Does the thought of needles being punctured into your skin give you the heebie-jeebies? Join the club! When microneedling, a procedure that's been around since 1995, recently started gaining traction, most people were in two minds about it. And agreed, it does sound pretty terrifying, especially if you're iffy about needles. But the mesmerising process has become popular – and more well known – thanks to Instagram stars and YouTubers, who've gone out of their way to introduce the concept to us mortals. But while it's fascinating to look at, what is microneedling, exactly?
Microneedling is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a bunch of tiny needles to puncture the first layer of skin. It helps address many skin-related complaints, including wrinkles, alopecia, skin pigmentation issues, stretch marks, and acne scarring. We're especially focusing on acne scarring, because dealing with acne scars is frustrating, to say the least.
To break it down even more for us, we reached out to renowned dermatologist Dr. Monisha Aravind to answer our questions. She explains, “Microneedling is a procedure where we introduce small needles into the skin, which are very thin. Adjustments can be made, there are different sizes ranging from 0.25 to 2.5 millimetres in depth. The procedure induces collagen production — the concept is that we create a wound and when the body reacts to the wound by healing, it generally produces a lot of collagen and growth factors which helps improve acne scars. Also, microneedling helps in delivering a few actives into the skin directly, so that can help improve scars, pigmentation, and more.” Now that we’ve got a clearer picture, let’s dive into the world of microneedling.
- How does microneedling work on scars
- Who should get microneedling
- Who should avoid it
- How effective is microneedling on acne scars
- Where can you get it done from
- When can you start microneedling for acne scars
- Side effects of microneedling
- FAQs about microneedling
How does microneedling work on scars
Fun fact: Deep acne scars actually affect underlying collagen, and cause the fibrous tissue to heal improperly. This causes collagen production to ramp up, in an effort to correct the damage, but it often has a counter-effect since the repaired skin may not appear as soft or as mooth. Enter: Microneedling. The procedure rejuvenates the skin by boosting collagen. How that works is that tiny, sterile needles puncture the first layer of the skin and trigger physical trauma, which prompts the derma, a deeper layer of skin to rebuild. The fresh skin that now comes up has the appearance of smooth, healthy skin – and of course, no acne scars!
Who should get microneedling
Essentially, anyone who complains about skin-related issues such as wrinkles, scarring, acne, alopecia, skin pigmentation issues, stretch marks, or even loose skin. Microneedling helps rejuvenate the skin, and can be used by almost anyone – even those who have sensitive skin! Unlike most minimally-invasive skin treatments, microneedling is, interestingly enough, actually considered safer for darker skin tones since it doesn't damage or remove the outer layer of the skin.
Dr. Monisha Aravind adds, “It generally helps atrophic acne scars more than hypertrophic acne scars. Atrophic acne scars are scars that are depressed. Why that happens is because of the loss of collagen on that specific region, there is a pull of a fibrous tract from the dermal layer, pulling the epidermis downwards, thus making the scars depressed. When you do micro-needling, it creates a wound and the wound heals itself by the body's mechanisms. When the collagen production increases, it supports the scars and makes the scars come out of the surface”.
Who should avoid it
However, amidst this, there are a few people who should avoid microneedling altogether. It's not recommended for people who take or have had radiation therapy in the past year, are pregnant, have a skin disease, have open or active infections and wounds, or have a history of scarring or poor wound healing.
How effective is microneedling on acne scars
Very! Most people with acne scars see a noticeable reduction almost immediately, although the best results usually occur between 6-8 weeks. There was actually a study done in the Journal of Ayub Medical College, Abbottabad, which explored the effects of four microneedling sessions on 50 people with acne scarring, and after two months, everyone saw an improvement, regardless of how severe the scarring was. You do need upto three to four sessions for optimal results though, with yearly follow-up treatments afterwards.
However, it doesn't work too well for raised acne scars, since those are indicative of excess collagen in the area – and trying to create more collagen really won't fix that problem. Also, the effects of microneedling on acne scars are even better when the treatments are combined with vitamin C, or PRP, which is Platelet-Rich Plasma treatment. But back to the main point - bottom line is, microneedling works!
Where can you get it done from
While spas are always offering microneedling treatments for acne scars, and dermarollers act as cheaper placeholders for microneedling, your best bet is still to go to a dermatologist's office. It's a medical procedure after all, and you'd obviously want to avoid all the nasty side effects which can be triggered if the procedure is carried out by someone who's not trained. To put it simply, you wouldn't want someone who hasn't been to med-school performs surgery on you right? No matter how minimally invasive the procedure may be, treat the skin on your face with similar caution.
When can you start microneedling for acne scars
Speaking of which, microneedling, while relatively safer than a lot of skin treatments, actually does have side effects. Dr. Aravind explains, “Microneedling for acne scars is completely safe, there is no down time and anyone who has fresh scars can start the treatment,” adding that, “Generally, I always suggest people who have active acne to get it treated, and then start with the scar treatment. Once your acne has been controlled, then it's ideal to start the scar treatment then and there since the fresh scars will respond quicker, because they're still in the healing stage.”
Side effects of microneedling
1. You will experience inflammation
No, you're not built differently, and regardless of how little it may hurt, your skin is going to experience redness, bruising, and inflammation. On the bright side though, it will go away in a few days. However, it may be time to call a doctor if your side effects are on the more severe side, and include bleeding, bruising, peeling, or indicating an infection.
2. Your Skin Will Be More Sensitive
The key here is to avoid any triggers. We're talking exfoliants, alcohol-based skin products, exercise, and even direct sun exposure. It's probably best to avoid these under any circumstances after microneedling, so if you're opting for the procedure, be prepared.
3. You Might Experience Acne Breakouts
Okay, so you're going for microneedling to get rid of acne scars, and what are you met with? More acne? Well, that's the hard truth. But on the bright side, the breakouts will probably be mild, and clear up on their own, leaving you with healthy, clear, and smooth skin. It's best to avoid picking at your skin when you have breakouts though – because that'll lead to further scarring, and then the whole procedure will have been for nothing.
FAQs about microneedling
Q. What are some of the precautions one can take, before opting for microneedling?
A. Well, first off, definitely consult a doctor, especially if you're on blood thinners! Microneedling, as aforementioned, can cause inflammation and may even cause bleeding. Blood thinners increase the chance of bleeding after the procedure, so it's probably a good idea to consult a medical profession before taking a decision that could jeopardise your health. Additionally, if you're prone to cold sores, ask your doctor for an antibiotic, and fast. The procedure may cause outbreaks, so you definitely need to be prepared. Also, you may need to use topical retinoids if you're prone to acne, since it will definitely reduce certain side effects.
Q. What's the procedure like?
A. Essentially, your doctor makes small pricks under the skin with a pen-like tool. Think of it as accidentally poking yourself on the face with a pen, but instead, it's a sterile needle. The pricks are small, so you probably won't notice them after the procedure. Before the procedure, your doctor may use an anaesthetic to reduce the chances of pain. Plus, once it starts, it'll only take 30 minutes, and your doctor will apply a calming treatment afterwards. With the right precautions and consultation, this is likely to be a non-intimidating, easy procedure. No worries here!
Q. Is there something else to keep in mind while opting for microneedling?
A. Dr. Aravind sums it perfectly, saying that, “Microneedling is very effective, but not as a standalone treatment; there are a lot of types of atrophic scars which exist, so acne scars always require a combination of treatments. Microneedling is one of the combination treatments, and it's very mild without any down time — you may just get mild swelling and redness for a day or two, nothing more than that. You won't get any pigmentation when it's done, and it doesn't peel your skin either. However, you should always check with your doctor, though, to make sure you're the right candidate for this treatment.
Written by Nishtha Bhalla on Dec 01, 2021
Nishtha is a freelance writer who loves all things beauty, fashion, culture, and lifestyle. With content covering a variety of topics, she brings a holistic, nuanced perspective to her writing. In her free time, she can be found watching reruns of The Office, reading anything she can get her hands on, and experimenting with astrology.