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Q&A with Dr. Cox: Microneedling

Microneedling is a treatment that has grown in popularity recently, but what exactly is it? Dr. Cox explains the difference between microneedling pens and microneedling rollers, and how to get the most from your treatment.

What is microneedling?

The term “microneedling” can refer to two different treatments: microneedling pens and microneedling rollers, also called “dermarollers.” Both are used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, acne scarring, pore size, stretch marks and other textural issues, but there are significant differences.

Microneedling pens, such as the Collagen PIN and Dermapen, are FDA registered devices used for mild to moderately intensive treatments in clinical settings by medical professionals. These devices use tiny sterile needles in the tip of the device, which retract and extend to the desired depth in the skin. The needles on these devices are adjusted by your medical provider for the specific condition and treatment areas. The result is effective and precise treatment.

Microneedling rollers, or dermarollers, are over-the-counter products. These rollers can be purchased online or in drug stores, and typically have a fixed penetration depth of 1 mm or less. Dermarollers with longer needles are sometimes used in clinical settings, but should not be used at home.

Which one is better?

Microneedling treatments with pens such as the Collagen PIN and Dermapen, produce more dramatic results in a shorter period of time. Dermarollers produce subtle improvements and take longer to show results. Microneedling pens might be considered corrective as well as preventative, while dermarollers could be considered a maintenance activity performed at home.

I have seen good results from at-home dermarollers used in combination with high quality skin care products, but it’s important to understand that using dermarollers incorrectly can damage your skin. For example, if you do not properly select, store and clean your dermaroller, you risk introducing bacteria to vulnerable layers of the skin, creating excess injury to the skin, and worsening existing textural issues. If you’re interested in at-home devices, seek out professional guidance. Dermarollers are safe and mildly beneficial when used correctly. Our skin care experts are available in office and over the phone to help with this.

If you are seeking more signification improvement, it’s likely a microneedling pen treatment or another procedure is more appropriate, and I would encourage a consultation to fully explore the options.

Do microneedling pen treatments hurt?

Patients are often concerned about pain with this treatment, but the name makes it sound a lot worse than it really is! In fact, you should not expect to feel any pain during this procedure. Microneedling appointments include time to apply a numbing cream. This ensures you will remain comfortable during the procedure. Patients report feeling a slight tickling or vibrating feeling as the head of the Collagen PIN glides across the skin, but do not feel the micro-pins themselves. After treatment, your skin may be red and slightly swollen and tender, but it is typically possible to go about your day as normal.

How are microneedling pens different from laser resurfacing treatments?

Microneedling pens and fractionated laser treatments like Fraxel and Clear + Brilliant both work by creating controlled micro-injury sites. Microneedling pens accomplish this mechanically through the use of tiny sterile pins, while fractionated laser treatments use light energy. Because microneedling pens do not heat the skin like laser treatments, it causes less inflammation and is often considered the less intensive. Microneedling pens also do not target pigment like some lasers, making it a better choice for some conditions, especially for people with darker skin.

How do you know if you’re a good candidate for microneedling?

In general, good candidates are those seeking improvement of textural issues of the skin, such as fine lines and wrinkles, acne scarring, pore size, and stretch marks. We find microneedling with the Collagen PIN to be especially effective in treatment of stubborn acne scars. In many cases I favor it over other treatments for textural issues around the eyes because it is inherently safer in this area.

Every patient is different. If you’re interested in improving your skin’s texture, I recommend coming in for a consultation to discuss your full range of options.