The global skincare market has an estimated value of $135 billion dollars, and has increased by nearly 60% in the last decade. This is the first time in many years that the skincare industry has shown stronger growth than the makeup industry.
This rapid growth suggests that consumers are beginning to shift their focus from covering their skin issues, to actually fixing them. New products and procedures are being launched at a dizzying pace, and there is seemingly no end to the number of creams, serums, face masks, and treatments you can purchase.
One such treatment that has grown significantly in popularity over the last several years is microneedling. Celebrities like Jennifer Anniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie have endorsed the procedure, causing thousands of consumers to rush to their local dermatologist, asking for the treatment.
But what is microneedling, how does it work, and is it safe? There are certain treatments that are available in Canada that have proven to be both safe and effective, and are accessible to the general public.
What is microneedling?
Microneedling is a cosmetic procedure that is used to rejuvenate the skin via collagen activation. It is sometimes referred to as collagen induction therapy.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, and can be found in your bones, muscle, skin, and tendons. It is essentially what holds your body together, and is what gives your skin strength and elasticity.
Your body produces its own, naturally-occurring collagen. This type is referred to as endogenous, and as you age, you gradually produce less of it.
Exogenous collagen is produced synthetically, and comes from an outside source, such as supplements. It can also be used in medical and cosmetic procedures.
The purpose of Microneedling is to generate new collagen to make your skin smoother, firmer, and more toned. The procedure is commonly used to treat the following conditions:
- Melasma (a common pigmentation disorder in which brown or grey patches appear on the skin)
- Pigmentation (darkening or lightening of patches of skin)
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Acne scars
- Stretch marks
Professionals can also use the treatment to deposit medications, like topical tretinoin or vitamin C, deeper into the skin to address a number of skin issues.
How does the procedure work?
A typical microneedling session takes around two hours, between preparation and procedure.
Before the treatment begins, your doctor will apply a topical anesthetic to reduce the possibility of pain. This has to be done about one hour before the actual process begins. Your skin will be thoroughly cleansed, numbed, and then your doctor will apply a generous layer of hyaluronic acid. This acid hydrates and plumps your skin, and will be applied once again after treatment is complete.
During the treatment, your doctor will use an electronic device that is fitted with thin microneedles that pulse into the skin. The needles prick the skin at high speed, causing tiny micro-wounds.
The healing process is when the treatment begins working. As the tiny wounds heal, they create thicker, plumper skin that stimulates collagen and elastin production deep within the dermis. The dermis is the layer beneath the skin’s surface known as the “true skin”, since it contains blood capillaries, nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and other structures.
Your doctor will determine the exact needle length that is best for your skin, and may use the device in combination with blue or red LED light, especially if you are looking to reduce acne scarring. Blue light is particularly useful for this, since it targets acne-causing bacteria.
Afterward, your doctor may apply a serum or calming treatment to the treated area.
How much does microneedling cost?
The cost of a professional microneedling treatment typically ranges in price from $250 to $350 per session, but can cost upwards of $600.
Because a professional treatment typically yields better results, one session approximately every two months should be sufficient to achieve the desired effects, unless you have deep acne scars or discolourations that require more care.
At-home derma rollers are less costly than a professional treatment, although as explained, there is a trade-off in terms of efficacy and results. There is also a substantial range in price between various products.
What are the benefits of microneedling?
Microneedling can enhance the texture of your skin, stimulate collagen production, reduce scars and hyperpigmentation, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. According to Sejal Shah, MD, FAAD, the biggest benefit to the procedure is its ability to dramatically enhance the texture of your skin.
“Micro-needling is a collagen-stimulating treatment great for general skin rejuvenation. It treats textural issues dealing with pores, acne scars, wrinkles, tightening sagging skin, and more,” she said.
The other benefit to microneedling is that it is a minimally-invasive procedure, and does not require any downtown after treatment is complete.
How well does microneedling work?
It is important to understand that microneedling is not an instant fix. Since it essentially involves growing new skin, the process takes time, and it may be several months before you see the full results of the procedure.
A 2009 study evaluated the efficacy of microneedling in treating facial scarring, and found that more than 80% of participants reported a noticeable reduction in the severity of their scars, and assessed their treatment as “excellent” on a 10-point scale.
Another review published in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic surgery in 2018 reported that microneedling is a safe and effective way to rejuvenate the skin and reduce scars and wrinkles.
Although microneedling is most commonly used on the face, a study published in the Open Access Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that microneedling combined with a dilution of the chemical calcium hydroxylapatite (CaHa), is a safe and effective way to reduce stretch marks on the thighs and abdominal area.
What are the risks associated with microneedling?
As mentioned, microneedling is a minimally-invasive procedure, so any risks or side effects that may occur are typically quite mild.
The most commonly-reported side effect is minor skin irritation immediately following treatment. Some people may also experience slight redness for a few days afterward as well. This is simply a natural response to the tiny ‘injuries” that were made in your skin from the needle, and should clear up relatively quickly.
Most people return to work or school after a microneedling treatment with no downtime whatsoever, although some people may choose to apply a camouflaging makeup to cover any redness for the first few days.
After receiving treatment, your “new” skin will be much more sensitive to the sun, so it is very important that you wear a high-quality sunscreen with a minimum UV protection of SPF 30 any time you are heading outside, even in the winter or when the sky is overcast.
If you experience more serious side effects, such as bleeding, bruising, infection, or peeling, you should contact your doctor right away. While the occurrence of these are rare, they should not be left untreated.
What is a “vampire facial”?
If you research microneedling, you will most likely find information about another procedure colloquially known as a “vampire facial”, along with alarming photos and videos of people massaging blood into their faces.
This procedure is a combination of microneedling with platelet-rich plasma (PRP), and differs from traditional microneedling because it uses an extract of your own blood that is then placed back into your skin.
Your blood contains platelets, growth factors, and active proteins for tissue and injury healing. By injecting PRP back into the skin, you initiate a localized cellular response that over time recruits collagen-forming cells called fibroblasts. These cells replace damaged tissue, or tissue that has been lost through the aging process, leaving you with healthy, rejuvenated skin.
PRP can often be added to your traditional microneedling treatment at an extra cost, and may improve your results and decrease the duration of redness and swelling that you experience after the procedure is over.
PRP is used for all of the same reasons as a regular microneedling treatment, but may not be a suitable treatment for you if:
- You are pregnant
- You use or recently used Accutane for acne
- You still have active acne resulting in new scarring
- You have certain skin conditions, such as facial eczema or rosacea
- You scar easily
- You have a history of poor wound healing
- You have undergone skin radiation in the last 12 months
Health Canada warnings and regulations
Health Canada has released a statement warning Canadians about the safety of some treatments being offered by spas, as well as at-home devices. Not all treatments and products have been approved by Health Canada or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and therefore should be avoided.
This is particularly true for plasma pens. Health Canada has not authorized the sale of any plasma pens within Canada, which means that any pens you purchase have not been evaluated for safety, efficacy, or quality.
Health Canada has provided the following recommendations:
- Avoid buying or using unauthorized plasma pens, or receiving services at spas and by estheticians using these devices (or any other devices promoted as plasma pens).
- Check whether medical devices have been authorized for sale by searching Health Canada’s Medical Devices Active Licence Listing (MDALL).
- Check Health Canada’s Recalls and Safety Alerts database for advisories on illegal health products that have been found on the Canadian market.
- Report complaints involving medical devices, including the sale of unauthorized devices, to Health Canada.
Questions to ask before a microneedling treatment
What do I need to do to prepare for my treatment?
You may need to stop using certain products or medications leading up to your treatment, or there may be certain products your doctor will recommend you use prior to the procedure.
How many treatments will I need to see results?
The prior condition of your skin and your desired results will affect the number of treatments you require, which will have an impact on the cost of your treatment.
What is your sterilization procedure?
Your practitioner should be able to provide you with details on their sterilization procedure to ensure you that the appropriate measures are being taken.
What should I do post-treatment to ensure maximum benefit?
Your doctor or dermatologist may have specific creams or serums that he or she recommends specifically for your skin type to promote healing.
What side effects should I watch out for, and what should I do if this occurs?
Your doctor or dermatologist should give you a very clear idea of what to watch out for in terms of negative and potentially dangerous side effects, and should have protocols in place to ensure you receive the proper care should these complications occur.
Microneedling at home with a derma roller
Microneedling is performed by a medical professional in a board-certified doctor’s office only. Some people who are looking to reap the benefits of a microneedling treatment, but do not want to spend the money on it, may decide to try an at-home procedure instead.
An at-home microneedling treatment typically uses a device called a derma roller. Unlike a professional microneedling procedure, the derma roller barely punctures the skin at all, and therefore the effects will be much less significant.
This at-home treatment will, at best, serve to brighten your skin, but may not be effective for the reduction of scarring or fine lines and wrinkles. Any benefits you do experience will also be much more temporary.
If you do chose to use a derma roller at home, you should be careful to follow these steps:
- remove the dermaroller from its container
- spray it with alcohol solution and wash with warm water to sterilize
- prepare the skin for treatment with an antiseptic or saline wash
- hold the skin taught and roll over each section, once up and down, once side to side, and once diagonally
- bathe the skin with saline after the skin has reddened
- spray the dermaroller with alcohol solution and wash with warm water to sterilize
- leave the dermaroller to dry
- put back in the storage case
There are five main sections of the face that you should focus on when using a derma roller. They are, in succession:
- the top right of the forehead and cheek
- the top left of the forehead and cheek
- the right under-eye and lower cheek
- the left under-eye and lower cheek
- around the mouth.
After treatment, you can apply serums and moisturizers to your skin, which are thought to absorb more effectively after using the derma roller, when compared to untreated skin.
You should not use a derma roller if:
- You have a history of blood-clotting problems
- You are using accutane or other medical treatments
- If you have eczema, cold sores,
- On areas with moles, skin inflammation, or rosacea
In order to achieve maximum benefit from the treatment, you should repeat it 2 to 3 times per week, for up to one month. As with professional microneedling, you should also ensure that you wear sunscreen for several days after you use the derma roller, since your skin is more likely to burn during that time.
When you are selecting a derma roller for at-home use, you should only purchase from a trusted retailer. Professional derma rollers have varying needle lengths, however those meant for personal use are always less than 0.15 millimeters.
Other products that are similar to derma rollers are dermastamps, dermapens, and dermafracs.
Best high-end – GloPRO Microneedling Facial Regeneration Tool
- Includes storage case, empty sanitizing spritzer bottle, instructional guide, power supply cord and power supply adapter
- Features 540 surgical-quality stainless steel needles that are 0.3mm in length
- Natural Beauty & Wellness products are free of sulfates, phthalates, parabens, petrochemicals, mineral oil, silicone and talc
Best on a budget – Cosmedica Skincare Microneedling Derma Roller
- Features 540 0.25mm stainless steel needles
- Includes pure hyaluronic acid serum
- Paraben-free, vegan, cruelty-free
Least invasive – Anself Ice Skin Roller
- Includes vitamin C + E + hyaluronic acid serum
- Ice roller effective at reducing puffiness and improving circulation
Most customizable – Complete Derma Roller System
- 5 needle lengths to choose from, depending on your needs
- Includes collagen cream, anti-aging serum, and 15 collagen face masks
- Needles are medical-grade stainless steel
- Product of Canada
Microneedling can be a safe, minimally-invasive procedure that is effective against minor skin issues such as acne scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles. It should, however, always be performed in a clinical setting by a licensed medical practitioner, dermatologist.
As with any medical procedure, you should always ask questions, do research, and be your own advocate to ensure you are receiving a treatment that is safe and effective.
- What is collagen, and why do people use it?
- Microneedling Therapy in Atrophic Facial Scars: An Objective Assessment
- Microneedling: Where do we stand now? A systematic review of the literature
- Calcium Hydroxylapatite Combined with Microneedling and Ascorbic Acid is Effective for Treating Stretch Marks
- Lasers, Microneedling, and Platelet-Rich Plasma for Skin Rejuvenation and Repair
- Health Canada reminds Canadians that plasma pens are unauthorized and may pose health risks