Off hand, I can’t think of one person who claims to love needles. I’ve never seen a person in the doctor’s office eager to have blood drawn or get an inoculation. I even think that the majority of people who elect to get tattoos have some level of needle phobia, so I understand the feeling of trepidation when a client sees the word “microneedling” on a menu of services under non-invasive treatments. How can poking thousands of tiny holes in the skin make it look better? It may sound counter-intuitive but all in all, microneedling is a very safe and effective way to stimulate collagen for a softer, smoother appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, scars and overall skin texture.
To understand how microneedling works, we need to take a step back and understand the skin’s natural healing process. Wound healing is a complex dance of actions and coinciding reactions among specialized cells, blood, growth factors, and proteins but it can be broken down into three phases. Phase number one is the inflammatory phase. When the skin suffers an injury, like microneedling, platelets are the first things that rush to the area to stop any bleeding that might have occurred. (Hani Sinno, 2013) The “janitorial crew” of macrophage cells is next on the scene. Macrophages are white blood cells that clean up any foreign debris and infection in a wound. These cells act like a vacuum, “sucking up” any unwanted visitors by enveloping them and, essentially, digesting them. If getting rid of bacteria and debris wasn’t important enough, macrophages also secrete growth factors essential in phase two – the Proliferative phase. (Setterfield, October 2013)
Oxygen is vital in the healing process of any injury but the actual blood flow delivering the oxygen is usually compromised with an injury, so in the proliferative phase new blood vessels are formed to compensate. All of those growth factors that the macrophages secreted begin to stimulate fibroblasts, which are major players in the formation of collagen and tissue. (Hani Sinno, 2013) The wound also begins to get smaller during this phase.
The final phase is the maturative phase. Here, all of the new collagen that has been formed by the fibroblasts and “laid down in a chaotic, disorganized way, becomes oriented along the lines of contour stress in a manner similar to the way nature intended.” (Setterfield, October 2013)
But let’s now get to the actual treatment of microneedling. There are several devices on the market, for both at-home and in-office use, that are used for needling, from rollers to pens to stamps. There’s also a range of depths for the needles from 0.2mm upwards of 3.0mm. The interesting thing here is that deeper isn’t necessarily better, especially when it comes to collagen. A study done by Drs. Aust and Fernandes showed that there were similar results whether 1mm needles were used or 3mm. (Liebl, February 2006) At our office, we prefer an electronic stamp by Procell. We have found that there’s less residual irritation and downtime than with some other units, but that’s just us. We’ve tried a few different devices and this one doesn’t create red track marks like some others. We numb the patient’s face, do a thorough cleansing with an antimicrobial cleanser followed by an alcohol swab, and stamp away. The process is very straightforward but the results are wide reaching. The procedure works most effectively on wrinkles, scars, skin laxity, hyperpigmentation, UV damage, non-active rosacea, building density in thin skin, and even hair restoration. (Setterfield, October 2013) All of those thousands of tiny pin pricks increase nutrients to the cells, allows active product ingredients to penetrate better to help correct what ails you, and begins the wound healing cascade for new collagen.
After the treatment, skin may be pink or red for up to two days depending on how aggressive the treatment was; there is also the potential for some mild swelling. Patients may cleanse with a gentle cleanser like Elta MD Foaming Facial Cleanser and mineral makeup can be applied the following day. For the next three to five days, the face may feel tight and dry so be sure to use a moisturizer with ceramides to help alleviate this. At our office we suggest incorporating Glytone’s Hydrating Lotion into a person’s routine for its hydrating and healing properties. Avoiding the sun and using a broad spectrum physical sunscreen is very important every day but even more so immediately after incurring all of these tiny injuries. A week after the treatment, a patient can resume their normal skincare routine but should avoid Retin-A for one more week. Typically, six microneedling treatments one month apart are recommended for wrinkles and laxity but every person responds differently.
Don’t let the name of this treatment deter you from reaping all of the benefits it has to offer. It’s definitely not a magic wand, but with time and a little patience, it can deliver wonderful results – especially if combined with other treatments and some home-care products. Give our office a call to set up a consultation or check out a microneedling treatment being done on our YouTube channel.
Hani Shinno, S. P. (2013, July 24). http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC3741993/. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://europepmc.org: http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC3741993/
Liebl, H. (February 2006). Abstract reflections about collagen induction therapy. First edition.
Setterfield, D. L. (October 2013). The Concise Guide to Dermal Needling Expanded Medical Edition. Canada: Acacia Dermacare Inc.
Written By: Sarah Rutherford, PMA.