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Putting needles in your skin sounds like something that only a professional should handle, so when it comes to microneedling (aka little puncture wounds on your skin), why go for the at-home version? Well, cost.
It’s safe to assume each session will cost anywhere from $200 to $700 — a price that’s out of reach for many people, especially when you need follow-up treatment.
Rollers online, however, are available for an average of $20.
“Home treatments rarely go deep enough to give dramatic results [for more affected skin] but can enhance exfoliation and product absorption,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital and co-creator of Pure BioDerm. “Patients who are consistent with home treatments over a four to six month period can definitely see improvements.”
As far as office-based microneedling treatment, the
- improvement of acne scars and discoloration
- reduced wrinkles and stretch marks
- skin rejuvenation for texture and complexion
- enhancement of product absorption
- increased skin thickness
Here’s what you need to know about microneedling at home, from choosing a roller to avoiding infections.
Choosing at-home vs. a professional
A bigger needle doesn’t mean faster results. Patience is a virtue when it comes to microneedling, and if control is a concern, you may want to see a professional instead.
If an in-office treatment fits your budget, the good news is the results may come faster, the process will be safer, and you may achieve greater results since they’ll likely use longer and sharper medical grade needles.
“A series of very aggressive treatments can give results similar to light or even deeper laser resurfacing treatments. Results are typically seen after one to four treatments,” says Kathleen Welsh, MD, San Francisco-based dermatologist and founder of Bay Area Cosmetic Dermatology.
She also warns that those attempting to derma roll at home will be in for a longer wait.
“The tiny injuries the fine needles induce is a signal to our skin to produce new collagen,” Robinson affirms. “New collagen synthesis can take three to six months.”
Since needles are involved, safety will be your number one concern when microneedling at home.
“If a patient wishes to do treatments at home, they must carefully clean the skin before and sanitize their microneedling instruments to limit infection risks,” Welsh says. “They must also be careful not to push too hard on the needling device as they can cause scarring. Allergic reactions to products applied after needling have also been reported with in-office and home treatments.”
Here’s your five-step method:
1. Disinfect your derma roller
Always start by disinfecting your derma roller, letting it soak in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol for approximately 5 to 10 minutes before you begin.
2. Wash your face
Clean your skin with a gentle pH-balanced cleanser, and then cleanse it again. You’ll also want to gently wipe that 70 percent isopropyl alcohol directly on your face before you start rolling.
If you’re sensitive to pain, consider a numbing cream after washing your face. You’ll definitely want to apply one if you’ve advanced your treatment to using longer needles.
Apply any numbing cream if necessary
“It can be mildly uncomfortable based on the depth and caliber of needles used,” Robinson says, noting she offers her patients inhaled nitrous oxide as needed when she performs the procedure in the office. “I utilize topical numbing cream for 30 minutes prior to the procedure. You will have pinpoint bleeding after the procedure.”
3. Start rolling
Before you start, mentally divide your face into four sections, avoiding the eye area completely:
- upper left
- upper right
- lower left
- lower right
Gently and firmly roll over one area in one direction (vertically or horizontally) two to three times, and be sure to lift the roller before each roll.
Let’s say you start vertically: After you’ve covered one section 2–3 times this way, move the roller slightly and repeat until you’ve covered the whole section in that one direction. Then, go back and repeat the whole process in that section, but this time roll horizontally, utilizing a cross-hatch pattern.
For visual instructions, watch the video below:
4. Rinse your face
Rinse your face with clean water only when you’re done rolling and pat it dry with a clean pad.
5. Sanitize your derma roller
First wash the derma roller with dishwasher soap. Then soak it again in the 70 percent isopropyl alcohol for 10 minutes and put it back in its case.
Don’t wait too long to replace your derma roller — you should ditch your current roller for a fresh one after 10 to 15 uses, so you might need a new one every month if you’re rolling several days a week.
One of the biggest purported benefits of microneedling is its ability to help products like serums and moisturizers penetrate deeper and become more effective.
“[Needling improves serum] absorption into the deeper layers,” Welsh says. Skin penetrability is a good thing if you’re introducing skin-healthy ingredients, but it also means you have to be extra careful about the products you use.
“At-home use must be judicious,” Robinson says. “One of the biggest issues with microneedling is not introducing topicals or chemicals that should not penetrate past our epidermis deeper into our skin.”
Here are ingredients to look for in your serums:
- Vitamin C. Finding a high-quality serum to brighten and promote collagen is of the utmost importance. “There are case reports of granulomas (firm nodules) from people applying topicals such as vitamin C which contain ingredients in the formulation which induce a foreign body reaction in the skin,” Robinson says. “Also, sterility of the needles is paramount to prevent infection.”
- Hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid attracts and retains moisture, so applying it after microneedling can help plump and hydrate the skin.
- Peptides. Copper peptides are naturally-occurring complexes in the skin that, when applied topically, have been found to increase the production of collagen.
- Growth factors. Growth factors are proteins that promote the production of healthy cells and tissues. They bind to your skin cells and signal to repair and rejuvenate your skin. For microneedling, they act hand-in-hand with thickening skin.
The frequency of your treatments will depend on the length of your derma roller’s needles and your skin’s sensitivity. If your needles are shorter, you may be able to roll every other day, and if the needles are much longer, you may need to space out treatments every three to four weeks.
If you’re really looking to rev up your results, you may want to consider adding in additional skin care treatments between your microneedling sessions.
According to Dermascope, a professional skin care journal, microneedling and chemical peels produce better results as complementary treatments when administered 4 to 6 weeks apart.
Remember, if you’re performing at-home microneedling, you will be puncturing your skin, so it’s unlikely that the treatment will be totally pleasant.
“The pain level depends on the aggressiveness of treatments,” Welsh says. “Bleeding always occurs and is pinpoint with lighter treatments and heavier with deeper treatments. The skin is open, so we recommend only using very specific bland, non-irritating products for the first 24 hours after treatment.”
“Safety first!” Robinson says. “Do not apply topicals [such as acids or harsh actives] that should not be paired with microneedling. Also, make sure you clean your needles after each use. Every time you pierce the skin, you have the risk of inducing an infection.”
While experts agree microneedling can be helpful for people looking to boost collagen and treat issues like fine lines and acne scars, not everyone is a candidate.
“Patients with rosacea tend not to tolerate microneedling,” Welsh says. “While some patients with active acne can benefit, we prefer to not treat active acne patients due the potential for flares. Patients with very thin skin and sensitive skin should avoid microneedling.”
At-home microneedling probably isn’t something most skin experts would endorse, but if you’re set on incorporating this skin care step into your routine, proceed with caution and do your research.
“The effectiveness of the treatments depends on the depth reached by the needle array [the length of the collection of needles on the device],” Welsh says.
Besides keeping safety top of mind, remember that these treatments require repetition.
“At-home devices do not have the capability to produce as much change as in-office medical grade devices,” Robinson says. “Remember, change takes time and best results are seen after a series of treatments.”
Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist, marketing specialist, ghostwriter, and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, and more.