Discover what microneedling is, and how it can help with acne scarring.
Trying to make the skin clear is already difficult on its own. But, getting rid of the acne scars caused by breakouts can be even harder. .
Unlike acne breakouts, deep acne scars can’t be treated with topical skincare products. The only option seems to be laser treatments, but those come at a hefty price. What’s worse, they can cause pigmentation issues if you have a darker complexion, too!
But, did you know that there’s a more cost-effective, yet efficient way of treating your acne scars?
Join us as we discuss everything you need to know about microneedling, and how it can be the next acne scar treatment for you.
What is Microneedling?
To start, let’s first understand what microneedling is all about.
To do this, a dermaroller studded with rows of fine needles is used. These needles are usually at 0.5 to 3 mm in length, and 0.1 to 0.25 mm in diameter. They are designed to penetrate the skin and reach the dermis, without causing much damage to the epidermis.
This results in micro-injuries that trigger the skin’s self-healing mechanism. As a result, collagen and elastin production in the skin gets stimulated.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s also responsible for providing structure to the skin. Higher levels of collagen in the skin help improve the appearance of acne scars, reverse sun damage, and make the skin tone more even.
Despite causing small wounds in the skin, microneedling is perfectly safe. In the clinic, it’s usually performed after applying a topical anesthesia to reduce pain during treatment.
A single procedure usually takes around 45 minutes to one hour, with three to eight-week intervals in between sessions. Multiple sessions, usually around three to six sessions, are required for best results.
To address deeper scarring, a higher number of longer and thicker needles can be used. However, this can result in a more painful procedure. In fact, studies have shown that the thickness, length, number, and angle of microneedles used during the procedure directly affects the pain it causes.
Types of microneedling
Microneedling at home
Microneedling is so safe that it can, in fact, be done at home. There are DIY microneedling kits, or home care dermarollers, meant for personal use. These are usually studded with 0.5mm long needles, and can be used twice a week for up to 100 times. DIY dermarollers normally have shorter needles compared to those used at clinics in order to keep them safe enough for home use.
Dermarollers can help improve tropical product penetration, enhance exfoliation, and even reduce pore size. However, they may not be as effective in treating other skin issues such as wrinkles and acne scars. This is because they cannot reach as deeply into the dermis as clinic microneedling does.
Beauty clinic microneedling
Microneedling done in beauty clinics uses longer needles, which can penetrate more deeply into the skin and address more skin issues. These are normally performed by trained doctors or aestheticians. Prior to microneedling, a numbing cream or anesthesia is normally used to reduce the pain felt during the procedure.
These treatments are normally done at an interval of two to six weeks. Multiple sessions are normally needed to achieve best results. Benefits include reduction in wrinkles and fine lines, improvement in skin discoloration, and reduction in the appearance of acne scars.
Can Microneedling Help with Acne Scars?
Microneedling certainly provides the skin with many benefits. So, you might be wondering if it can also help in improving the appearance of different types of acne scars.
To answer this question, we must first understand how acne scars form in the skin.
What causes acne scars?
When acne develops, it causes inflammation and lesions on the skin.
Normally, the acne pore can swell and cause the pore’s wall to break, resulting in small blemishes and shallow acne marks. Deeper scars are formed when the contents of blemishes spill into, and affect the surrounding tissue as well.
When this happens, the skin responds through enacting its natural wound healing process. This prompts the production of collagen. Acne scars are formed as a result of the lack or excess of collagen production during this process.
When there is excessive collagen production in the skin, you can expect hypertrophic or raised scars, as well as keloids. Meanwhile, a lack of collagen results in atrophic scars.
Atrophic scars are depressions on the skin. These normally take on different appearances, which can be classified into icepick, boxcar, or rolling scars.
- Icepick scars, as their name suggests, look as though the skin was punctured with an ice pick. These are characterized by thin, deep scars.
- Boxcar scars have a flat, box-like bottom, with sharply defined edges. These can either be shallow or deep, and have a wider diameter compared to icepick scars.
- Rolling scars are widest in diameter, but without the defined edges that boxcar scars have. Rather, they give the skin an uneven or a “rolling” appearance, from which their name was derived.
In contrast, hypertrophic and keloidal scars are raised scars. These are characterized by bumps or ridge-like areas where the skin was injured.
Hypertrophic scars look like thick, wide ridges that cover the site of injury or acne. Meanwhile, keloidal scars normally look like red-purple papules. They can grow in size, and even spread beyond the site of injury.
How does microneedling help with acne scars?
Now that we know how acne scars work, where exactly does microneedling come in?
As previously mentioned, atrophic scars form due to collagen scarcity in the skin during the wound-healing process. Microneedling remedies this through inducing normal wound healing, which stimulates the production of collagen III in the skin in the early wound healing phase.
Collagen III is later replaced by Collagen I, usually over a period of one year. Collagen I allows for continued tissue remodeling even months after the injury. It is believed that the formation of new collagen helps in filling in acne scars, and even fine lines and wrinkles. As a result, the skin’s appearance becomes smoother.
A study has shown that significant improvement on the appearance of acne scars can be seen after three months of microneedling treatments. This corresponds to around 6 sessions taken in regular intervals. The collagen I produced during this treatment is expected to remain in the area for about five to seven years.
[note red]It is important to note that using microneedling for acne scars are best used only with atrophic or depressed scars. This is not advisable in the treatment of raised scars.[/note]
This is because of the mechanism by which microneedling works. As previously mentioned, microneedling boosts collagen production in the skin, allowing it to fill in acne scars. However, because hypertrophic and keloidal scars already have an abundance of collagen, adding even more collagen may worsen these scars.
Collagen synthesis, which is stimulated by microneedling, normally peaks at 14 days after treatment. Hence, it’s best to wait at least 14 to 30 days before going for another session. Thus, it’s advisable to repeat in-office microneedling treatments every two to four weeks for milder skin concerns, and four to six weeks for deep treatments for acne scars.
If you’re planning on trying microneedling at home, however, you can use your dermaroller as often as twice a week. However, remember that this is largely dependent on your skin’s tolerance.
Other Benefits of Microneedling
Apart from improving the appearance of acne scars, microneedling also poses other benefits that make it worth investing in.
Suitable for all skin tones
Normally, when we talk about reducing acne scarring, we think about laser resurfacing treatments. However, a huge downside to laser treatments is their tendency to cause hyperpigmentation for people of color due to epidermal damage.
Luckily, this isn’t a concern with microneedling. Because this procedure can penetrate deep into the skin without damaging the epidermis, it’s safe even for those with darker skin tones. As a result, chances of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation are very low.
Fine lines and wrinkles reduction
Due to the loss of collagen and skin elasticity as we grow older, the skin gradually becomes unable to return to normal after it folds during facial expressions. Over time, these folds become deep-set, and become what we know as wrinkles.
Microneedling helps with the reduction of fine lines because it can reorganize old collagen fibers and create new ones. As a result, the skin tightens, and wrinkles become less visible. In fact, multiple studies have shown that microneedling can minimize wrinkles and fine lines, and increase skin elasticity as well.
Improved effectiveness of other skincare products
Studies have also shown the effectiveness of microneedling in facilitating the absorption of topical products. This is due to its ability to improve transdermal drug delivery within the skin’s protective barrier. This is especially true for longer needles at 500 μm. As a result, skincare products can penetrate the skin more easily after microneedling, allowing them to have more significant effects on the skin.
Although a relatively safe procedure, microneedling is not without risks. This is especially true for DIY microneedling devices, which aren’t used with expert supervision.
DIY dermarollers are normally cheaper, but also yield less effective results as compared to in-clinic microneedling services. This is because DIY dermarollers typically have shorter and more blunt needle tips, which cannot penetrate the skin deeply. As a result, at-home devices may not be able to treat deep-skin issues, like wrinkles and fine lines.
Additionally, these devices carry more risk of injury or infection. You risk pushing the device too deeply into your skin, which can cause larger wounds. These devices are also more difficult to clean and sanitize. However, if you don’t properly clean them, you risk introducing bacteria to your face the next time you use them.
Be gentle with your face and not to push the dermaroller too deeply to avoid injuries. It’s also a must to sanitize the product thoroughly each use. You can do this by soaking the dermaroller in 70% isopropyl alcohol for 5 to 10 minutes before and after use. You can also wash the device with soap and warm water prior to sanitizing it.
In contrast, beauty clinic microneedling is done with professional dermapens, which normally have longer, disposable needles. This allows them to reach deep into the dermis, and stimulate collagen production from there.
Additionally, in-clinic microneedling is done by experts who have been trained to use microneedling devices, thus making this option much safer. Some dermarollers are also single-use, ensuring their cleanliness.
Beauty clinics also warn against microneedling for those with active acne. This is normally a contraindication for microneedling for them. In contrast, users or DIY dermarollers may not be aware of the risks posed by doing microneedling while with active acne.
Microneedling can pop active acne, and therefore introduce the bacteria to other areas of the face. This can ultimately lead to acne breakouts, or worsen existing ones.
Other contraindications for microneedling include rosacea or eczema. This is because microneedling can irritate the skin, which can worsen the symptoms of these skin concerns. So if you have active acne, rosacea or eczema, microneedling may not be the treatment for you.
Microneedling can be quite sensitizing to the skin, so sufficient aftercare is a must.
Here are some things to do to ensure you maximize the benefits of your microneedling sessions, and minimize its side effects:
The micro-injuries caused by microneedling can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, and therefore more prone to sun damage. Because of this, it’s best to avoid direct sun exposure for at least two weeks after the treatment.
If you absolutely must go out, don’t forget to use adequate sun protection of at least SPF30. Make sure to look for “broad spectrum” or “PA++++” sunscreens as well.
Gentle skincare routine and avoid exfoliation
Using harsh products like actives and anti-aging products immediately after microneedling can also irritate the skin and cause breakouts. Exfoliating after a microneedling treatment may also cause further irritation to the area. Therefore, it’s recommended to stick with a gentle skin care routine for at least a week after a microneedling session.
After a week, your skin should be back to normal. At this point, you may gradually reintroduce your actives and other cosmetic products. If these cause any irritation, consult with your doctor.
Microneedling is definitely a great option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly yet effective way to treat your acne scars. However, it is not without its risks. DIY microneedling, most especially, can cause your skin more harm if not used properly.
We hope that, through this article, we were able to educate you on the benefits of microneedling, and how you can do it safely.
Think microneedling is a viable option for you? Have you tried microneedling for your acne scars? Let us know what you think in the comments!