Of all of the non-surgical and minimally-invasive therapies out on the market, microneedling offers some of the best results for producing collagen in facial skin. The processes behind microneedling is very similar to the aeration of lawns. Remember walking a soccer or football field in high school and noticing a bunch of holes punched into the ground? If you had a father highly concerned with achieving the lushest of residential lawns, he probably was punching those little holes as well in the yard at home. How does damage cause improvement?
The principles behind aeration and microneedling facial skin are quite similar – if you affect pointed and spaced damage to a singular surface, such as the skin organ (or the grass covering a field), then the surface will engage in production to repair. For the lawn, this means fuller and lusher grass as new growth takes place between the spaced holes. For the face, this means collagen growth and smoother texture.
Board certified plastic surgeons Dr. Tiffany McCormack of Reno and Dr. Kevin Smith of Charlotte discuss the successes of microneedling and the differences between at-home procedures and those found coupled with energy in physician offices.
Injuring the Skin for Repair
It seems utterly counter intuitive, but causing damage to the skin actually helps it to repair itself, even regrow. Now, that doesn’t mean that all damage is good; sunburns and smoking cause significant damage to the skin, and it is lasting. The difference is the damage caused by microneedling is controlled and tamed.
“Microneedling is tattooing without the ink; you’ve got a lot of small needles that pierce the skin, “explains Dr. Smith. “Historically, the only way we’ve had to fix skin is to injure skin; when you injure skin, the skin corrects itself. It grows collagen. Microneedling is an effective way to do what we call collagen-induction to thicken the skin and smooth the skin.”
When complete, there will be a lattice of needle points separated by untouched skin. When the skin begins to produce collagen to fix the damage, the result is an entire field of affected skin, not just where the needles punched holes.
“It’s another way to deliver something beneath the barrier that is the epithelium, that outer layer of skin,” adds Dr. McCormack. “It’s really there to protect the inner part, but sometimes you have to injure that or break through that to deliver something different that you need to get under the skin.”
Energy-based Microneedling vs. Manual
The process behind microneedling is the same no matter the device utilized. For this reason, consumer-grade microneedling rollers are actually effective and routinely suggested by skincare professionals for an at-home boost. The only difference between a microneedling roller from the internet and the one in the surgeon’s office is energy. The more energy that can be imparted onto the needling, the more collagen/results can be produced. For this reason, there exist a few microneedling devices that utilize radiofrequency energy to ramp up the rejuvenative effects.
“It’s a procedure that doesn’t impart a lot of energy – meaning it’s not a one-and-done kind of deal,” explains Smith. “Most patients will have 2, 3, even 4 microneedling sessions to improve some of the fine lines on the superficial portion of the skin.”
For at-home use with rollers, significant time and continued microneedling will be required to get close to what professional-grade devices can achieve in physician offices. For patients who are looking for significant results on a shorter time frame, then the energy-based microneedling devices will be ideal. “We can also combine that with radiofrequency – or energy – so we can help smooth fine lines and help improve the texture of the skin,” describes McCormack. The retexturing aspect is one of the most curious about microneedling, and certainly requires energy-based versions of the procedure to attain significant results.
An Important Draw to Microneedling – Insignificant Downtime
One of the main draws to microneedling is next to no downtime for a procedure that is proven to work. As with any plastic surgery procedure, the more damage that is caused, the more restorative the procedure will be – at the cost of more downtime. With microneedling, the tiny needles typically do little visible damage, even with the energy-based devices. At worst, a patient may face a day or two of some redness, but nothing that won’t quickly dissipate. “Microneedling is so nice because there’s not a lot of downtime. [Patients] can have that device under topical anesthetic several times and get the nice results without it interfering with their life,” shares Smith.
Microneedling a simple concept enhanced and improved by newer techniques and, in some cases, the addition of energy. The collagen-producing and skin retexturing results are real; it’s a trend that isn’t going anywhere but up.