The things we will do for beauty! I’ve slathered myself with acids (i.e., gotten chemical peels), chopped off my hair and coated it in formaldehyde-based solutions, subjected my face to digital analysis revealing a horrifying amount of skin damage, bleached my sunspots, had strangers pick at my zits and de-frizz my bikini area, scrubbed my body raw with every manner of exfoliant, uncomfortably endured eyelid-penetrating lights for what felt like forever, and stripped for spray tans. And those are only the beauty endeavors I care to admit. Now comes along another beauty doozy: microneedling. If you haven’t suffered enough for beauty, microneedling is for you. It promises to rid acne, wrinkles, scars, hyperpigmentation, cellulite and stretch marks through needles that poke tons of tiny holes into skin.
The premise behind microneedling is actually at the root of many popular beauty treatments. The needles piercing the skin generate small injuries intended to activate new collagen and elastin to repair the injuries. Microneedling can be performed in doctor’s offices or at home. Brands that offer at-home microneedling products, which resemble spiked wheels attached to sticks, include StackedSkincare, Derma Roller, Environ and QMD Derma Roller. Most home microneedling rollers are priced from $30 to $200. Microneedling treatments have invaded physicians’ offices and among the numerous companies behind professional medical devices are EndyMed, Rejuvapen, SkinPen, Eclipse Micropen and Dermapen. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, microneedling treatments conducted inside doctor’s offices cost $250 to $1,000.
Although I’ve occasionally pushed the envelope in my beauty quests, the overwhelming majority of them have been fun and harmless. I’m worried stabbing my face hundreds of times with needles pushes the envelope too far. I’m not alone in my concerns. There’s no denying microneedling can potentially be beneficial. However, it carries risks. Risk one: it can be painful. At doctor’s offices, numbing cream is applied before microneedling. When you see pictures of people post-procedure, it’s obvious why numbing is needed. Their faces are red and scabbed. Smaller needles – needles run from .25 millimeters to over 2.5 millimeters – are less painful, but may be less effective. “Once you get over one millimeter, you need to be pretty brave,” Nashville dermatologist Michael Gold, a consultant for EndyMed, told the Wall Street Journal. Additionally, New York dermatologist Doris Day said in the same article skewed or dull needles can damage the skin.
Risk two: Infection. Microneedling is designed to pave pathways allowing for deeper penetration of skin care products. Pathways can have side effects. “Any time you do that, you’re open to the risk of irritation and infection on a deeper level,” Gold informed Refinery29. The website Paula’s Choice warns that there’s a chance of “getting unwanted ingredients (like preservatives or problematic plant extracts) deeper into the skin, where their negative effects may be worse. Even beneficial ingredients like vitamin C or retinol can be more sensitizing if they penetrate deeper (i.e. when applied over broken skin), rather than being regulated to do their work in the uppermost layers of skin. Paula’s Choice also points out that people tend to misuse microneedling at home, further exacerbating adverse reactions that may occur. “It’s too easy to overdo these types of tools and create real problems for your skin,” the website asserts.
Risk three: The needling is for naught. As plastic surgery expert Natalie Kita explains at About Health, claims to solve problems that are very difficult to address such as cellulite and stretch marks are overblown. An editor at Owndoc.com stresses that microneedling tackles some skin issues – aging skin – better than others, notably crow’s feet and enlarged pores. Paula’s Choice concludes, “Derma rollers aren’t a must-have item and there is no research proving that at home derma roller devices produce results better than laser therapy can, or even equal what’s possible from using a well-formulated skin care routine.” Given the risks, I’m sticking with my well-formulated skin care routine. No needles required.
To watch a video on at-home microneedling click here.