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Micro-needling is a treatment that constitutes a form of Collagen Induction Therapy (CIT). There are a range of devices (read more on micro-needling), but in general tiny needles perforate the skin. In fact, that would be about 300 perforations per square centimeter of skin treated. The skin perceives a trauma has occurred and collagen production is boosted to activate repair.
Now when I say trauma, I do mean that literally (albeit relatively mild). Micro-needling isn’t for the squeamish or pain intolerant. With the larger needles, pin pricks of blood are drawn and it is a little painful at the time (the esthetician will sometimes apply a numbing cream first), and sensitivity (a feeling akin to mild sunburn) after treatment should be expected.
I am a cowering wimp when it comes to anything potentially more painful than eyebrow plucking. Nonetheless, I have recently had some micro-needling treatments with my esthetician that were not as unpleasant as I feared and the downtime (some redness) was fairly minimal. Mind you, she is a skilled professional, and micro-needling is not a treatment that I would perform on myself.
So if you don’t have the means or access to a professional or fall into the squeamish category, what are the alternatives? To answer that question, we should start with the perceived benefits of micro-needling. There are three key ones: collagen production, ingredient/actives penetration and removal of imperfections (such as hyperpigmentation).
A micro-needling alternative is a good serum with collagen boosting actives. A good bet is copper peptides. Not only do they promote collagen and elastin, they actually remove any that is damaged. Copper is the key mineral in lysyl oxidase, an enzyme that weaves together collagen and elastin. Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Prime Sleep Tight Mask ($89) has copper, plus a hefty dose of hydrating sodium hyaluronate. Another interesting copper peptide product is Benir Beauty BV Nine Platinum Anti-Aging Bee Venom Cream ($136 in the shop), which combines it with bee venom.
Collagen boosting growth factors are also great actives. I particularly like the new serum from Stemulation called Hi-Impact ($185 in the shop) that has sH-oligopeptide-1. Then there’s AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum ($149 in the shop) with a blend (over 40%) of stem cell derived growth factors.
It is believed that the skin is receptive to active ingredients during or just after a micro-needling treatment. An alternative approach would be a totally painless ultrasound. Through a process called cavitation, the ultrasound creates a bubble that implodes to produce millions of microscopic jets of liquid (your serum in this case). Ultrasound is one of the technologies in the Truth Vitality Lux Renew ($279 in the shop) anti-aging device, along with red and blue LED light.
Formulators can also include special ingredients that help other actives penetrate more efficiently. LiftLab Lift + Perfect ($250 in the shop) includes copper heptapeptide-14 panthotenate, which comes in a special delivery capsule that has an affinity with the FGF fibroblast where it can target the matrix proteins, elastin and collagen. BRAD uses an encapsulated retinol in its Sublime Youth Creator Gel-Cream ($245 in the shop).
Retinol is an efficient exfoliator that can over time help remove imperfections such as dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Skinfinite Platinum PM Cream 1% Retinol ($79 in the shop) uses retinol that is entrapped in molecular microsponges that enhances skin penetration in a time-release delivery system. Medik8 White Balance Click ($80 in the shop) includes kojic acid, which is stored in the top part of the product’s lid and is released by the click mechanism, to ensure the acid retains its potency.