How Does Microneedling Work: A Beginner’s Guide

Dermaroller for micro needling therapy to produce collagen

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How does microneedling work? Our beginner's guide will explain how this popular anti-aging skin care treatment helps to produce new collagen production and help hold off the signs of aging.

You’ll learn:

  • What's microneedling and how does microneedling work
  • Any side effects and risks
  • Choosing the right microneedling devices
  • Where you can get microneedling treatments and the cost
  • How long does the treatment last?
  • Post-treatment tips
  • Frequently asked questions

So, let’s get started right away.

What's Microneedling?

In this article, we will answer how does microneedling work?

First, we'll mention that we recommend consulting with a board-certified dermatologist, plastic surgeon to discuss this minimally invasive skin rejuvenation procedure prior to starting microneedling at home. This is important especially if you have sensitive skin.

Microneedling is a process where tiny needles puncture the skin on your face, neck, chest scalp, stomach or other parts of the body through a roller or electric pen device.

Did you know men can use microneedling to help generate new collagen to grow a full, healthy beard?

(You’ll hear microneedling also referred to as derma rolling, skin-needling or collagen induction therapy.)

Like acupuncture, microneedling uses the body's natural processes to heal, in this case, the skin.

Because the small needles only puncture the epidermis (outermost layer of skin), the procedure is considered minimally-invasive and generally safe. (Therefore, there is on down-time after treatments.)

In other words, microneedling with a derma roller or pen penetrates the stratum corneum barrier layer of skin and beyond. 

As the punctures heal, collagen protein rushes in as part of your skin's 3-part healing process

Why does this matter?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It's responsible for the structure of your skin and connective tissue. Collagen helps the skin to be stretchy, firm and with a smooth appearance.

Starting in your 30s, your body doesn't create as much collagen and a collagen deficit is created.  

Because of the collagen deficit, you'll start to see saggy skin, dry skin and wrinkles.

Vampire Facial: How Does Microneedling Work with PRP

Well, how does microneedling work with PRP?  As microneedling with derma rollers has exploded in popularity, new twists to the procedure have been developed.

One of these twists is what is known as a vampire facial

Used by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, the collagen induction therapy approach uses your own blood.  

This is where your blood is drawn and spun to separate out platelet-rich plasma (PRP). After a microdermabrasion treatment, microneedling is done while using the PRP during treatment.

It can be done at home, but you would need specialized equipment and some experience to get the full benefit of the treatment.

Can Microneedling Tighten Skin?

As we explained above, the purpose of microneedling is to ‘trick’ the body to use the natural three-step healing process to improve the skin’s appearance, texture and tone.

Where the magic comes in is during the second step of the skin’s healing process where new collagen is created and rushes in to heal the 'wound'.

The benefit of more collagen and blood rushing in includes the plumping up of the skin which helps tighten and tone the skin, smooth out fine line and wrinkles and add more hydration and elasticity.

Microneedling with derma roller or pen treatments stimulate blood flow and generate new collagen as part of the healing process. 

As a result, the treatment helps to:

  • Tighten sagging skin
  • Close large pores
  • Lighten chicken pox, acne, surgical scars and age spots
  • Soften the skin's texture
  • Even out skin tone
  • Eye bags
  • Large poors

Along with helping to tighten skin and smooth out wrinkles, microneedling or collagen induction therapy can be used in other places on your body.

Such as:

  • Neck and chest
  • Hands
  • Under-eye bags and dark circles
  • Eyebrows
  • Lips
  • Stretch marks
  • Scalp
  • Cellulite

As you can see, microneedling as a lot of benefits and can be used all over the body.

Other Benefits You May Enjoy

In addition to the benefits of microneedling we discussed in the previous section, some potential benefits other than tightening, firming and reducing wrinkles include:

  • Smaller pores
  • Lighter stretch marks
  • Smoother cellulite

It gets better...

Microneedling and hair loss

Yes, microneedling might even help regrow thinning hair.

study done by Korean researchers on mice found success in using microneedling to regrow hair in patients who suffer from alopecia.

Specifically, after 3 weeks, they found greater hair growth with the 0.25 mm and 0.5 mm groups those in the 0.15 mm and 1.0 mm groups.

A 2015 research project showed men who didn't respond well to other approaches did respond to a combination of microneedling and hair replacement serums.

Put the two studies together and this approach of microneedling with platelets or well-known serums may be a winning combination for women and men who suffer from thinning hair or severe hair loss.

Red light therapy and microneedling are the powerful duo to help your thinning hair and grow new hair. Learn more here and see our buyer's guide on red light therapy products for hair.

The Best Microneedling Device

Actually, it's hard to say which general microneedling device is best for a person. There are variables only unique to you.

Overall, there are two types of devices that are used for microneedling.

Click on image for more details

1. Manual derma roller: has a handle with a roller with needles. 

Some manual rollers have replaceable heads and others don’t.

You'll have to be careful about keeping the manual derma roller sterile and replace the heads on a regular basis.

Click on image for more details


2. Electric microneedling pen: These types of medical grade microneedling pen devices are electric, can be cordless and are often used in spas.

The good news is you can get a spa-like microneedling treatment from the comfort of your home.

We believe Dr. Pen is the best microneedling pen for home use.

The pen is more sterile than a derma roller since the needle cartridges are disposable after each treatment.

Another nice convenience is the needle length can be easily adjusted for your needs.

For example, Dr. Pen can adjust from 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1.0, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2.0, 2.25, up to 2.5 mm, and even in between those lengths.

Finally, there's another big difference between the two devices:

The electric microneedling pen's needles penetrate the skin straight on which gives a consistent delivery and shorter recovery time. The manual derma roller's needles enter the skin on more of an angle. The derma roller is safe and effective, just not a effective as the pen.

Overall, the electric, more professional version will more than likely give you better results over a shorter period of time.

However, we're sure you'll have other considerations like your specific skin condition and your budget--just to name a couple.

Needle length

With the manual derma roller, you can buy roller heads with different lengths of microneedles.

For reference, the smaller the mm number, the thinner the needle and the less pain and bleeding. The higher the mm, the thicker the needle, more pain and bleeding.

You can buy heads with the following needle lengths:

0.25 to 0.5 mm: fine lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores, uneven skin tone and texture issues

0.5 to 1.0 mm: fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, texture issues, acne scars, dark spots and sagging skin

1.0 to 1.5 mm: fine lines, wrinkles, acne scars, sagging skin, stretch marks and cellulite

1.5 to 2.0 mm: cellulite, surgical scars and stretch marks

We recommend starting off with the shorter needles to practice with the rolling technique and to test your skin’s response.

Width of derma roller

Also, you can get different widths of rollers. For example, smaller widths for face and wider widths for scalp and body.

You’ll also want to look at the number of needles on a roller. The more needles, the less the number of times you’ll have to roll.

That means the less times rolling means a reduced risk of infection and pain.

Microneedle material

You'll need to know that the needles on a derma roller or electric pen are made from stainless steel or titanium.

  • Stainless steel:  usually sharper and better at staying sterile longer; they can lose their effectiveness sooner than titanium
  • Titanium: more durable, maintain sharpness for more rolls

As a rule, stainless steel needles costs less but have to be replaced more often. Titanium is initially more expensive but you can get more rolls out of one head.

As we pointed out, the microneedling pen has disposable, adjustable needle cartridges which makes them more sterile and generally more effective.

Where can microneedling be done?

First, you can search locally for a dermatology or aesthecian that offers this service in their office.

These types of professionals will create a treatment plan for you and the cost will generally range from $100-750 per treatment, with the average around $300 per treatment.

Because this is a cosmetic procedure, it is usually not covered by insurance, so the cost will come out of your pocket.

Second, you can do home microneedling. Microneedling or derma rolling supplies are widely available for purchase online for home use.

These is a suggested list of the supplies you’ll want to gather if you’re going to do at-home derma roller treatments:

7 easy steps to do a microneedling sessions

In general, here are the steps you’ll take during an at-home microneedling treatment, also refer to any instructions provided with your roller:

  • Sterlize your roller in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol for 10-15 minutes.
  • Wash your face with a high-quality cleanser, twice. Then put the alcohol on your face.
  • OPTIONAL: This is where you may want to add in a good numbing cream, especially if you’re using longer needles.
  • Visually divide your face into 4 sections: upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right. For each section, roll 2-3 times in one direction (lifting the roller when starting a new roll). Then roll in the opposite direction in that section the same amount of times. Finally, go diagonally.
  • Rinse your face with a gentle face cleanser, we especially like La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser.
  • Wash the roller in soap and water then let it sit in the alcohol again for another 10 minutes.
  • Let the roller dry, then put back into the case.

Importantly, manual rollers don’t last forever. Plan on replacing your roller’s head after 10-15 uses.

Either way, professionally or at home, you’ll see pinprick drops of blood after the treatment. This is a normal and expected part of the treatment--no need to panic. 

This video does a great job in showing you exactly how to derma roll for beginners:

FINAL THOUGHTS

In this article, we introduced the minimally-invasive cosmetic procedure commonly known as microneedling.

How does microneedling work? The needles in the microneedling device penetrate the skin to create small 'wounds'. Your body then starts the healing process, which includes sending new collagen to the site of the wounds.

The additional collagen plumps up the skin and helps to reduce wrinkles and fine lines, improve texture, lighten age spots, heal scars, reduce hair thinning and tighten saggy skin.

Microneedling can be done at spas, gyms and dermatologists offices. Or, you can do microneedling treatments at home.

This new protocol has become more popular as women who want to look their best take advantage of the power of microneedling and collagen.

Now you know the answer to how does microneedling work!

How Does Microneedling Work? - FAQ's

How long to see results after microneedling?

The results after microneedling depends on the length (microneedling depth)
of the derma roller’s needles along with how sensitive your skin is.

The bottom line is not to expect immediate results after one treatment.

It will be over a series of treatments where you’ll start to see improvement as the collagen regenerates under the skin.

If you choose to do in-home treatments, with consistent application, look to see improvements generally in 3-4 months.

How often should you do microneedling at home?

The length of the needles will also determine how often it’s recommended to roll.

For example, if the needles are short, you may be able to do a derma roll treatment every other day.

If they are longer, you may need to go longer between treatments, like every 3-4 weeks.

How long does microneedling last?

The result of microneedling treatments don't last forever.

Figure, in general, the results will last a year.

You can choose to do treatments, gain the benefits and not do any more treatments. Or continuously use the treatments on a monthly basis for example.

Overall, everyone is different, so you'll have to experiment and see what works best for you.

Is microneedling safe?

We can't talk about how does microneedling work without also talking about safety.

A 2018 study published by J Clin Aesthet Dermatol showed improvements in the facial skin’s lines, wrinkles, skin elasticity and texture was significantly improved after four microneedling treatments done four weeks apart.

Not only were the results positive, there was “minimal pain, discomfort or downtime’ after the treatments.

This is why it’s a popular procedure since you can return to work or daily activities right after the procedure (in office or home).

During the treatment, depending on the depth of the needles, you’ll likely experience bleeding which is a natural part of the process.

Your skin may also look red and irritated for a few days afterwards.

If you’re doing dermarolling treatments at home, the most important part of the process to make sure you keep sterilization in mind to avoid any kind of infection.

Lastly, there are no FDA-approved microneedling devices out there. The FDA does not approve or make a judgement on microneedling. Rather, it's better to say the devices are FDA-registered.

Who should not do microneedling?

Although we want to explain how does microneedling work, we also want to discourage the following people who are in these situations o avoid microneedling:

  • Pregnant
  • Skin diseases, such as psoriasis or eczema
  • Overly sensitive skin
  • Open wounds, such as active acne
  • Chemo/radiation therapy
  • Blood coagulating therapy
  • Herpes or warts

Even if you don’t have any of these conditions, we always recommend consulting with your health-care provider before starting a microneedling treatment plan--professionally or at home.

Is there post-treatment care?

To start with, do not take any anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, Advil or Aleve after treatment (or at least one week prior).  The reason is they can interfere with the natural inflammatory process that will cause skin rejuvenation.

After your session in the office or at home, you’ll probably see some redness and irritation on your face after microneedling. That's perfectly normal and nothing to become overly concerned with. It's a normal part of the process.

Because microneedling is minimally invasive, you won't need much recovery time.

Importantly, you’ll want to stay out of the sun and use sunscreen since your skin will be more sensitive.

As we mentioned, one of the benefits of microneedling is the anti-aging products you use will work harder as they will penetrate deeper into the skin.

The flip side of that is you’ll want to choose quality, gentle serums since they are going deeper into the skin. 

In summary, be gentle on your skin as it heals, stay out of the sun and use sunscreen.

We recommend this hyaluronic acid serum for microneedling - click on image to learn more

Can you wear makeup after microneedling?

Much will depend on how quickly your skin recovers from the microneedling procedure.

In general, if your skin heals well, you can wear some light makeup (avoid 24-hour makeup) 2-3 days after microneedling.