The ESK blog
What is micro-needling and what is it best for?
20 April 2022
Microneedles are exactly what they sound like - hundreds of tiny needles often less than one millimetre long that puncture the skin. The purpose is twofold - to actually traumatize your skin because when it starts to heal it stimulates a cascade of growth factors that stimulate the growth of new skin cells along with collagen and elastin to rejuvenate the face. The second is to get past the skin barrier (or stratum corneum) to deliver critical ingredients deeper into the epidermis and dermis. The epidermis is only 0.1mm thick. The underlying dermis is between 0.7 to 4 mm thick. Most of the nerves are in the dermis but there are a few nerve endings at the base of the epidermis as well.
Who would benefit from micro-needling?
Microneedling has been studied and shown to have benefits for;
- reducing wrinkles and fine lines
- Reducing hyperpigmentation
- Reducing acne
- Encouraging hair growth
- Delivery of drugs, vaccines and skin care ingredients
- Reducing scars
- Reducing stretch marks
- There is emerging evidence for pre-cancerous spots such as actinic keratoses
So, I guess if you have any of these concerns, microneedling would be worth a shot. The real benefit of microneedling is that it can up your skincare game and improve the results you are getting from skincare at a lower cost and with less pain and risk than from many of the other device based options (eg. laser).
Microneedling comes in 3 forms;
1. In clinic;
Topical anaesthetic cream containing lidocaine and prilocaine cream (EMLA) is applied to the area which is then covered for anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. This is followed by an antiseptic solution. A microneedling device uses needles long enough to penetrate into the dermis (see below). We’re talking 0.5mm – 1.5mm long for the face, neck and chest, or 1.5mm – 2.5mm for the body. The whole procedure lasts about 15 to 20 minutes and causes pinpoint bleeding across the entire treated area. When the skin is freshly needled, actives such as vitamins B3, C and A are applied to enhance the process.
They tend to be done 3 times a year with at least 6 weeks between treatments.
There is very little downtime. You can usually go back to work or your usual activities the next day. You do have to avoid sun exposure and your usual skincare for at least a week. You will often experience some redness, irritation, and a bit of swelling for hours to days afterwards.
More serious downsides are pretty rare, but include hyperpigmentation for professional (i.e. deeper) microneedling (although this happens less than with laser treatments), infection and reactivation of herpes. There have been some cases of solid microneedles snapping off inside the skin!
2. At home with a microneedling device;
These were invented to be a reasonably priced way to do your own microneedling but with shorter needles for less risk and to make sure you’re not reaching the blood vessels. You’ve probably heard of a Dermaroller. They are one type of at-home microneedling device and have a coloured plastic handle with a roller head, and needles made of titanium alloy with needle lengths 1.5mm long or less attached to the head. The Dermastamp has fewer but longer (usually 0.2-3 mm) needles resting on a flat head. They tend to be best for acne or chicken pox scars. At this length they are not legal in every country. All of these home devices can be used 2 to 3 times a week for up to 100 times. They need to be thoroughly cleaned in hot tap water and shaken dry after each use.
Looking to the Google to get a sense of user experience, most people are pretty happy with their home microneedling devices. Having said that, there are a few cautionary tales. Using needles longer than 1.5mm is risky and best done in clinic. If you aren’t using disposable needles, you should ensure your needles are thoroughly sterilized before re-using them. Most of the time, when things go wrong, it is caused by using the device in a way that is not recommended (eg, using too much pressure, or microneedling damaged skin).
3. With a dissolving microneedle patch;
In a dissolving microneedle patch, the microneedles dissolve in the skin within minutes, thereby delivering the ingredients contained in them. There are fewer studies of dissolving microneedle patches, so the data isn’t as robust as for in clinic procedures. Dissolving microneedles are very well tolerated, super easy to use and we rarely see any issues with them.
Not everyone can manufacture them and the need for protective packaging can make them expensive.
A summary of pros & cons:
|In clinic Microneedle Devices||Home Microneedle Devices||Microneedle Patches|
|Contains tiny, stainless-steel needles. Typical length >0.5 mm often >2mm. These needles may be attached to a cylinder that is rolled across the skin, or to a flat surface that is "stamped" on the skin, or arranged in a pattern on the tip of a pen-shaped instrument. They are often attached to some sort of motor to increase the skin trauma.||Contains tiny, stainless-steel needles. Anywhere from 0.25-3 mm- although we have seen longer needles sold for at home use. These needles may be attached to a cylinder that is rolled across the skin, or to a flat surface that is "stamped" on the skin or arranged in a pattern on the tip of a pen-shaped instrument.||Contains dissolvable microneedles made of Hyaluronic Acid and containing active ingredients.|
|Need to apply actives/ in clinic treatments such as PRP or in clinic skincare after the microneedle device.
||Need to apply skincare after the microneedle device.||Actives including hyaluronic acid in the microneedles and dissolve into the skin.|
|Bleeding is common (small amount).
||If you stick to the safer shorter needles, bleeding is rare.||No bleeding.|
Some rollers are reusable but must be thoroughly cleaned after each use. Single use microneedling cartridges which are disposable and need to be replaced between clients.
||Rollers are reusable but must be thoroughly cleaned after each use. You can also buy reusable cartridges for home use.||Disposable - one time use only. The “needles” completely dissolve inside the skin.|
|Reported side effects include pigmentation, pain, burning, dryness, acne flare, infection, post inflammatory pigmentation.
||Reported side effects include pigmentation, pain, burning, dryness, acne flare, infection, post inflammatory pigmentation.||Side effects very rare.|
Devices that claim to treat acne scars or penetrate the skin (which means they have longer needles) must be included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
||Devices that claim to treat acne scars or penetrate the skin (which means they have longer needles) must be included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).||Don’t need oversight from Therapeutic Goods Administration.|
|Avoid microneedling devices if you have any cuts or abrasions on your skin, any active acne or any other skin condition where you may be at higher risk of injury or infection.||Avoid microneedling devices if you have any cuts or abrasions on your skin, any active acne or any other skin condition where you may be at higher risk of injury or infection.||Can be used on active acne.|
|Different studies have been done showing success with 2 weekly to 8 weekly treatments. Long needles are only done 3 x a year.
||Different studies have been done showing success with 2 weekly to 8 weekly treatments.||Use acne patches at first sign of a pimple whenever they happen. Anti-aging patches to be used twice a week.|
The ideal length of the microneedle varies depending on the problem you are targeting.
Fixing scars needs longer needle (lengths of 1.5-2.0mm)
Aging skin, fine lines and wrinkles need smaller needle (lengths of 0.5-1.0mm). That’s a good thing because the longer the needle, and therefore the deeper the penetration, the higher the risk of pain.
How often should I be doing microneedling?
There are so many different studies looking at different regimens at different intervals. Here’s what we can say; Multiple treatments (up to 8) are usually needed with gaps of between 2 to 8 weeks. Results usually take between 3 and 6 months to start showing, although I have seen studies showing great results in as little as 8 weeks.
Who can’t have microneedling?
It is never recommended to use in clinic or at home microneedling devices on skin with active acne, herpes, any other form of infection or warts or skin diseases (eg. Eczema or Psoriasis).
How would I use microneedle patches?
- Wash your hands and THOROUGHLY dry them before opening the package.
- Leave them in their foil packaging until you are ready to use them. Because the microneedles are water soluble, if they come in contact with any water (even from the air) before you apply them, they will start to dissolve and will be less effective!
- Peel off the backing sticker. Make sure not to touch the needles - only handle the border.
- Place them on your skin- needle side facing the skin and gently press down onto your skin. Don’t rub!
- Leave them on for 2 hours or overnight (they won’t come off even if you’re a restless sleeper because the adhesive holds them in place) - then peel them off and throw them in the bin.
While we have lots of studies looking at microneedling for acne, we don’t have solid evidence for exactly how to get the best out of your microneedle patches. Anecdotally the best time to use a microneedle patch is as your pimple is starting. Use them whenever a pimple comes up.
These should be used twice a week on skin you are looking to target for fine lines, wrinkles or pigmentation.
2000 dissolving microneedles melt under the surface of the skin for improved delivery of active ingredients.
Designed for the under eye area and for fine lines and wrinkles anywhere on your face (think crow's feet, smile lines, forehead wrinkles).
- More efficient delivery of traditional active ingredients for improved results.
- Reduce fine lines and increased skin elasticity and volume
- Reduced pigmentation
Each pack contains 4 patches.