Beauty experts swear by microneedling, but does it work? And is it even safe?


By Kathleen Mulpeter

Microneedling is a skin-rejuvenating procedure in which tiny needles create punctures in the top layer of skin with the goal of improving overall texture and appearance. Once an old-school beauty treatment, microneedling is making a comeback among both the skincare-obsessed and A-listers alike. Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Watts are reportedly fans, and social media star Emily Skye recently shared some (particularly graphic) photos on Snapchat after undergoing the procedure.

We know what you're probably thinking: poking little holes into your face in the name of beauty sounds insane. But experts agree that when done properly, microneedling is relatively risk-free and can have real benefits for your skin.

"The results are very impressive," says Bruce E. Katz, MD, founder of the Juva Skin & Laser Center in New York City.

The entire process takes about 15 minutes. A numbing cream is applied first, then the needles are moved across the skin using a small handheld device. While a variety of companies manufacture microneedling tools—including the brands Intensif, Infini, SkinPen, MicroPen, and Collagen PIN—Dr. Katz says they are all "basically the same." Sessions at a dermatologist's office can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,100 depending on the area you live in.

With the latest technology, the needles are energized with radiofrequency to help stimulate collagen in the skin, Dr. Katz explains. "Collagen production naturally slows down as you age, and the technology distributes radio frequency waves to jumpstart your natural healing process," he explains.

The result is smoother, firmer, more even-looking skin. By promoting collagen growth, microneedling may help reverse signs of aging (such as fine lines), fade acne scars, and make skin look refreshed.

"I'd recommend [microneedling] to patients to help reduce pore size and improve texture," says Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.

Because the treatment works well and is long-lasting, some people use it to combat wrinkles and fine lines as they first appear. "We see patients who undergo the procedure as a preemptive approach to aging," says Dr. Katz, who uses the brand Intensif in his office.

And despite what Skye's scary-looking social media photos might suggest, microneedling is actually not painful. "The science has advanced to the point where patients experience little to no pain and no downtime," says Dr. Katz. "Any redness typically disappears within a few hours."

The exception to this is at-home microneedling kits, which Dr. Katz says offer only modest results and have increased risk of infection or scarring if the needles aren't sterile.