An Overview of Microneedling Treatment

This minimally invasive procedure could improve skin's appearance

Microneedling, also known as dermarolling or collagen induction therapy (CIT), is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that uses hundreds of tiny needles to penetrate the skin to spur the improvement of several chronic dermatologic problems.

Microneedling aims to create a controlled injury beneath the skin's surface, to induce collagen production in the treated area. The skin plumps and thickens in response to the stimulus, reducing the appearance of scars, stretch marks, fine lines, wrinkles, and more.

A woman getting microneedling treatment

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How It Works

The treatment uses a small rolling device covered with hundreds of tiny (0.5 to 1.5 millimeters long), closely-spaced needles. As the device rolls along the skin, the needles pierce thousands of microscopic holes just deep enough to reach the collagen layer in the dermis.

The damage is minimal but enough to trigger a cascade of inflammatory effects that produce healing growth factors in the skin, and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin that rejuvenates the area.

Uses

Microneedling is used to treat a variety of skin conditions less invasively than lasers, such as:

  • Wrinkles
  • Acne scars
  • Stretch marks
  • Surgical scars
  • Enlarged pores
  • Burns

It can take several sessions over time to gain the full results, but the collagen production in the area can make positive changes without using lasers. In addition, while lasers can cause hyperpigmentation in the treatment area, microneedling is less likely to cause this damage in those with lighter skin tones.

Radiofrequency Microneedling

Radiofrequency microneedling is a newer development that adds electromagnetic radiation to the needle penetration, heating the depths of the dermis and promoting collagen repair.

Studies have shown it to be as effective or better than regular microneedling for the same skin conditions. Your dermatologist or plastic surgeon can tell you if this option is available and whether or not it is a preferable treatment.

Procedure

Microneedling is best performed in a healthcare provider's office by a trained professional who can diagnose any skin condition that may need treatment, determine if the procedure is appropriate for you, and recognize areas to be avoided. Sterile, FDA-approved equipment should be used.

The treatment generally takes minutes, but the length of a session varies depending on the size of the area being treated.

Your healthcare provider will administer a topical anesthetic cream 30 minutes before the procedure to minimize pain. The needles may draw blood, but it's usually minimal.

What About DIY Microneedling?

Microneedling devices are available at health and wellness retailers for personal use. They are inexpensive ($10 and up; Dermaroller is one brand), which adds to their appeal. However, while some may be useful, it's impossible to predict the quality of a device. In addition, if you perform microneedling yourself, you risk misusing the roller, needles coming off and remaining in your skin, infection, and inconsistent results.

Effectiveness

Science has shown that microneedling can achieve positive molecular changes in the skin (dermal remodeling) and that total healing from a procedure usually happens within five days.

Meanwhile, research has shown the procedure to be safe and effective for the following skin issues:

  • Wrinkles: A 2018 study found four microneedling treatments spaced out every 30 days to improve wrinkles, skin laxity, and skin texture.
  • Scars: Positive results have been seen with atrophic (indented) scars from acne or chickenpox, hypertrophic (raised) scars, and keloid (raised and larger than original wound) scars.
  • Stretch marks (striae distensae): A 2019 review of seven studies found microneedling effective in improving stretch marks.
  • Patchy hair loss (alopecia): Microneedling used along with drugs like minoxidil has been shown to yield more substantial hair growth than using minoxidil alone.
  • Gray or brown skin patches (melasma): One review of 22 melasma cases treated with microneedling showed improvement in all cases.
  • Absorption of topical skin applications: Microneedling can help enhance skin-based drug delivery.

Microneedling has been shown effective in treating people of all skin colors.

Summary

Microneedling is a cosmetic procedure that uses small sterile needles to cause skin inflammation to stimulate collagen production. The collagen produced from the inflammation can address common skin issues, without more invasive procedures. It may take several treatments to achieve the desired results.

A Word From Verywell

Microneedling is available as a series of treatments in some dermatologists' or facial plastic surgeons' offices. If you're considering a home unit, first consult with a healthcare provider who can show you the proper way to safely do the home treatments (or if it's even recommended). They can also ensure you don't have any skin conditions that would contraindicate microneedling.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is microneedling better than Botox?

    Both cosmetic procedures can effectively improve the appearance of the face, but they work with different mechanisms. Botox relaxes the muscles of the face to reduce specific kinds of wrinkles that create an aged appearance. Microneedling generates collagen and elastin production that works to restore the tissues in the face and reduce pore size resulting in a more youthful and healed appearance.

  • How long does it take to see results from microneedling?

    Some tightening results may be visible soon after the swelling goes down. Overall, results may take several weeks to months to see the final results of the microneedling treatments.

  • How long do microneedling results last?

    Unfortunately, the answer is that this varies based on the person and how long their body maintains the collagen in the area. This can change depending on age, genetics, and lifestyle factors.

  • Can microneedling ruin your skin?

    As with any procedure, there are side effects and potential risks to microneedling, including:

    • Bleeding
    • Redness
    • Flaky skin
    • Infection
    • Bruising
    • Tightness

    While there are possible side effects, they typically resolve in a couple of weeks.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Iriarte C, Awosika O, Rengifo-Pardo M, Ehrlich A. Review of applications of microneedling in dermatology. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:289-298. doi:10.2147/CCID.S142450

  2. Yale Medicine. Microneedling.

  3. Elawar A, Dahan S. Non-insulated fractional microneedle radiofrequency treatment with smooth motor insertion for reduction of depressed acne scars, pore size, and skin texture improvement: a preliminary study. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(8):41-44.

  4. Schmitt L, Marquardt Y, Amann P, et al. Comprehensive molecular characterization of microneedling therapy in a human three-dimensional skin model. PLoS One. 2018;13(9):e0204318. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0204318

  5. Ablon G. Safety and effectiveness of an automated microneedling device in improving the signs of aging skinJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(8):29–34.

  6. Mujahid N, Shareef F, Maymone MBC, Vashi NA. Microneedling as a treatment for acne scarring: a systematic review. Dermatol Surg. 2020;46(1):86-92. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000002020

  7. Hagag MM, Samaka RM, Mahmoud HAE. Role of microneedling in treatment of patients with striae distensae. Menoufia Medical Journal. 2019;32(3):756. doi:10.4103/mmj.mmj_36_18

  8. Lima E de A. Microneedling in facial recalcitrant melasma: report of a series of 22 cases. An Bras Dermatol. 2015;90(6):919-921. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20154748

  9. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Microneedling devices: Getting to the point on benefits, risks and safety.

Additional Reading

By Blyss Splane
Blyss Splane is a certified operating room nurse working as a freelance content writer and former travel nurse. She works as a freelance content writer for healthcare blogs when she's not spending time with her husband and dog.

Originally written by Natalie Kita