Professional Microneedling: Why I Tried It and What I Learned
Posted on February 22 2017
If only I had listened to my grandma...
She warned me day after day to wear sunblock and do you think I gave any heed? Nope. I wanted my fair, Scandinavian skin to be tan so desperately that I'd slather myself in baby oil and lay out in the sun for hours, only to produce severe sunburn after sunburn and countless skin problems once I hit adulthood. I was a lifeguard for 8 years during high school and college and all those hours outdoors without proper skin protection really messed up my skin. I hate that I didn't take better care of my skin during my first 20 years of life because I am definitely paying the price for it now. I've had multiple cancerous lesions removed, I'm prematurely wrinkly, my face is so dry that it over-produces oil, and I have giant, very visible pores all over my nose, forehead, cheeks, and chin. It is not a pretty sight. At all.
I'm always looking for products and procedures that will improve the texture of my skin and keep it from getting oily 5 minutes after washing my face. I've read about at-home microneedling devices and wanted to try them out. However, I also read that professional treatments produce better results through deeper needle penetration. With this in mind, I decided to bite the bullet, get over my tightwad personality for one day and shell out $200 for a professional collagen induction treatment (the official name of microneedling procedures). Ouch. This was a big step for me in terms of opening my wallet and letting the dollar bills fly out into the unknown realm of medically-unnecessary procedures.
Fortunately, I live near NIMA, an award-winning aesthetics institute that offers first-class services at a relatively lower rate than other aesthetic facilities in Utah (supervised students perform the procedures at NIMA). They have a gorgeous spa at their Salt Lake City location so I booked my appointment with a graduate student named Ali. I felt right at home when I arrived and she made sure I was well-informed about every single step of the procedure I was about to have. I was quite nervous--I had experienced laser hair removal before and wondered how microneedling would compare on the pain scale--but Ali put me at ease and answered all of my questions honestly and excitedly. I was stoked!
Ali explained the procedure to me in detail: she'd apply a serum, use the needling tool to make tiny pricks all across my forehead, and then continue with serum and needling on different areas of my face. After my whole face was treated, she began the process again with a different serum and a higher setting for deeper needle penetration. After three serums and three passes with the needling tool, she'd clean off the blood (yes, there was blood involved...more on that later) and apply a glycolic acid peel to really boost the exfoliation quotient. She warned me that it would sting terribly for a few minutes but that she'd give me a fan to help take the edge off.
As we began the treatment, I was surprised at first by the sensation. It was a bit painful but felt similar to microdermabrasion and was definitely tolerable. The forehead area was the most painful and the cheeks, nose, lip, and chin areas weren't bad at all, although feeling my nose buzz with the vibrations of the needling tool was so strange. I had to pause the treatment to sneeze a few times. I wore the awesome goggles that I knew from tanning beds in my adolescence (the horror!) so I didn't see any blood but when I asked, Ali assured me there was a "good amount". Since I didn't see it or feel it, I wasn't alarmed or grossed out and the needling part of the procedure went really well!
Ali cleaned off my face and prepared me for the glycolic acid peel. She told me again that it would sting badly for a few minutes and placed a small fan in my hand so I could point it at the areas that burned the most. She quickly spread the serum on my skin and monitored my pain level carefully and frequently. The initial burn was terrible! I think I even gasped but I reminded myself to breathe (thanks, yoga) and relax and after about 30 seconds, the heat subsided and the peel was tolerable. The fan definitely helped and before I knew it, it was time to remove the serum.
Ali gently removed the glycolic acid serum and wrapped my face in cool, damp towels and let me tell you...that was heaven! I wanted to lie there all day long with my hot face in those cool towels. She let me relax as long as I wanted to and once the towels came off, she slathered me in cooling gel to continue to soothe my face. Ali gave me my post-treatment instructions and sent me home with four vials of serum that I was to use as part of my after care. I was as red as a tomato and definitely tender but I left NIMA with high spirits and feeling like I just had a great treatment.
The rest of that day was painful! I can't lie. I applied sunblock every two hours per Ali's instructions and oye...even patting it gently on my face hurt like crazy. I took an ibuprofen and was able to go out that night (word to the wise: don't get microneedled on Valentine's Day...). Day two brought significantly better sensations and less redness, although I noticed that I was sprouting huge, sudden, gross pimples... like my microneedling treatment had unearthed clogs that had been in my pores since 1997. They all self-extracted and went away within about 24 hours, so I was happy about that (I don't know if you realize how very difficult it is for me to NOT pop zits. It's disgusting, I know, but so irresistible to me!).
Days 3, 4, and 5 were filled with flaking and more flaking as my face shed the layers of skin destroyed by the glycolic peel. I've never seen more flaking in my life! I used my Clarisonic brush in the shower each morning and even slathered Amlactin on my face every night to hurry the process along but still...I was flakier than a croissant. By day 6, I felt like I had recovered 100% and started to notice a gorgeous glow. Hooray!
My pores are definitely less-visible, my skin looks fresh and smooth, and I'm not nearly as oily as I was for years before my treatment.
Here's what I learned from the whole experience:
1. Numbing gel before the procedure is totally worth the extra $20. Always say yes to numbing gel.
2. A professional treatment will produce results much quicker than at-home versions, but even professional treatments require repeated visits to achieve the best results. I noticed that my pores were less visible and had less dimension, my skin wasn't getting oily as fast as it used to, and my skin looked generally fresher and healthier after I healed but my fine lines still look like they did before the treatment. I'll definitely go back for another round, but I'll likely wait 6 months to make it worth the cost and healing time. In the meantime, I may try some at-home systems to maintain my professional results.
3. Microneedling isn't for the delicate skin right under eyes or right around lips. I was bummed when I discovered this because those are problem areas for me. I really hoped that I could have some collagen-inducing benefits in those saggy, under-eye bags I've had since birth but no luck here. I need a good eye cream, I guess (any suggestions? Leave me a comment!).
4. The procedure is painful and the recovery takes a while. For me, it was six days. I definitely didn't expect that kind of recovery. It was only slightly annoying (all the flakes in my bangs reallllllly looked cute) and totally worth the results of the procedure.
5. Serums work so much better right after a microneedling treatment! I've never had much luck with serums but I couldn't believe the benefits I saw from the serums that were applied right after my treatment. They absorbed into my skin so much better and I felt like they actually did what they claimed to do. Hooray!
Have you tried professional microneedling? How did it go for you? Were you pleased by your results? Where did you go and what are your tips? Leave a comment and let me know!