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Is Micro Needling Safe and Good for your Skin?

Micro needling is a treatment for the skin that uses needles. Yes, needles to make thousands of punctures in the skin. 

remmi love your skin microneedle derma roller

Yikes! Sounds scary and looks scary, right? I'm not so sure this treatment is for me. It's definitely not for my daughter. She would be passed out on the floor just at the thought of needles! I have a friend who recently had micro needling done and she says it wasn't bad at all. 

But is micro needling safe, does it work and does it scar the skin? Let me give you a brief overview of the skin before we get into the nitty gritty of micro needling so you have a little info on what our skin does for us and why it ages.

The Skin
The skin is the body's largest organ and is the protective barrier between us and the world. Besides, keeping our fluids and insides nicely packaged, the skin keeps invaders like bacteria, viruses and chemicals from entering our bodies.

Skin regulates body temperature by sweating to keep our temperature from getting too high.

Oil glands keep the skin soft and supple plus, maintain a healthy pH balance to resist germs.

The nerves in the skin alert us to pain, pressure, and hot or cold temperatures.

The skin also protects us from the Ultra Violet Radiation from the sun by getting tan. Speaking of the sun and skin, exposure to sunlight causes the skin to make the Vitamin D essential for strong bones and cellular functions.

It contains area specific hair follicles to grow protective hair.

The skin is constantly renewing itself with new cells.

How many layers does the skin have?
The skin has three main layers, the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutaneous layer or hypodermis.

The Epidermis is the outer layer and contains 5 layers  (the stratum corneum, the stratum lucidum, the stratum granulosum, the stratum spinosum, and the stratum basale aka stratum germinativum) to create a waterproof barrier and give our skin color through the melanocytes.

The dermis is a very active layer of skin consisting of the papillary layer and the reticular layer. It contains connective tissue (collagen and elastin) which gives the skin firmness, flexibility and strength, hair follicles, sweat and oil glands, nerve endings, blood and lymph vessels.

The Hypodermis is made up of fat, connective tissue and blood vessels. It anchors the skin to the muscles and tissue below it.

How thick is the skin?
The thickness of the skin ranges from the thinnest 0.5mm on the eyelids to the thickest 4 mm on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. The average thickness overall on the face is about 1.70 mm.

Skin Aging
All that hard work the skin does protecting us plus, the pull of gravity can take a toll on it making it look scarred, old, spotty and loose. The protein fibers, collagen and elastin, are not as strong and are not replaced as rapidly as we age. We are constantly searching for that elusive fountain of youth and many will try anything to make themselves look younger and more beautiful. Even needles! 

What is Collagen?
Collagen is an abundant protein throughout our bodies. It's made of chains of amino acids which form strong fibers to support the skin and the tissues of the body. It is high in the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. 

At about age 30, the body starts to produce less collagen. The skin progressively becomes more lined, wrinkled and sagging as collagen production continues to decline.

The collagen protein molecule is a large molecule that cannot penetrate the skin so topical application of collagen will not go into the skin, just so you know!

The skin is an amazing organ! As an esthetician, I'm always looking for the best and safest ways to take care of the skin. Let's get to the topic of micro needling.

Micro Needling
What is micro needling?
Micro needling, also referred to as collagen induction therapy, is considered to be a generally safe cosmetic procedure for the skin. It is an anti aging and scar treatment since micro needling both stimulates collagen production and breaks down old scar tissue.

A device containing many sharp fine needles is applied in multiple directions to the area of skin in need of treatment. It can be a roller or a pen type device. The object is to create thousands of small punctures, they call them micro channels, in the skin to cause the skin to heal, defend and protect itself from the injury by creating collagen and new tissue. The punctures close quickly on the surface of the skin within about an hour. It is considered to be a minimally invasive procedure.

The benefits are firmer, smoother skin, less visible pores and scar reduction. 

The punctures, aka micro channels, allow skin care products to penetrate deep into the skin. A calming serum or ointment is applied after a micro needling treatment. That serum or ointment contains ingredients that stimulate collagen production including hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C.

Radio frequency micro needling is another needling treatment that is a heat based treatment. One of the possible side effects of radio frequency micro needling is it can cause death of fat cells leaving depressions in the skin. Sounds too risky! I don't recommend it.

Who would want micro needling?
Someone with chicken pox scars, acne scars or stretch marks may want to have micro needling treatments to help the scars look less visible. Those with skin that has lost elasticity and looks saggy would see firmer skin from micro needling. People with large pores, hyper pigmentation, uneven skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles are candidates for micro needling.

Who can't have micro needling done?
Micro needling is not for those with active acne, cold sores or other open wounds. People with eczema, psoriasis, inflamed skin or rosacea can not be treated.  Micro needling cannot be done if you are pregnant. Those with a history of any type of skin scarring including keloid scarring cannot be treated.  People who have had radiation therapy, those with a lowered immune system, diabetics, those taking anti coagulant medications cannot be micro needled. Moles and warts cannot be micro needled.

Who performs the micro needling procedure?
A dermatologist or an esthetician under the supervision of a dermatologist perform the micro needling treatment. The treatment is done in a doctor's office or in a medspa under doctor's supervision.

Before a Micro Needling treatment
First, you will need to make a consultation appointment with the dermatologist or esthetician who will performing the micro needling procedure to determine if you are truly a candidate for the micro needling. 

If you are a indeed a candidate, you will need to stop using any blood thinning medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin, retinoids including Renova and Retin A, and other medications including certain acne medications.

The Micro Needling Procedure
Most effective micro needling procedure uses needles long enough to penetrate the dermis and cause bleeding. Long micro needles are used by dermatologists. 

Needles must be sterile because they are puncturing the skin. The doctor will apply a topical anesthetic and allow it sit for about 30 minutes to numb the skin. The the needles are applied to the skin in multiple directions.

The procedure will take anywhere form 10 minutes to 1 hour depending on what area is being treated. The process done on the face takes an average of 20 to 30 minutes. A soothing serum, mask or cream will be applied after the treatment.

You will need a series of spaced apart micro needling treatments to achieve maximum results. You may only need a series of 3 treatments with a treatment being performed every 30 days. The longer the needles are, the further apart the treatments need to be. The treatment plan will be developed according to the needs of the skin.  

You may see some results in a couple weeks. It may take several months to see full results of the treatment due the building of collagen and healing of the skin.

Maintenance treatments are usually done on a yearly basis.

More About the Needles
The needles must be long enough to penetrate the dermis to get the most benefit from the treatment. Needles that are too short or are dull will not puncture the skin deep enough to cause significant results. They will increase blood flow and cause minor irritation. In fact, dull needles can damage the skin instead of rejuvenating it causing scratches, inflammation and possible scarring.

Needle lengths: 

0.25 mm penetrates the Stateum Corneum
0.5 mm penetrates the epidermis
1.0 mm penetrates the epidermis
2.0 mm penetrates the dermis
2.5 mm penetrates the dermis

Skin Pen is the only FDA approved professional micro needling device available at this time. A cartridge of needles is used on one person only one time ensuring that the needles are sharp, sterile and effective.

After a Micro Needling

The skin may have redness that can last from a few days to a week. The redness can be covered with makeup. The skin may have a tight dry feeling that can last a couple days to a week. Avoid activities that cause the skin to sweat for 24 hours after a micro needling treatment to reduce irritation.

Wear sunscreen! The skin will be sensitive to the sun plus will be more at risk for hyper pigmentation. You should be supplied by your treatment provider with a soothing ointment to use at home after your treatment. The goal is to reduce the surface inflammation asap. 

Side Effects, Risks and Complications from Micro Needling
For some people, there can be redness that can lasts for weeks, sensitivity to the sun, irritation, swelling, bleeding, bruising, peeling, itching, rash, infection and over re-action to skin care products.

Deep needling can actually create more hyper pigmentation. Darker skin types can be prone to hyper pigmentation. 

It may cause a histamine reaction resulting in hives.  Milia and an outbreak of cold sores can also occur from micro needling.

The cost of micro needling can vary greatly according to the provider you use, where you live, how large an area is being treated and the extent of scarring that needs treatment. A rough estimate to give you an idea is $100 to $700 per treatment.  

Is micro needling with a derma roller or a derma pen safe and good for your skin?
If you are going to a qualified service provider, the procedure is a low risk, generally safe procedure, especially because the needling is done in a series only once a year. Home micro needling is another story!

The devices for home use have shorter needles. Short needles cause more irritation of the skin than anything else. Even worse, dull needles can cause scratches that can end up scarring the skin.  You cannot use a damaged micro needling device with bent needles. If the derma roller is dropped on the floor, it has to be tossed because of likely damage to the needles.

Some people use these home derma rollers or micro needling pens on a daily basis thinking it will improve the absorption of skin care products along with make their skin look younger. That daily use is going to cause some serious damage to the skin! The skin is in a constant state of inflammation. Nothing good comes from chronic inflammation.

We know micro needling stimulates collagen production, but is micro needling good for the skin?  I always question puncturing holes in the skin since the skin is our protective barrier with so many functions, even if they are only super tiny holes. 

I completely get micro needling being done to break up scarring and I can somewhat accept a once a year anti aging treatment.

I feel there are other anti aging options available to make the skin look younger without poking holes in it. I guess my view comes from all the gentle, less invasive skin care education I've had over the years. 

This is a micro needling pen available on Amazon so you can get an idea of what the pens look like.
Dr Pen Ultima A6 Micro Needling Pen

Alternatives to Micro Needling to stimulate collagen production in the skin
There are some great anti aging procedures that don't put thousands of holes in the skin and still stimulate collagen production. We can also stimulate collagen production by using skin care products with certain ingredients, exfoliating the skin, massaging the skin, eating certain foods, living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding skin damaging elements. 

Collagen Stimulating Treatments
Get a facial 
The massage portion of a facial stimulates collagen production along with the peels that are used during a facial.

See me for a facial in the Philadelphia area!

Light therapy
Red light therapy (RLT) penetrates the skin and will increase collagen in the skin without damaging the surface of the skin. This treatment uses low level wavelengths of Light Emitting Diode (LED) red light to treat the skin. 

Other light treatment, such as laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments, also stimulate collagen production but they do cause damage to the skin's surface. 

You can have RLT treatments done at salons and spas or do your own treatments in the comfort of home with an inexpensive LED light device. This device, available on Amazon, has red light plus blue light which is helpful in clearing acne. It also has a vibration mode to stimulate collagen through massage.
Rika Led Light therapy device


There injectable fillers that have microscopic particles that stimulate collagen production. Sculptra Aesthetic and Radiesse are two of those types of fillers. A doctor injects the collagen stimulating filler to specific areas of the face to improve the look of scars, wrinkles and hollow looking areas of the face. The injections do make holes but just a few as opposed to thousands!

Exfoliating Procedures
The physical action of exfoliating the skin stimulates collagen production.

Micro Dermabrasion 
Micro dermabrasion is a treatment that basically sand blasts dead cells from the skin. This treatment is performed in salons and med spas. 

Chemical Peels
Chemical peels use chemicals to remove the dead cell layer from the skin. There are many different types of chemical peels that can range from a superficial peel to a deep peel. 

Superficial peels done at a salon during a facial cause minimal inflammation and still support the stimulation of collagen production. Peels done in a med spa or dermatologist office go deeper, create more inflammation and require healing time.  A medical peel will also reduce hyper pigmentation.

Dermaplaning is a procedure in which the dead cell layer of the skin is scraped off with a scalpel or scalpel like device at a medspa.  When done by an experienced professional, there is no injury to the skin. There is no inflammation or recovery time. You are left with super smooth, hair free skin which allows skin care products to easily penetrate the skin.  Dermaplaning is usually done in conjunction with a facial treatment. 

This is a procedure you can carefully do at home with a dermaplaning device made for home use. Some cultures have been using this anti aging technique for ages. I have a client who uses the Michael Todd Sonicsmooth Sonic Dermaplaning Device and she loves it!
michael Todd sonicsmooth sonic dermaplaning device

Skin Care Ingredients 
The ingredients in today's advanced skin care products can help stimulate collagen production. Skin care product manufacturers are using science to make highly effective anti aging products. Using quality skin care products is an easy way to improve your skin. Let's look at some effective collagen stimulating ingredients.

Skin care products containing peptides, particularly copper peptides, can stimulate collagen production and make the skin look younger. Polypeptides are small chain amino acids that are used to build proteins, like collagen, in our bodies. A peptide applied to the skin tells the cells to make collagen. 

Since peptides are pieces of a complete protein, they can penetrate through the skin. Use a lightweight peptide serum or treatment cream that is designed to easily absorb into the skin morning and night. 

Palmitoyl pentapeptide, aka Matrixyl, is a commonly used peptide in skin care products. The Ordinary makes a nice Matrixyl with Hyaluronic Acid serum you can use under a moisturizer. Dr. Dennis Gross makes a nice lightweight peptide moisturizer. Both feel good on the skin and are easy to use.

the ordinary matrixyl 10% + HA

dr dennis gross firming peptide milf

Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is synthesized in the body. It is also in foods we eat. It keeps collagen fibers moist so they can stretch without breaking and stimulates collagen production especially when used as an injectable filler

It is found in large amounts in the skin, connective tissue and the eyes. It holds water to keep us moist, lubricated, plumped up and healing properly. It has been used in skin care products for years for hydrating and plumping the skin.

The Ordinary makes another great serum with 2% hyaluronic acid plus B5 to sooth and heal the skin. 

the ordinary Hyaluronic acid 2% + B5
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster is a powerhouse product containing multiple anti aging ingredients including hyaluronic acid, botanicals, retinol, AHAs, and peptides. It's a great anti aging product to try.

dr dennis gross marine hyaluronic hydration booster

Stem Cells
Plant stem cells have anti oxidant properties and promote skin cell turnover which in turn stimulates collagen production. 

YonKa and Juicy Beauty are two brands with high performing plant stem cell ingredients. YonKa's Time Resist Creme Jour and Creme Nuit contain saponaria pumila stem cells. Juicy Beauty products contain fruit stem cells.

Yonka Time Resist Creme Jour
Juicy beauty stem cellular anti wrinkle solutions

Retinol and Bakutiol
Retinol and Bakutiol will boost collagen production by increasing skin cell turn over. Some people are sensitive to the Vitamin A derivative retinol and experience irritated skin from it. Bakutiol is an alternative to retinol. 

Bakutiol is a natural vegan ingredient derived from the psoralea corylifolia plant, aka the babchi plant, that does not cause the irritation and sun sensitivity that retinol does. Ole Henriksen is one of my favorite brands using bakutiol.

ole henriksen glow cycle retin-alt power serum

Aloe is another commonly used skin care ingredient that can boost collagen production. It's also effective for acne treatment and as a sun burn remedy. You can find it in cleansers, toners and moisturizers or in a pure gel form that can be massaged into the skin.

Salicylic Acid and Alpha Hyroxy Acids
Salicylic Acid (BHA) and Alpha Hyroxy Acids (AHA)
are both ingredients used to exfoliate the skin and therefore, increase collagen production. 

I am a long time fan of Aveda's Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant, a liquid exfoliant which has a healthy dose of Salicylic Acid.

BHA and AHA products are also good for preventing breakouts. 

Read more about older skin that breaks out

Prescription Retinoids
Tazarotene gel 0.1 % is a topical retinoid prescription topical home treatment effective at stimulating collagen and reducing acne scarring.

 Renova is another topical prescription retinoid used to used to treat lines, wrinkles and hyper pigmentation. You will need to see your doctor if you would like to use these prescription products.

I know I've shown you a lot of different products. The skin care product world can be overwhelming! Browse through my Amazon Affiliate links to learn more about the products. One may be more appealing to you than another. You can always contact me with questions about products and product recommendations.

Eating a healthy diet can improve collagen production.
Collagen is a protein. The body requires certain building blocks to make collagen. We need amino acids, Vitamin C, zinc and copper to make healthy, strong collagen fibers.

I mentioned earlier that collagen contains high levels of the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Our bodies can produce these amino acids by using other amino acids but it helps to add those building blocks to your diet as well.

Amino Acids
Eat high quality protein foods including amaranth, beans, chickpeas, dairy products, eggs, farro, green peas, lentils, nuts, seitan, soy products, spelt, spirulina, quinoa, and meat products.

Glycine is a conditional essential amino acid needed for the production of red blood cells and for collagen production. It's also an antioxidant that prevents aging. The liver forms glycine from serine and threonine.

Foods high in glycine include bananas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, eggs, kale, kiwi, milk, oranges, parmesan cheese, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, soy, spinach, squash seeds, tofu, wheat germ and yogurt.

All meats, poultry, fish and gelatin contain glycine.

This conditional amino acid is produced by the body from the amino acid glutamine.

Foods high in proline include alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, avocado, bamboo shoots, broccoli rabe, chickpeas, chives, cottage cheese, cucumber, eggs, feta, milk, mushrooms, parmesan cheese, peanuts, quinoa, seitan, soybeans, spinach, spirulina, tofu, watercress, wheat and yogurt. All meats, poultry and fish contain proline.

Hydroxyproline a non essential amino acid formed from proline in the body. It's formation requires vitamin C. Food sources are alfalfa sprouts, beef, carob seeds, chicken, cod, eggs, milk and dairy products, monkfish and pork.

Vitamin C
Eat your Vitamin C. Vitamin C is needed for hyaluronic acid synthesis and collagen production in the body. Get some vitamin C from berries, cabbage, citrus fruits, mangoes, parsley, peppers, and pomegranates.

Foods high in copper include avocados, cashews, chickpeas, dark chocolate, mushrooms, seafood, sesame seeds, sweet potatoes and tofu.

Foods high in zinc include almonds, cashews, chickpeas, peas, peanuts, peanut butter, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and wheat germ. Meat sources include chicken, crab, pork, oysters and turkey. 

Hyaluronic Acid
Eat foods that contain hyaluronic acid to support and stimulate collagen production. Foods that contain hyaluronic acid include starchy root vegetables (including potatoes, sweet potatoes, jicama), soy products, almonds, citrus fruits and leafy greens.

Eat sulfur rich foods, including cabbage, garlic and beans to aids collagen production in the body.

Eat lots of fruits and veggies. They contain anti oxidants that fight free radicals that damage collagen.

Ginseng has also been shown to boost collagen production. Try drinking ginseng tea.

Reduce Sugar
Eat less sugar. Sugar causes inflammation that breaks down collagen.

Read about how sugar effects the skin

Healthy Living
No Cigarettes and Less Alcohol
Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Both have been shown to breakdown collagen.

Exercise, particularly weight lifting, stimulates collagen production throughout the body.

Protect the skin from UV rays by wearing sunscreen. UV Rays will damage collagen.

Use moisturizer that contains anti oxidants to protect against damaging free radicals from pollution in the air. Algae is a great antioxidant found in many skin care products. Other anti oxidant ingredients include green tea, retinol, resversatrol, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B3 to name a few.

Fight that saggy baggy skin and get on your way to younger looking skin that bounces back!

       Have a Beautiful Skin Day! 
Licensed Cosmetologist, Esthetician, Makeup Artist

πŸ’„Contact me for on location wedding makeup, special occasion or everyday makeup and salon skin care services in the Philadelphia, Pa. area. 

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