Photo courtesy of Dermapen

What is micro-needling?

Micro-needling is a treatment that constitutes a form of Collagen Induction Therapy (CIT). It is also referred to as a non-ablative skin treatment. This means that the deeper parts of the skin are treated without removing the top layer of skin. The micro-needles penetrate the epidermis. Proponents say that the advantage of dermarolling over chemical peeling is that it doesn't remove the epidermis. Nonetheless, all these little needle pricks will cause bleeding. The skin perceives that it has undergone a trauma, and it starts to produce collagen to repair the wounds.

There are 300 perforations per square centimeter of skin treated. Needle depths typically range from 0.25 mm, which only affects the epidermis, to 2.5 mm, which can reach the reticular dermis. The gauge or width of the needle is another important factor; most commonly 30 to 34 gauges are used — the larger the gauge, the more narrow the needle.

At-home versions are reasonably gentle and will cause redness and swelling at most. The experimental at-homers add collagen creams or other topicals which, as a result of all the needle holes, will be absorbed more readily. People report good results with lip lines. Acne scar treatments seem to have more mixed results.

Micro-needling can be performed by a dermaroller, dermastamp or dermapen.

What is a dermaroller?

A dermaroller is a rotating wheel studded with tiny micro-medical needles that penetrate the epidermis. Typically, users can buy different needle sizes to suit them. The downside of a dermaroller is that it can leave “trackmarks”. Dermarolling must be done at a certain angle to prevent the bending of needles.

What is a dermastamp?

Dermastamp’s proponents says there is less chance of needles bending and also that they are less likely to end up with "trackmarks." The skin can be stretched for better penetration. Overall, dermastamps seem to be better than rollers for targeting specific areas.

What is a dermapen?

The dermapen is an automatic dermastamp, a bit like a tattooing machine, but with many needles. It can be moved in any direction and it is moving the needles go in and out at high speed. According to one source: “with a dermapen, the needles are more or less fully down 25% of the time, more or less fully up 25% of the time, and somewhere in between 50% of the time.” The net result of all of this is that is can be easier to tear the skin with a dermapen than with a dermastamp or roller and is probably best left to professionals.

Serums to use with micro-needling (and what not to use)

Dermatologists say that tretinoin (prescription retinol) should not be used for up to three weeks before microneedling. At-home microneedlers are advised not to use any retinols as part of the same regimen because of the increased sensitivity they cause.

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Micro-needlers believe that the penetration of active anti-aging ingredients is enhanced by the procedure. Although I am way too faint-hearted to join their ranks, I would suggest that serums that focus on collagen production and wound repair would work the most synergistically. 

Human conditioned media made its way out of wound healing trials and into cosmetics with great effect. If it can heal a wound, it can repair a wrinkle. This would be make it a micro-needler’s new best friend as they wield a dermaroller or dermastamp. A good place to start would be AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum ($149 in the shop).

Human conditioned media are growth factors, and they include many different proteins that signal to cells to do different things. For example, the FGF (found in E’shee products) are involved in angiogenesis and wound healing.

Another wound healer with a great research pedigree is copper peptides. As the Cleveland Clinic points out, studies have shown that copper peptides promote the production of collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans while acting as an antioxidant. Find copper peptides in Medik8 Firewall ($145 in the shop) and Kenneth Mark MD Antioxidant Hydrating Cream ($120).

Matrixyl is palmitoyl-pentapeptide 3, and this is a peptide that specifically stimulates collagen synthesis and skin repair. University of Reading researchers found that it can nearly double the amount of the protein collagen needed to give skin its elasticity. Matrixyl or Matrixyl 3000 can be found in quite a few serums including BRAD Biophotonic Ultra Elastin Lift ($210 in the shop) and Eslor Active Night Cream ($95 in the shop).

Read more:
Dermaplaning - What Is It?


Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.

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