Microneedling (also known as collagen induction therapy) involves using fine needles to create hundreds of tiny, invisible puncture wounds in the top layer of skin. Sound appealing? Not so much. But this minimally invasive treatment—whether it’s done in-office by a trained aesthetician, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon, or at home using a dermaroller (a small, handheld paint roller coated in tiny needles)—is virtually painless and incredibly effective. “The micro-injuries you create stimulates the body’s natural wound healing processes, resulting in cell turnover and increased collagen and elastin production, therefore reversing as well as preventing signs of aging,” says board certified dermatologist and RealSelfcontributor Sejal Shah, MD. (It works the same way lasers do, only you’re injuring the skin mechanically instead of using heat or light.) Believe it or not, microneedling has become hugely popular among skincare fanatics—Vogue is calling it the next big thing in anti-aging. (Check out these game-changing anti-aging ingredientstaking the skincare world by storm.)
The primary appeal of microneedling is its ability to stimulate growth of collagen and elastin, which is the key to new, youthful-looking skin. Some doctors would even go so far as to say that the procedure is the most powerful way to stop aging in its tracks and prevent new fine lines and wrinkles from forming. With its ability to trigger the generation of new skin cells, just a few sessions of microneedling will noticeably reduce fine lines, crow’s feet, and deep wrinkles on the forehead. “This is one of the reasons I like microneedling—because it’s able to utilize the body’s own natural healing mechanisms, so the results are very natural,” Dr. Shah says. “Also because there’s minimal downtime with it, I often recommend it as a maintenance for people who are trying to stave off the signs of aging.” To treat wrinkles, a needle length no greater than 1.5-mm should be used. (Check out the before and after pictures of microneedling on RealSelf.com.)
In a 2009 study on the effects of microneedling, nearly 100 percent of acne-scarred participants reported a marked improvement in the visibility of their acne scars. With at-home microneedling, a 1.5-mm handheld roller is long enough to improve the appearance of acne scars. However, for severe acne scars, you may need even longer needles for maximum results, so you’ll want to find a dermatologist or facialist who performs microneedle therapy treatments. Professional grade microneedling devices can be as long as 3 mm, which is twice as effective and will treat deep acne scars that occur beneath the surface of the skin. In case you’re wondering how microneedling compares to fractional laser treatments when it comes to resolving acne scars, a head-to-head comparison published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery in 2016, found both treatments to be comparable and effective, but gave credit to microneedling for being better tolerated, with fewer side effects and less downtime. These are the secrets your skin wants to tell you.
Once again, collagen is arguably the most vital way to improve the look of skin, and this goes far beyond reducing wrinkles. By stimulating collagen growth with microneedling, you can also reverse sun damage and discoloration, including the hyperpigmentation that comes with melasma. A 2015 study showed microneedling to be a promising treatment for the blotchy, brownish facial pigmentation that comes with this chronic condition. To improve extra pigmentation from sun-damaged skin, your dermaroller needles should range between 1.0 mm an 1.5 mm in length. Beauty guru Rachel Zoldan writes that after only a few microneedling sessions, her skin was clear and glowing despite too many summers in the sun. (Here’s what skin cancer looks like—do this mole check now!)
It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but microneedling doesn’t actually enlarge pores as you might imagine piercing your skin hundreds of times would. Rather, one major benefit of using a dermaroller is that it helps pores appear much smaller. Microneedling stimulates collagen in and around your pores, which causes them to plump and appear shrunken, if not closed. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want smaller pores? Watch out for these bad habits that keep clogging your pores.
Did you know that only 4 to 8 percent of that expensive serum you’re using on your face actually penetrates your skin? One of microneedling’s additional appeals is that it improves product absorption tremendously. Studiesconfirm that the treatment can actually help topical medications penetrate skin more efficiently, allowing you to reap the full benefits of any product. This makes total sense considering the fact that microneedling creates thousands of invisible holes in your skin that are ready to absorb products in a way clogged pores can’t. “The tiny punctures actually act like little channels, allowing topical products to penetrate better and work more effectively,” Dr. Shah says.
Finally, an awesome benefit of microneedling is that this treatment isn’t exclusive to the face. It can be done on any area of skin that needs to be repaired—particularly areas that display stretch marks or acne scars, like the legs, chest, back, and butt. As few as four to six sessions could make a difference in these problem areas.