Microneedling uses the skin’s natural collagen-producing abilities to treat certain skin conditions. The procedure uses needles to create “micro” punctures in the skin that in turn promote collagen production and skin healing.

Microneedling can help reduce the appearance of acne scars, hyperpigmentation, sunspots, and even wrinkles. But does it hurt?

In this article, we’ll look into how much pain is involved, and steps you can take to make the procedure less painful.

Microneedling, also known as collagen induction therapy or percutaneous collagen production, is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure.

The purpose of microneedling is to puncture the outermost layer of the skin and trigger the healing process. This promotes the production of collagen and the turnover of new skin cells.

The entire procedure takes roughly 2 hours to complete. A board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon performs the procedure. In some states, aestheticians may also perform this cosmetic procedure.

Before the procedure

Your doctor will apply a topical anesthetic roughly 45 to 60 minutes before the treatment begins. This helps numb the area and reduce any pain that might be felt during the procedure.

During the procedure

Your doctor will use a tool that contains tiny needles, either a dermapen or a dermaroller, to perform the procedure.

The microneedling tool is sterilized and intended only for single use. Once the procedure begins, your doctor will run the tool evenly across the skin to create tiny holes in the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the skin. The microneedling portion of the procedure takes roughly 15 to 30 minutes.

The most common sensation during the procedure is a warm, scratching feeling as the tool is moved around the face. You may also notice some pain on the “bonier” areas of your face, such as your hairline, forehead, and jawline.

Otherwise, the application of the topical anesthetic makes this procedure relatively pain-free.

After the procedure

After the procedure, your doctor will apply saline pads to your skin. In some cases, they may apply a gel face mask to help calm the skin and reduce inflammation and redness. They may also prescribe creams and lotions that will help with the healing process of the skin.

You can leave the office immediately after your appointment. There’s no necessary downtime. You may notice some redness and some minor skin irritation for 2 to 3 days after the procedure, but this is generally nothing to worry about and should go away as your skin heals.

It takes time for the formation of new collagen. You’ll typically have to wait 2 to 6 weeks between sessions to allow the skin to repair itself. It can take three to four sessions to see noticeable results from microneedling.

Although microneedling is a relatively painless procedure, you may still experience some discomfort. There are a few things you can do before and after the procedure to minimize the pain you might experience.

Before the procedure

To minimize pain before your procedure:

  • Avoid using any products on your skin that increase sensitivity, such as retinoids or exfoliants.
  • Avoid laser procedures or overexposure to the sun before treatment. This can damage the skin and increase sensitivity.
  • Don’t shave, wax, or use depilatories before the procedure. This can lead to an increase in skin sensitivity.
  • Research suggests preparing your skin with vitamin A and vitamin C formulations may help promote the production of collagen.

After the procedure

To minimize pain after your procedure:

  • Make sure to follow all postoperative instructions provided by your doctor.
  • Apply any prescribed or recommended topical creams and lotions to keep your skin moisturized and to reduce inflammation.
  • Avoid washing your face with anything other than lukewarm water and gentle cleanser for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure.
  • Avoid using makeup for at least 48 to 72 hours after the procedure. When you do apply makeup, only use clean makeup brushes.
  • Avoid direct sunlight for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure. If you plan to go outside, don’t forget to apply sunscreen.
  • Avoid using harsh cleansers and exfoliants after your procedure. They can cause more irritation and inflammation while your skin is healing.

Size and length of microneedles may affect discomfort level

Research suggests that the type, length, and number of microneedles have an impact on how much pain someone might experience during the procedure.

According to researchers, longer microneedles can cause a sevenfold increase in pain, while a higher number of microneedles can cause a twofold increase in pain.

If you’re concerned that the procedure will be painful, reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss your concerns. They can give you information on the tools they use, as well as recommend any steps you can take before the procedure to minimize pain.

Microneedling has been researched and used as a treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including:

Research has shown that microneedling can also be effective in reducing the signs of aging.

In one small study from 2018, 48 study participants received four microneedling sessions every 30 days. At the end of 150 days, researchers noted that the procedure was able to significantly improve:

  • wrinkles
  • fine lines
  • skin texture
  • loose skin

Overall, microneedling is an effective cosmetic procedure with minimal pain, minimal recovery time, and great results for a variety of skin types and concerns.

While microneedling is a safe, effective procedure, there are some potential risks and side effects. These include:

It’s normal to have some skin redness and inflammation after the procedure.

For some people, the inflammation can lead to hyperpigmentation and flareups of other conditions, such as acne and herpes. However, most people who undergo microneedling don’t experience more serious side effects.

Microneedling is a procedure that should always be performed by a licensed professional in a sterile environment to minimize risks.

If you notice any of the following symptoms after your microneedling appointment, seek medical attention right away:

  • swelling
  • bruising
  • peeling
  • bleeding

Although rare, some of these symptoms can be a sign of a serious reaction to the procedure, or a potential skin infection.

Microneedling is a cosmetic procedure that’s used in the treatment of skin conditions like scarring, alopecia, vitiligo, and more.

During a microneedling session, the outermost layer of the skin is pricked with microneedles to promote collagen formation and skin regrowth. The procedure isn’t overly painful. There are ways to minimize discomfort.

The most common side effects of microneedling are skin redness and irritation.

Microneedling takes multiple sessions to truly see results, but research has shown it to be an effective, minimally invasive way to improve the health of the skin.