The One Where We Talk About SkinPen Microneedling
If you understand the reference in the title then it’s time to add microneedling into your skincare regimen. I sent out a survey last week to gauge your knowledge about microneedling and I am thankful for the time you took to respond. I am excited to answer your questions and share all the details about SkinPen microneedling.
What is Microneedling?
Just like the name sounds microneedling involves very small sterile needles that prick the skin quickly and repeatedly. When the needles pierce the skin they create small wounds that your body then sends it’s own growth factor cells to heal. When your growth factor cells arrive they heal the small wound, and stimulate the growth of collagen and elastin. This process results in skin thickening and can improve the appearance of wrinkles, acne scars, sun damage, and overall skin texture.
Skin Conditions That Microneedling Can Improve
SkinPen is the name of a microneedling device that is the first and only FDA cleared microneedling device proven to improve appearance of wrinkles on the neck as well as facial acne scars on adults. This does not mean that these are the only skin conditions that SkinPen microneedling helps, it just means that neck wrinkles and acne scars are the two conditions that were studied in proper clinical trials.
Microneedling can improve the appearance of:
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Sun damage and aging spots
- Acne scarring
- Large pores
- Issues with skin texture
- Stretch marks
- Post-surgical scarring (a favorite of mine for abdominoplasty scars!)
Microneedling Limitations - what it’s NOT good for
Deep lines and creases around the eyes, mouth, and lip
Q: “How effective is it for deeper creases around eyes, mouth, and on upper lip?… How does it compare to fraxel?"
A: For deep lines and wrinkles you may need a stronger treatment like a chemical peel, erbium laser, or surgery. Fraxel is a term used for fractionated laser that is stronger than microneedling. Comparatively microneedling has less downtime but is less effective for deep lines.
Ideal Candidates for Microneedling
- All skin colors: one of the best attributes of microneedling is that it is safe for all skin types. If you are asian, hispanic, or black you may be frustrated that you are not a candidate for many skin devices. Microneedling is a fantastic option for you because it does not deliver thermal energy, effectively making it safe for all skin.
- Rosacea prone skin: microneedling is well loved by many of my patients with rosacea, it is not contraindicated, and rosacea should not complicate your recovery.
- Sensitive skin: microneedling uses a hydrating glide gel to help the pen glide over your face + neck. I do have one patient that has reacted to that glide gel in the past and because of this I offer microneedling with your own plasma substituted for the glide gel. This has the added benefit of increasing the growth factors delivered to your skin during microneedling because growth factors naturally live in your plasma.
What to Expect during a Microneedling Procedure
Microneedling + Glide Gel
The procedure begins with a topical numbing cream on the treatment area. This numbing cream may make you feel like you went to the dentist for the next 30 minutes but it also provides, dare I say, a painless experience. The device is held in the hand like a large pen and is passed over the treatment area several times until the treatment goal is reached. The main sensory stimulation is vibration from the device as it rapidly deploys the 12 tiny needles as it glides over your skin. The amount of passes I perform will depend on your skin, your treatment goals, and the thickness of the skin/scar we are treating.
Microneedling + Plasma (for our sensitive or growth factor hungry patients)
The addition of plasma can help reduce lines and wrinkles, diminish the appearance of acne scars, and improve the overall texture of the skin. The procedure begins with topical numbing cream on the treatment area. I will then perform a quick blood-draw from a vein in your arm, similar to giving blood for routine labs. I then take the vial of your blood and place it in a centrifuge which spins the vial and separates the red blood cells from the plasma. Within the plasma is a very small layer called “protein rich plasma” that contains natural growth factors. I mix this small layer with the plasma and then use this plasma with growth factors in place of the glide gel. The microneedling device is then used on the treatment area until the endpoint that I am looking for is reached.
This is a makeup artist and vlogger that I found on YouTube. This video shows you the microneedling experience from a patient perspective. The device I use and treatment I perform may vary from this video, but I thought it was a nice intro to microneedling.
Downtime After Microneedling
A typical recovery after microneedling is relatively short compared to other cosmetic procedures and involves:
- Your treated area will be red and often have pinpoint bleeding immediately after microneedling.
- Most patients experience swelling and redness that fades within 48 hours. Depending on your skin reactivity you may be red for 24 hours or up to one week (for very sensitive skin).
- It is common to experience superficial peeling or flaking but nothing that requires you take time off work or stop wearing makeup. Unlike resurfacing peels or lasers your skin will not have any major peeling after this treatment.
- Common side effects include bumps, breakouts, and dry skin, but this is variable and not everyone will experience this reaction
- Keep your body and your skin hydrated, use moisturizer often
- Sun exposure and sunscreen
- Use sunscreen constantly for the first 2 weeks after microneedling
- Avoid direct sunlight (no sunbathing, boating, skiing) for 2 weeks after treatment
- If you have planned time outside (like a shaded walk or running errands) wear SPF and a hat
- Prevent infection
- Avoid “dirty” activities that may introduce bacteria to your face (swimming, hot tub, community gym, working with animals)
- Resume makeup at 48 hours, use fingers to apply foundation and avoid old brushes or makeup applicators
Another fun vlog about SkinPen microneedling. This experience and her statements are not mine, however a nice video to learn more from a patient persepective.
The frequency of microneedling depends on your needs and goals as follows:
- Microneedling for a very specific problem - like acne scars or fine lines, will typically take a series of 2-3 treatments to reach your goal. Depending on target problem, it may take more treatments.
- Microneedling for global skin rejuvenation, restoration of collagen + elastin, and to help fight the aging process - for the minimalist I recommend once a year in the Fall as part of my Aging is Optional skincare package, for the committed skincare warrior I recommend twice a year, and for the skincare junkie that refuses to age I recommend one treatment every 2-3 months.
The process of wound healing + collagen stimulation that is stimulated by microneedling takes about 4-6 weeks. Clinical studies have shown that patients are happy with their results at 1 month. Microneedling will help refresh your top layer of skin and you can experience minor to moderate swelling, both of which can create an immediate glow within the first week. The real purpose of microneedling is the stimulation of collagen which takes your cells around 4 weeks to accomplish and for you to see results.
Skincare After Microneedling
After microneedling your skin will be sensitive and the general rule is to avoide skincare products that are harsh or exfoliate the skin.
- Scented skincare
- Vitamin C
After 48 hours you may start introducing any of these back into your skincare routine, use your skin as the guide. If you are still red, blotchy, or irritated then wait until your skin has calmed down.
- Gentle, unscented cleanser
- Gentle, unscented moisturizer
- Non-tinted SPF (use a trusted SPF your skin tolerates well)
Products I love that are safe for use after microneedling
As always, here's to choosing how we age, on our own terms!
Dr. Lindsey Tavakolian, MD MPH