What Is Microneedling?

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man getting microneedling procedure on his face

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Microneedling—which is sometimes called collagen induction therapy—is a minimally-invasive procedure that involves using tiny needles, or microneedles, to make shallow, repetitive punctures into the skin. The treatment is often used to address skin concerns like scarring, stretch marks, and pigmentation issues.

The idea is that microneedling causes minor damage to the skin, initiating the body's natural healing process. The body produces and releases more collagen and elastin during this healing process which leads to an improved appearance of the skin.

While microneedling may be an effective treatment for several skin conditions, it's important to know what to expect during the procedure along with the risks of the treatment.

Benefits of Microneedling

Microneedling offers a growing number of benefits and is a popular choice because it's minimally invasive and requires little to no downtime.

Improves Overall Skin Appearance

Microneedling is largely used to improve the appearance and texture of the skin. The procedure can reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, dark spots, and stretch marks.

Participants in one study received four facial microneedling treatments, each spaced 30 days apart. Their skin showed significant improvement in lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, and skin texture about 90 to 150 days after the first treatment.

Reduces Acne Scars

Microneedling is often used to address scarring, particularly scars caused by acne.

A review of 33 studies found that participants in every study noticed an improvement in the appearance of their acne scars after microneedling. The treatment decreased inflammatory markers and increased collagen, which sped up the skin's healing process, reducing the appearance of scars.

May Help Hair Loss

Microneedling may be able to help with hair regrowth in people with hair loss disorders like alopecia. The treatment has been shown to reduce hair loss when used alongside a primary treatment, such as Rogaine (minoxidil) or other growth factor solutions.

However, current research is limited and researchers need more, larger studies to confirm the results.

What To Expect

If you are considering microneedling to address a skin issue, it's important to know what to expect before, during, and after your visit. Your healthcare provider can also share a more detailed picture of what to expect during the procedure.

Before Your Visit

Before undergoing a microneedling treatment, it's best to begin by talking with a trained healthcare provider like a certified dermatologist about your options. Since these devices penetrate your skin and can come in contact with your nerves and blood vessels, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends you look for someone with special training in microneedling.

The FDA also states that microneedling may be considered a medical procedure, not a cosmetic one, which emphasizes the importance of finding a healthcare provider who can perform microneedling rather than an aesthetician.

Before the procedure, you'll also want to consider if microneedling is right for you. It's important to note the FDA has only approved the procedure for adults 22 years and older. Additionally, you should avoid microneedling if you have any of the following conditions:

  • You have active acne.
  • You have an active herpes outbreak or another localized infection in the treatment area, such as warts.
  • You have a moderate-to-severe chronic skin disease such as eczema or psoriasis.
  • You have keloidal tendencies or tend to develop raised scars on your skin.
  • You are going through chemotherapy or are immunosuppressed due to another medication or condition.
  • You have recently had Botox injected in the area, which could result in an unwanted toxin diffusion.
  • You have a bleeding or clotting disorder or you are taking a blood thinner.

Your provider may ask you to stop using certain topical creams, including retinoids or lotions to prepare for your first treatment. They also may ask you to refrain from using certain medications. You may also be given a prophylactic prescription for antiviral medication if microneedling to the face. Be sure to follow their instructions and ask any questions you have so that your procedure goes smoothly.

How Much Does It Cost?

Microneedling varies in cost depending on how many sessions you do as well as the issue you are addressing. If you decide that microneedling is right for you, you can expect to pay between $200 and $800 per session.

During Your Visit

When you first arrive for your microneedling appointment, your healthcare provider will likely apply a topical anesthetic to your skin to numb the area. They may also use an antiseptic solution to ensure the area is clean.

Once your skin has been prepared, they will glide a microneedling device over your skin. Some providers also apply a topical serum such as hyaluronic acid gel to help the device move smoothly.

During the treatment, you should not experience any type of discomfort. Overall, the process of microneedling usually takes about 45 minutes to one hour.

After the microneedling is complete, some providers may apply a calming agent or other creams. Your provider will also give you instructions on how to care for your skin in the following days.

After Your Visit

Once you have had a microneedling procedure done, it may take two to seven days for your skin to recover. During that time, you may experience some minor side effects such as redness and peeling—much like a sunburn.

Rare reactions include bruising or an allergic response. You should promptly contact your healthcare provider if you experience those or other painful symptoms.

You will need to wait 24 hours after the procedure before using makeup and sunscreen. Your healthcare provider may also recommend that you wait before applying certain topical creams like retinol or alpha hydroxy acids (AHA). Keep in mind, too, that your skin will be more sensitive to the sun after those initial 24 hours. Try to avoid the sun as much as possible and be sure to wear sunscreen once your skin has healed more.

You also may need additional microneedling sessions, or other complementary treatments, depending on the skin condition you are addressing. Some people may choose to receive a series of monthly microneedling treatments to achieve optimal results.

Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop a treatment plan that addresses your individual goals.

Microneedling At-Home vs. In-Office

The FDA considers microneedling a medical procedure that should be performed by a trained healthcare provider who uses sterile needles in their devices. The roller devices used at home—or at non-medical spas—have shorter, duller needles that are not meant to penetrate the skin like the microneedling devices used in a doctor's office.

While these devices can stimulate blood flow and create a brightening effect, they will not deliver the same results as in-office microneedling. Also, without proper sanitizing, these duller devices could result in injuries and infection.

Risks of Microneedling

While microneedling is a relatively safe procedure with minimal side effects, there are some potential risks. After the procedure, you may develop some redness, peeling, and bruising. You also may experience:

  • Dryness
  • Rough skin
  • Tightness
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Bleeding
  • Crusting

All of these symptoms should go away as your skin heals. However, your healthcare provider can offer advice on how to best care for your skin during the recovery period.

Although rare, it is also possible to develop an infection or to have an allergic reaction after the procedure. There also have been some instances of people developing rashes after the procedure.

Some people may also experience pigmentation changes, swollen lymph nodes, or a reactivation of herpes cold sores.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you are concerned about any of these side effects, or if you experience any unwanted symptoms after the procedure.

A Quick Review

Microneedling is a medical procedure designed to improve your skin's appearance. Using a device with tiny needles, a dermatologist or other trained medical professional can help address scarring, wrinkles, fine lines, stretch marks, and more. Overall, microneedling is a safe and minimally-invasive procedure with little to no downtime and few side effects. The most common side effects are redness and peeling. It is possible to develop a more serious response like an infection or an allergic reaction, though these are rare. If you are interested in microneedling, talk to a healthcare provider such as a certified dermatologist with experience in microneedling.

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11 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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