Micro-needling. A scary concept. Akin perhaps to acupuncture. It is similar to a tattoo gun, but goes a little bit deeper – or lighter, depending on your skin problem. As a sufferer of adult chronic acne, after I went through all the Roaccutane saga (for the second time, no doubt), I was left with some pretty badly pitted skin, and red pigmentation – i.e.some gnarly acne scarring. If you know me, you know I have the most freckles out of anyone you’ve ever met. So many in fact that white, pale skin is few and far between (unless it’s on my stomach, due to a partialness to wearing one-piece swimsuits at the beach). The fact that my acne scarring was so strong that it was noticeable underneath my freckles?! It was bad. And the only option for me with scarring that bad, was micro-needling.
Micro-needling is used mostly for boosting collagen, and getting rid of scarring. In the most extreme sense, micro-needling is used for burn victims, and in the lightest sense, it’s used to give your skin a bit of a boost – akin to a more intense facial (I’m sure you’ve heard of the vampire facial? Like that, but with less blood). I sat somewhere in the middle. I needed at least six sessions, each a month apart, with a week of preparation/recovery either side of the procedure.
The idea is: a needle repeatedly infiltrates your skin epidermis and creates tiny wounds all over your face, and in retaliation, the body realises that something has gone wrong and starts producing extra collagen, which not only plumps up the skin that’s already there, but creates a faster and more thorough version of skin renewal – you should know, in the days following your procedure, you shed what seems like a two faces and a half worth of skin; not a good look on a first date or a Girl’s Night Out.
My problem area was the hollows of my cheeks – they were not only red and angry (rosacea is something I’ve never had a problem with) without acne, but they were so pitted that I could feel the pits when I ran my fingers over my face; and when I put on makeup, the shiny-ness of my foundation would reflect the different texture of my skin, and make my pitting look deeper. It was obvious, and a huge blow to my self-esteem. I had conquered chronic facial acne twice – only to be left with the ghosts of them for all to see.
For those of you who are nervous about micro-needling – you shouldn’t be. I’ve tried a lot of different beauty procedures over the years, and for me, there’s nothing that’s been worse than a Brazilian laser hair removal, trust me. It is possible to have micro-needling without numbing cream, but your dermatologist will most likely use numbing cream for your comfort, and because the less you feel, the deeper they can go, and the better results you’ll get.
In my opinion, you should allow plenty of time for your appointment. The numbing cream takes a varying amount of time to take effect, and you don’t know how your skin will react that day – you might be able to weather a second or third pass. After the appointment, your skin will be an open wound, open to any foreign body who wants to take root, so it’s best to go home, and spend the day in a contained environment – without touching your face!!!
After the numbing cream takes effect, they’ll start up the pen. There are a few different machines on the market, but the best one (the one that’s FDA approved) is called the SkinPenÒ which is the one I used. It has a loud buzzing noise which shouldn’t deter you – for the first few sessions it should be soothing enough (and the needle shallow enough) that you could even have a quick snooze. The most sensitive areas are your nose (it feels like you might sneeze from the vibrations), up by your hairline (make sure your dermatologist doesn’t skimp with the numbing cream in that area), and beside your ears (sensitive to pain and vibrations).
Likely your dermatologist will endeavour to do a few passes – they’ll want to push your skin as far as they can within its capabilities. That means finding that fine line between not stimulating your wound-repair system enough, and abrasing your skin too much.
In the beginning they’ll start with a very shallow needle, perhaps 0.25mm to 1mm. This depth targets pore size and fine lines – great for wrinkles! Then, depending on your needs and how your skin is reacting, they’ll slowly increase the needle depth in the hope to trigger the most collagen production. The needle I had worked up to using by my last session was just over 2mm – the needle length used for scarring and burns – but usually you should stick to around 1mm to 1.5mm.
Immediately after the procedure it will feel like you have a really bad sunburn. Your skin will be red, hot, and feel tightly stretched across your face. Because your skin is essentially an open wound for up to 24 hours after the treatment, try your hardest not to touch your face.
You will only be able to apply a clear topical cream that your dermatologist will give you for the 24 hours after the procedure – none of your normal skin routine! Not even a cleanser! For the day after, you receive another cream to use, and you can start also using light products such as sunblock, and your gentle cleanser. The second cream boosts your skin renewal, so soon after you start applying that cream, your skin will start to peel.
Try not to pick it! I’m sure most of us remember the pleasure in primary school of slathering your hand in glue, and peeling it off when it dries. Well, this is an adult version of that, except it’s your face, so really, really try not to peel skin off your face before it’s ready!
Also, don’t book in any social appointments that day and maybe even the day after, as you will look like an actual snake shedding its skin. Not the most attractive look.
The plus side is for 6 months after your micro-needling, you should be producing more collagen, and your skin should look healthy and full. Screw you, retinol! Ideally do a session every month for 4 months to get ultimate results for problem areas, afterwards once a year to make the most out of your skin health.
Before I started micro-needling, my cheeks were so pitted, and now after 5 (rather intense by the end) sessions, my skin is looking like I never had acne at all. Not only is my skin healthier and happier – but I have my make-up free confidence back. Score.
Image by @JenniferStenglein for Playboy