For those looking to improve the look of scars, boost collagen, or encourage hair growth, microneedling might offer a minimally invasive solution. The practice of microneedling dates back to 1995, but it has gained significant traction in recent years thanks to new technology—and YouTube, where the mesmerizing—albeit bloody—process calls up tens of thousands of videos.
Here, Yale dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD PhD who has published extensive research on microneedling, along with fellow Yale dermatologist Mona Gohara PhD demystify the multi-purpose treatment.
Microneedling creates microscopic punctures in the skin.
Simply put, microneedling is the insertion of very fine short needles into the skin for the purposes of rejuvenation, explains Dr. Macrene. The most popular (and cost effective) microneedling device, known as a dermaroller, is made up of micro-fine needles that range in diameter from 0.5 and 2.5 millimeters. But if the prospect of multiple needle wounds sounds slightly ominous, rest assured, the punctures are more like pin-pricks that enter only skin deep.
Microneedling offers fairly immediate results.
"From microneedling alone, you will look plump, pink and luminous for a couple of weeks. On a short-term basis, it plumps the skin and makes the skin look more radiant from inflammation and very superficial swelling," Dr. Macrene says.
But microneedling also promises improvement over time.
According to a 2008 study, skin treated with four microneedling sessions spaced one month apart produced up to a 400% increase in collagen and elastin six months after completing treatment.
Microneedling stimulates dormant hair follicles.
Which equals new hair growth, confirms Dr. Gohara. In a recent study, 100 test subjects were divided into two groups; one set was treated with minoxidil lotion and the other received minoxidil lotion plus microneedling. After 12 weeks, 82 percent of the microneedling group reported 50 percent improvement versus 4.5 percent of the minoxidil lotion-only group.
Your dermaroller plays well with other skincare treatments.
Dr. Macrene recommends pairing microneedling with topical treatments (like her 37 Extreme Actives anti-aging cream or serum) and lasers.
"Oftentimes, we use this as an opportunity to apply anti-aging preparations that will penetrate better through the needle punctures. When you combine with topicals, you have a shot at some collagen building. When combined with radiofrequency, you can see tissue tightening over the course of months," she says. "Microneedling alone has not been shown to yield much in the way of long-term results."
DIY microneedling is legit...
As long as it's blessed by your dermatologist, says Dr. Gohara, who cautions those with eczema, rosacea, acne, and perioral dermatitis against rolling at home, as it might cause flare-ups. For a gentle introduction to at-home microneedling, try the Beauty Stamp from celebrity skincare guru Nurse Jamie. The handheld tool works just as the name suggests, by stamping the skin with ultra-fine pin-pricks designed to increase the efficacy of your topical treatments and boost collagen (just like a traditional dermaroller).
It's possible to OD on microneedling.
Frequent microneedling can lead to broken capillaries "and predispose skin to a plastic look if you over abuse it with repeated microneedle insults," says Dr. Macrene. Instead, curb dermaroller dependency by sticking to a once-a-month plan and always allow time for full recovery between roll-sessions.
This story first appeared on ELLE.com.