder was instantly appealing ," says GLAMOUR'S associate beauty director, Lottie Winter.
"I used this traditional Derma Roller from Ecooking, a Scandi brand that unites simplicity with efficacy. The roller has very short needles (0.5mm) so it's minimally invasive and didn't hurt in the slightest.
"I rolled around for about four minutes, making sure to go in all directions and covering all areas. Afterwards, I applied a hyaluronic acid serum for hydration. I've been traveling a lot recently and all the time spent on heavily air-conditioned planes along with the fluctuating temperatures has left my skin worryingly dehydrated. The serum went on as usual but I definitely noticed my skin look perkier and plumper come morning. I will definitely be incorporating microneedling into my weekly regime from now on but might try a derma-stamp next to see how it compares!"
“I first tried a course of professional microneedling to even out my skin tone on the tops of my cheeks where some hormonal pigmentation had crept in," says GLAMOUR's acting associate beauty director, Fiona Embleton. Rather than use a dermaroller, professional microneedling is done using a pen-like device that allows your practitioner to control the treatment intensity.
"First, a numbing cream is applied, which means I barely felt anything while in the dermatologist's chair – it was just a little painful when the needles crossed over my jawbone and my sinuses. However, with each treatment the intensity was upped – and with it the swelling, redness and (whisper it) the pain. After the first two treatments I just looked very sunburnt but the third, and most intense, left me with some bloody areas that felt very tender and did require some over-the-counter pain relief. For this reason, preferably try to time your appointment for a Friday so you have the weekend for any redness and swelling to subside.
"I'd also say, don't expect results overnight. You won't notice too much of a difference in your skin quality and tone until about three weeks later – that's when you really start to see intense changes and why, like me, you'll book in for another treatment, stat.”
This article was originally published on Glamour UK.