Microneedling Tested: What You Need To Know

Last month I went to Charisma Studio in Glasgow to get Microneedling - a mildly-invasive anti-ageing treatment that causes trauma to the skin in order to put it into repair mode; stimulating collagen and elastin production as a result. I expected the treatment itself to be painful, but in the interests of full disclosure, I did not expect the hell that would come once I got home. When my therapist told me, I nearly ran out the room.

Before sharing my own experience, I want to start by sharing a chat that I had with my therapist Zoe at Charisma Studio, as she can explain the science behind the procedure a lot better than I can. Basically though, the form of Microneedling (the puncturing of the skin with small needles) that I had was Dermapen. This is a more advanced form of Microneedling that allows the therapist to vary the needle length/puncture depth for different areas of the face.

What is microneedling and why is it beneficial to the skin?

Microneedling is an advanced facial treatment that uses tiny needles to insert tiny holes or micro channels into the skin to cause a trauma and to force the skin to use its natural ability to repair itself. This puts skin into the rejuvenation process, where collagen and elastin situated in the dermis are stimulated as a result. As tiny holes are being placed into the pores of the skin, it also allows skincare products to penetrate deeper than normal. Therefore, we recommend that you follow the treatment with quality skincare products, as 95% of the product will be absorbed into the skin. As the needles used are so tiny, there are very little needle marks visible on the skin afterwards, and if there are any, these will only be visible for up to a week.

What makes Dermapen a better option than traditional Microneedling?

Dermapen is the more advanced/modern method of Microneedling. Dermapen works in the exact same way, however the depth of the needle can be controlled and adjusted by the therapist in a way that’s suitable to the individual client. The deepest we can go in the salon is 1.5mm into the skin. When working on a client I will start at 0.5 to 1mm into the forehead (where the skin is thinner and there is a smaller dermis) and 1.5mm into the cheeks (where there is a thicker dermis and a lot more collagen and elastin to be stimulated). With Dermapen you can go up to 2.5mm into the skin, but at this stage it would be classed as a medical treatment. Dermapen, unlike Microneedling, pulses the needles into the skin. This causes a slight vibration, making the treatment less painful. The vibration also helps the Dermapen to glide more over the skin; reducing needle marks.

Who is and isn't suitable for a Dermapen treatment and how often would you recommend having the treatment?

Most people are suitable for a Dermapen treatment. There are, however, a lot of contraindications that means a client cannot get the treatment e.g. if they have Papulopustular Rosacea, Herpes Simplex, Scleroderma, open lesions, Skin Cancer, Acne vulgaris, warts, bacterial/fungal infections, and Solar Keratosis. Also, any client that is on any medication that thins the skin or affects the skin, must be off of the medication for 3 to 2 months (depending on the medication) to ensure it is completely out of the body. Similarly, if a client has recently had a skin peel, they also must wait 4 weeks before getting Dermapen in order for the skin to go through a skin cycle for new skin to be produced.

If a client is just back from a sun holiday or have been on a sunbed, they also must wait at least 2 weeks before the treatment as they will have a build-up in the skin that can cause the skin to burn, blister, scar or cause pigmentation when it goes into rejuvenation process. It will also significantly increase the pain factor.

What can people expect pain-wise during and after the treatment?

During the treatment, it shouldn't feel too painful as the skin has been numbed prior to needling. You will feel needles on the skin but it should be bearable. Straight after the treatment however, you should expect the skin to be extremely painful/feel extreme burning for the first 4 hours. The skin will be extremely angry and red, and you will feel a strong burning sensation similar to severe sunburn.

What after-care skincare regime would you recommend?

I would recommend that a few hours after the treatment, the client gently massages their skin with tepid water (no product) to help soothe the skin and remove any excess dried blood. The client should also apply lots of moisturiser – one that’s approved by therapist and containing lots of antioxidants and Hyaluronic Acid. From the following day post-treatment, skin should be washed twice daily with a gentle cleanser and then blotted dry. Skin scrubs, or any products containing active ingredients and AHAs should be avoided for 3 days. An SPF should be worn always. Make-up should be avoided for 4 hours and then a mineral makeup applied if possible over the next few days. If the skin crusts or scabs, it is important that these should not be picked as it will cause scarring.

How can people be sure that Dermapen is a safe, hygienic treatment?

Dermapen can only be carried out by a trained professional who has gone through vigorous training to understand all about the procedure. This means that the therapist can be trusted and knows exactly what is being done and how to the adapt the treatment to each individual client. Our salon (Charisma Studio in Glasgow) has a special needle waste bin in order to dispose of the used needles hygienically. Each needle cartridge is binned straight after use. In the salon, we even have special feet-controlled sinks so there is no cross-contamination of blood. Gloves are always used too. We also use an advanced skincare range, which is available for clients to purchase after treatment if they do not have suitable products at home to correctly follow the after-care advice with.

When I arrived at Charisma Studio, my skin was numbed with a local anasthetic cream. This was left to work on the skin for around 20 minutes before I was taken into the treatment room. During the treatment, my skin was numb, but not completely without feeling. I did still feel pain, but it was bearable throughout the whole procedure. It feels exactly like you would imagine it does - small needles puncturing your skin with a small sting, followed by a dull burning sensation. Throughout the treatment, the therapist kept pouring a hydrating Hyaluronic Acid onto my skin, so that the needles could push this inside.

By the time the therapist had worked over my entire face, my skin was on fire, was quite swollen and it felt tight - just like I had fallen asleep in the sun and been badly burnt. It also looked red raw. She applied a cooling moisturiser and advised me to keep lathering my skin with a Hyaluronic Acid serum and a rich, hydrating moisturiser at home. I went through nearly a whole bottle of each over the next 24-48 hours. It did get better after 24 hours - the burning significiantly decreased and the swelling and redness dulled. 4 days later I went on television without a skin care in the world.

It's hard to judge the benefits of Microneedling in terms of anti-ageing, as everything is happening at a cellular level. I don't have any wrinkles yet, so I have to hope that it did some good in keeping my skin looking younger for longer. Would I go through it again though? Not a chance.