Facial treatments that slow and treat the signs of ageing have become increasingly popular as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, more invasive methods like injectables and surgery. Micro-needling is one I am frequently asked about, as it can benefit the skin’s appearance, soften fine lines and improve overall texture and plumpness — but only when done properly. As with any treatment, it is appropriate for some and not for others, and must be done in the right setting with the best tools to achieve good results. There are also various types of micro-needling, some of which are better than others for their safety profile and end results.
Firstly, I would advise against ever performing micro-needling at home. At-home micro-needling devices have become readily available; they are not all created equal and are incredibly hard to keep sterile in a non-clinical environment. Although micro-needling is relatively non-invasive compared to other treatments, the skin is still being punctured, creating the opportunity to introduce bacteria to the skin which can lead to infection or can cause major tissue injury which can lead to inflammation and poor results. Most devices also do not penetrate deep enough to provide results.
If you are considering micro-needling in office, I would recommend selecting a highly experienced clinician in a medical setting. There are two general types of micro-needling that can be chosen from: micro-needling with or without PRP.
Micro-needling with PRP (platelet-rich plasma) is done only by those holding medical licences (i.e. nurses or doctors). The treatment first involves the patient having a blood draw (similar to when you have blood work done). The sample is then spun using a centrifuge, separating the patient’s plasma from the rest of the blood sample. Plasma contains many of the body’s natural healing factors including platelets and it is thought that when injected into the skin, plasma can assist the skin in healing itself in conjunction with the micro-punctures from the needles. Typically, the clinician will offer the patient a numbing cream for the face and/or other areas being micro-needled while this process is being conducted.
Once prepared, the platelet-rich plasma is injected into the skin at varying depths depending on the area being treated and/or the device being used by the clinician. The device used varies, but generally has a number of tiny needles that puncture the skin. The PRP is then smothered over the puncture sites, where it is thought to be absorbed more deeply into the skin.
Recovery time varies, but is typically very quick if your skin was in a healthy place to begin with. I always advise patients to only seek this type of treatment if the skin is already stable, meaning the skin is free of breakouts, irritation, redness, or if they have impaired healing time generally. In the weeks that follow, the skin will heal itself and patients may notice a softening of fine lines and wrinkles, and overall improvement in their skin tone and texture.
Although I do not believe this treatment is the answer to all of the concerns one may have about ageing skin, it certainly can work to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, two proteins which decline as we age and are responsible for skin tone, fullness and youthful appearance. For best results, these treatments are typically recommended in a series, followed by a maintenance protocol; it is unlikely that one treatment alone will be enough. When patients opt for treatments such as these, I also believe it is imperative to stimulate the body’s ability to produce collagen with the right diet and supplements, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, as well as additional vitamin C. I also recommend reducing stressors on the body - particularly alcohol consumption and processed foods. These cause inflammation and impair the body’s ability to heal and repair, theoretically ‘distracting’ the body from healing the skin after micro-needling with PRP. I also recommend at least 8-9 hours of sleep and at least 2L of filtered or spring water daily.
As always, speak with your medical provider if you are considering micro-needling with or without PRP. A thorough practitioner will conduct a consultation before providing treatment to ensure you are an ideal candidate for this type of treatment. Furthermore, the skin is a reflection of overall health. While micro-needling can be a great treatment, consider it in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle for best results.