Is Microneedling Safe To Do On Your Own? Experts Weigh In On How To Do It Right

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It seems that anyone who regularly uses microneedling tools at home (at least anyone I've encountered) has a distinct-looking complexion. Their skin is velvety smooth and with a perpetual post-vacation glow whether they've gone on holiday or not. Naturally, I was curious. And while I'm game to try just about anything once, I actually hesitated when I heard about what microneedling entails. 

Microneedling is a skin care regimen that involves puncturing the skin with dozens of little needles with a tiny rolling pin in order to catalyze "wounding," and the process from which the skin heals is the golden ticket. The skin responds to these microscopic "wounds" by restructuring and resurfacing at a cellular level. Some who do it regularly experience better skin care product absorption, others do it to smooth over acne scars, and others do it simply to promote a healthy texture, tone, and glow.

Is microneedling safe?

That all sounds logical, but what about the needle piece—aren't at-home needles somewhat of a risk? Turns out there have been a fair number of studies done on the safety and efficacy of microneedling. One study found that using an anti-aging treatment in tandem with microneedling didn't address wrinkles, but it did improve the skin's overall radiance, texture, tone, brightness, and along with several other attributes with few side effects and hardly any downtime. Another concluded that, when done in a professional setting over at least four weeks, the skin appears younger and smoother than without the treatment. It's being studied in tandem with lasers as a way to deliver topical treatments more efficiently and accurately to people with alopecia. The scientific evidence points to microneedling as a safe skin resurfacing alternative to more invasive treatments like lasers that require downtime. At present, there is only one FDA-approved microneedling device, and it's for professional use. But what about at-home microneedling?

At home vs. professional microneedling.

"At-home microneedling is generally safe as the needles are only 0.25 millimeters in depth," integrative dermatologist Cybele Fishman, M.D., told mindbodygreen. "The main ways they can become unsafe is if people overdo it with the pressure and don't keep the roller clean, which could cause infection," she said. Diana Yerkes, head esthetician at New York City's Rescue Spa agrees. "At-home microneedling is safe and effective if you are using a correct tool," she said.

When it comes to at-home microneedling, both agree that at-home treatments help most with product absorption. "Microneedling rollers improve product penetration by close to 80 percent, therefore increasing its efficacy," Yerkes said. "What people need to know is that home microneedling will not stimulate collagen as the needles do not go deep enough," said Dr. Fishman. "Home microneedling rollers are useful primarily to help topical products penetrate deeper." In other words, if you're looking for some serious resurfacing of acne scars, fine lines, or skin texture—you're better off leaving it to the professionals. But if you're willing to experiment with how microneedling helps your skin absorb product, it might be for you.

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So you want to try microneedling...

Yerkes recommends looking for a tool with needles that are aligned and evenly spaced. "The differences between a good tool and a bad tool is needle placement," she said. "I am a big fan of microneedling rollers by Environ." 

To recap, here are our experts on what you need to know before starting an at-home microneedling practice:

  • Always talk to your doctor and/or dermatologist before starting a new skin care regimen, especially one like microneedling.
  • Clean your roller after every use by disinfecting it with alcohol.
  • Don't overdo it with pressure—apply a very gentle pressure and stop if it starts to hurt.
  • Use your penetrative skin care products like serums, treatment oils, and creams after microneedling.
  • Be sure your needles aren't too long (they shouldn't be longer than 0.25 mm in depth).
  • Replace your needles as often as needed—if they are dull, it won't be as effective.
  • Introduce microneedling as an at-home skin care boost a couple of times a week, and gradually increase it to every other night.

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