The most effective anti-aging treatments rarely come with a low-price tag or a quick-n-easy option. Laser treatments, injectables, Thermage, cryotherapy – the current gold standards of the anti-ageing world – are all costly and not exactly available at your local beauty salon. But micro-needling, the current craze for the over-thirties, is offering just that – a quick and easy, at-home, and relatively cheap treatment.
Micro-needling – also referred to as derma-rolling – has been said to magically cure acne scars, fine lines, brown spots and even stretch marks and cellulite. So popular is this new trend that Pinterest's 2018 trend predictions report a whopping 345% increase in saves for ‘derma roller’ over just the past year, while Vogue is calling it the next big thing in anti-aging.
What is it?
The treatment gets its name from the tool used – derma-rollers, or micro-needling devices – which are basically miniature paint rollers covered in ultra-thin needles. Not 100% painless, but said to be often ‘uncomfortable,’ derma-rollers make tiny wounds in the epidermis as the tool is rolled over your skin.
The derma-roller works in two ways. Firstly, it allows for deeper absorption of products, thanks to the tiny pinpricks that work like open passages into the skin, which allow ingredients to more effectively get to work. Secondly, the micro-needles create tiny wounds in the epidermis, which sends your skin into repair mode. This prompts your body to send an increased amount of collagen to the skin – which we all know is the fundamental building block of healthy, plump skin, and explains why the treatment is sometimes called collagen induction therapy. More collagen = better skin.
Does it work?
There are two types of derma-rolling: the pro-grade rollers that you’ll find at your dermatologist, and the at-home versions that have caused such a stir online. Derma-rollers used at home are usually between 0.2 and 1mm long. At this length, you can expect an improvement in skin texture and pigmentation, but according to dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, the at-home rollers don’t penetrate deep enough into the skin to effectively address issues like acne-scars, fine lines and stretch marks. The science behind rollers under 1mm is also lacking, but as with any new trend, the facts may well follow.
The professional rollers, however, can be as long as 3mm, taking the results to the next level. Acne scars, stretch marks and fine lines can be effectively treated with needles this long. In a 2009 study, nearly 100% of people studied saw a marked improvement in their acne-scarring after several professional treatments using a 1.5-mm roller and in a 2016 review by the Dermatologic Survey, micro-needling was found to be an effective treatment for acne-scarring and praised for being better tolerated, with fewer side effects than laser treatments.
In addition to more efficient micro-needling devices, professionals often combine the treatment with radiofrequency to amplify and prolong the results, which obviously you won’t get with an at-home treatment.
And as for treating cellulite? Don't hold your breath. Cellulite is a much deeper issue than can be addressed even with the pro-grade derma rollers. As far as this issue is concerned, micro-needling is one treatment that just won’t work.
Any side effects?
Like with most things, there are risks. The treatment should never be used on inflamed or irritated skin, especially in cases of eczema or active acne. Using the roller on skin that is broken out, can cause the bacteria to spread and leave you open to infection and other serious health issues.
There are a couple of other, temporary annoyances as well. Sensitive skin sufferers can become red and should be wary of active products put onto the skin after the treatment.
If you’re considering the treatment, having it done professionally is definitely the way to go, with results that far outweigh the at-home option. And while this can be an expensive path to take, like with any of these new-to-the-market anti-aging treatments, you get what you pay for.