Is skin needling the secret to minimising fine lines, acne scars and wrinkles?

The overall objective of skin needling treatment is to induce the production of collagen.

Written by
Leeza Schwarzkopf
Medically reviewed by
min read
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If you haven't heard of skin needling before, the name of this treatment might sound a bit scary. After all, the idea of sticking needles into your skin doesn't exactly sound pleasant.

But, skin needling can actually create significant improvements in the appearance of skin, especially when it comes to acne scars, fine lines and wrinkles.

And you can rest assured that the treatment only uses tiny needles and involves minimal discomfort, making it a worthy option for skin rejuvenation if you're ready to take your skincare beyond the use of products alone.

What is skin needling?

Skin needling is also known as microneedling or collagen induction therapy.

This is because the needles used range from a minuscule 0.15mm to 3mm and the overall objective of skin needling treatment is to induce collagen and elastin production [1].

A device is required to perform the skin needling procedure, typically in the form of a stamp, pen or roller [2]. These devices feature a row or multiple rows of microneedles, which are pressed into your skin to create tiny punctures.

The healing process of these micro-wounds encourages collagen production, which in turn renews the texture of your skin. The most popular reason why people undergo skin needling is to treat fine lines, wrinkles, acne and other scarring. It can also be used to treat stretch marks, melasma and alopecia.

Skin needling can also be done at home using a microneedling roller specifically designed for personal use. However, receiving treatment from a professional such as a dermatologist or skin therapist achieves better results as they use devices that are able to penetrate the skin more deeply.

Roller devices designed for use at home contain microneedles up to 0.25mm long, which can only penetrate the outer layer of the skin.

While at-home micro-needling is not as effective as a medical-grade needling device, it can help with superficial texture by exfoliating the skin, allowing topical products to work more effectively.

Does skin needling hurt?

You might be familiar with the soreness of an injection or tattoo, but skin needling is not as painful. Skincare professionals use numbing cream to prevent pain during skin needling treatments and any mild discomfort in the treatment area typically resolves within 24 hours [3].

Since at-home skin needling devices cannot penetrate deeper layers of the skin, they are relatively painless.

Are there any side effects from skin needling?

Generally, most people are able to tolerate skin needling, however, there can be some temporary side effects [4]. Most commonly these include swelling, redness, rashes and skin flaking, which can last 2-3 days.

On the whole, your skin will be more sensitive after microneedling, so to avoid further complications it is recommended you avoid excessive sun exposure, wear sunscreen and wait to use certain skincare products as directed by your treatment provider.

Those with eczema or psoriasis may find their symptoms are exaggerated after a microneedling treatment and anyone with active acne or cold sores should wait until their breakouts have cleared to avoid making them worse.

What are the benefits of skin needling?

The overall benefit of a skin needling treatment is that it stimulates the production of collagen, helping you achieve a variety of skin goals [1].

New collagen production helps to make skin texture look more youthful and rejuvenated by reversing fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin tone and pigmentation. It also reduces the visibility of scars from acne, surgery, burns or other trauma.

But when compared to other skin treatments that target the same skin concerns, such as chemical peels, laser treatments or dermabrasion, skin needling poses a number of other advantages.

Microneedling treatments are considered to be a much safer option as they cause less damage to the skin than other procedures [5]. This allows the treatment to be applied to areas not suitable for harsher treatments, such as around the eyes.

Chemical peels, laser therapy and dermabrasion also come with a high risk of depigmentation and additional scarring [1]. However, microneedling therapy has a low risk of these side effects, making it a better treatment option for people with thin, sensitive skin and all types of skin tones.

Another benefit of microneedling therapy is that it does not leave an obvious line between the treated and untreated areas, unlike other resurfacing treatments which may require further work to blend the appearance of this border [6].

It also requires minimal downtime. You'll be able to go about all your usual activities within a few days post-treatment, depending on how deeply the skin was punctured.

Financially speaking, skin needling can be cost-effective as the devices are inexpensive and don't require extensive training on the treatment provider's part.

Preparation and aftercare tips

When preparing for your first professional skin needling treatment, your provider should explain what you need to do before the session, what will happen during the session and what outcomes can be expected. The overall preparation process is pretty low maintenance.

One study says that using products with vitamin A and vitamin C for a month prior to your session can help provide optimal results as they help with skin cell growth and collagen production [2].

However, it isn't compulsory to do this. On the day of your treatment, you are required not to apply any moisturiser, makeup or other skincare products to the treatment area.

Once your skin needling session is complete, the treated area will be moistened with saline and you may get an ice pack for comfort [2]. Your skin will be quite sensitive after the treatment, so there are a couple of rules to follow to help it heal and ensure it isn't further irritated.

In terms of skincare, only use a gentle cleanser within the first 24 hours. The next day, you can start wearing sunscreen.

While it's generally recommended to wear sunscreen every day, regardless of whether you've had a treatment or not, it's extra important to remember your daily SPF after skin needling as you will be more sensitive to sun damage.

One study recommends avoiding excessive sun exposure for at least 1 month, so it might be a good idea to skip any fun runs or beach sessions during that time [7].

Makeup can be worn the next day, but it might be a week or so before you can start using skincare products with active ingredients [4][8]. It's best to check those products with your treatment provider and get their recommendation on when to start using them again.

You'll also want to avoid heating your skin and sweating for the first week post-treatment as it can make your skin vulnerable to bacteria. Avoid the likes of hot showers, strenuous exercise, saunas and hot tubs.

How long does it take to see results?

Any redness caused by a skin needling treatment usually goes away 3-4 days post-treatment and many people usually notice improved skin texture within the first week or two.

However, depending on what your skin goals are, your provider may recommend multiple sessions.

After your final session, you will continue to see improvements for around 3-6 months as your skin keeps producing new collagen during this time, even once your treatments have stopped [2].

How many skin needling procedures does one need?

The number of professional skin needling treatments you need will differ according to your skin goals.

If it's an acne scarring treatment you're after, 3-4 sessions may be required for moderate scars. For more persistent acne scars, burns or stretch marks, you may need 5 or 6 treatments [3]. Each session is usually scheduled in 3-8-week intervals [2].

If you're targeting fine lines and wrinkles, on the other hand, your provider may recommend fewer sessions on an ongoing basis, such as 1 or 2 treatments every year [6].

If you want to supplement your professional treatments at home, or simply decide that you only want to use a microneedling device designed for personal use, you can use an at-home device 2-3 times a week.

For those who feel like they've got their skincare routine down pat, and want to explore ways to improve skin texture, skin needling could be the right treatment to try.

Using a skin needling device at home can produce results by allowing the active ingredients in your products to penetrate your skin more deeply. If you're looking to reduce acne scars, fine lines and wrinkles, getting collagen induction therapy done by a professional with more sophisticated devices will be more effective.

Alternatives to skin needling

There are plenty of other skin treatments that target fine lines and wrinkles, including Botox, derma fillers, and chemical peels.

But if you'd like to start with an at-home alternative, using the right anti-ageing skincare products is an excellent idea.

Software's Advanced Ageing Set is a 5-step dermatologist-approved routine that is enriched with targeted actives to address fine lines, dullness, and dark spots for a more radiant complexion at any age:

Plus, a Software headband to comfortably keep your hair off your face while you do your skincare and a beauty bag to take your goodies everywhere.

Another option is retinoids which, while initially created to fight acne, are also used to treat psoriasis, warts, wrinkles and blotchiness caused by sun exposure. They work by prompting surface skin cell turnover to get rid of dead skin cells, allowing new cell growth underneath.

They stop collagen breakdown and also thicken the deeper layer of the skin, where wrinkles start, giving you firm skin and fewer fine lines.

Some of Software's medical-grade skincare formulas contain retinoids to help target ageing and acne. Our formula is personalised to your skin needs and as such, will contain specific ingredients that help you achieve your skin goals.

These ingredients can include retinoids, azelaic acid, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide — in custom dosages to suit your skin. Simply undergo a digital consult, answer a few questions about your skin and our Australian practitioners will create a formula just for you.

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