No doubt physical changes that occur as we age can be difficult to accept.
So much so that the anti-aging market is projected to be worth nearly $200 billion by 2019, according to a report by the market research firm Transparency Market Research.
From Botox and facelifts to breast augmentation, there are numerous anti-aging options available to keep us looking younger.
Microneedling is the latest trend in this quest to stay youthful.
It’s a procedure that uses fine needles to puncture the skin and create a controlled skin injury in order to rejuvenate skin.
Some experts say it's more than a passing fad in skin care.
"Microneedling in some form has been practiced for more than 20 years," Dr. Manish H. Shah,
a plastic surgeon in Denver, Colorado, told Healthline. "As the devices have gotten more powerful and adjunctive therapies like Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) have developed, microneedling has become a greater part of the skin care practices of most aesthetic professionals."
Microneedling is used to treat and improve conditions like acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles, loose skin, skin texture, pore size, brown spots, stretch marks, and pigment issues.
It’s also called skin needling, collagen induction therapy (CIT), and percutaneous collagen induction (PCI).
Most anyone can have the procedure performed as long as they do not have any active infections, lesions, or any known wound healing problems.
"If you have active acne, or tender acne cysts, do not microneedle over those areas. It will irritate the area, make them more inflamed and potentially spread bacteria. Wait until your skin is more clear before attempting the procedure," Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California, told Healthline.
The Vampire Facelift
Microneedling is typically performed in a series of four to six sessions, spaced about a month apart.
"The needles are inserted deeper at each subsequent session, as the skin becomes thicker and can tolerate it," said Shainhouse.
During the procedure, a topical anesthetic is applied and then a penlike tool called a derma roller is used to insert tiny stainless steel needles into the skin to cause microinjuries or punctures. The idea is that the damage caused by the needles encourages your body to send healing agents (elastin and collagen) to the cuts to repair them.
"By making tiny columns of trauma in the dermis, the body is forced to make new collagen to fill them in and heal them. This new collagen makes skin look and feel slicker, tighter, and more youthful," said Shainhouse. "Because the sun breaks down collagen, and our skin naturally makes less collagen as we age, any intervention that encourages increased collagen synthesis can make skin look and act younger."
After the procedure, a collagen enhancing serum is applied.
"If you have sensitive skin, you must be very careful when applying any topical serums or products with active ingredients after the treatment. Your skin will become more sensitized after the treatment because it is already inflamed," Shainhouse said. "Also, by making tiny channels in the skin, it allows product to get deeper into the skin, which can be more irritating."
To speed up collagen synthesis, Shah performs a procedure known as a Vampire Facelift, which involves withdrawing a person's blood and processing it to create PRP. After the microneedling is done, Shah topically applies the patient's PRP onto the skin, which releases growth factors and quickens the healing process.
"As with any minimally invasive procedure, the best results come to those patients who use microneedling as a part of a larger skin care and skin anti-aging regimen," said Shah.
What Are the Risks?
Shainhouse says microneedling can cost a quarter of the price of getting multiple laser treatments, depending on the skill level of the practitioner.
It also tends to be a comfortable procedure with low risk and short recovery.
Moreover, Shah notes that the risks involved with receiving microneedling are lower than many other skin treatments, such as chemical peels or light/laser therapies. He adds the procedure is more effective than more aggressive treatments for acne scarring.
However, like any procedure, microneedling can cause possible complications, including bleeding, bruising, infection, scarring, and pigment problems.
For those who are do-it-yourselfers, there are products available that allow you to microneedle at home. However, professionals may be able to get deeper into the skin's surface. Shainhouse warns, "Longer needles must be used by a skilled professional, and are not available for at-home use."