Can You Damage Your Skin with Micro Needling?

About The Author:  FutureDerm is pleased to welcome Leah Argento to our staff as a Contributing Writer. For a complete bio please visit our About page.

So much buzz in the skin care world recently about Micro Needling (also called dermal rolling and skin needling) I wanted to take a closer look. My initial thought was “sounds scary” but I was wrong. And, there are quite some compelling reports on the efficacy and safety of these devices, even some for home use.

What is Micro Needling?

How Skin Needling Works

Micro Needling works by creating micro-channels in the skin which act as pathways to help increase absorption rates of serums and active ingredients. For example, this 2011 pilot study shows that combination therapy with skin needling and topical de-pigmenting serum is more effective than topical de-pigmenting serum alone in improving melasma (hyper pigmentation). Peptide serums, Vitamins C, E, and A are just some of the actives being used in combination with dermal rollers. Some roller manufacturers sell their own serums, but all the information I read suggests you don’t need their serums to achieve excellent results with a home-use roller. The other really cool part is that Micro Needling can be done on the face, upper lip lines, neck, décolleté, arms, abdomen, buttocks and legs! It can be used on crow’s feet but otherwise stay away from the eye area (no eye lids!).

Collagen Induction Therapy (CIT)

In addition to product penetration, Medical Micro Needling (NOT home use rollers) has also been clinically shown to increase the formation of new tissue by activating the body’s wound healing cascade. The micro-channeling causes the release of growth factors that promote scar-less healing and the deposition of normal woven collagen rather than scar collagen.

As demonstrated by (Schwartz, 2006) new collagen and elastin formation occurred 6 weeks after “dry” micro needling. Dry meaning, “no substance was used or infused into the skin”. In this study, twenty blinded biopsies taken from 10 different patients from various parts of their body demonstrated an average increase in new collagen fibers of 206% – wow! Faster results were obtained when micro needling was used in combination with serum infusion.

These findings support other research that found medical micro needling to significantly improve atrophic facial scarring. I also found many anecdotal reports of improvement of stretch marks from medical micro needling treatments (makes sense since wrinkles, scars & stretch marks all have 1 thing in common – a lack of collagen!

Medical Micro Needling

Microneedles vary in size.

As I said, sounds scary, but turns out it isn’t at all. The micro needles are precisely calibrated and are of a precise size. Dermal rollers typically come in 2 sizes; one for in-office use by a trained, medical professional and another with much smaller needles for home use. What’s more, by design the needles CANNOT penetrate any further.

Medical grade rollers can penetrate through the epidermis and into the upper dermis, just below the dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ) and just above the capillaries and nerve endings, so no pain or blood is involved. Therefore medical grade rollers help with product penetration and stimulate the formation of new collagen and help increase skin thickness. The human epidermis has an average thickness of 1.5mm and thus medical grade rollers typically use needles ranging from .15mm to 1.5mm and not longer.

Home use rollers, however, only penetrate the epidermis and therefore can only be used to enhance product penetration at home. These rollers have needles that are typically 0.2mm – 0.3mm in length and barely visible to the naked eye. However, the home use rollers seem to come with A LOT of safety precautions and usage instructions, which makes me think it is better to consult with a medical professional before you purchase one!

Don’t Take Chances – Visit A Doctor

So, medical micro needling and home-use dermal rollers appear to be useful tools not only in the fight against aging but also for the treatment of acne scarring, and stretch marks.

NOTE: The FDA has yet to set specific micro-needling standards, but manufacturers like Dermaroller® are assisting the FDA in establishing micro needling standards. Furthermore, as a Class I Medical Device, all medical micro needling devices are required to be registered with the FDA. However, there is no FDA Approval to be had with these devices so if you see one advertised as “FDA Approved” or “FDA Certified” it’s likely fraudulent. Click this link to be directed to the FDA website so you can verify if a certain micro-needle device is actually registered with the FDA.

There are many copycat devices are available for sale on internet sites, particularly less reputable online sites from abroad. Often these include the sale of medical rollers which should NOT be used at home due to the potential for injury and the risk of infection if the proper aseptic precautions are not followed.

I strongly recommend that consumers visit their dermatologist or plastic surgeon for micro needling treatment, and for appropriate home care programs. Consumers must be sure to seek out practitioners who can demonstrate proper training credentials and experience for medical micro needling treatments.

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