Note: We spoke with both members of the Formulate Community who have undergone microneedling as well as licensed professionals who provide microneedling services for this piece. Keep in mind while reading that pain can vary from person to person. Though many of this individuals we spoke with for this piece reported moderate to minimal pain from microneedling, that may not be your experience should you choose to have this procedure done.
Since we began our series of articles on microneedling, several Formulate users have written to us about one question in particular: does microneedling hurt?
Most of the experts who we spoke to say that microneedling is not a painful procedure to undergo.
"Microneedling is a minimally-invasive cosmetic treatment that is not painful but can be a little bit uncomfortable," says microneedling provider Dr. Michele Green. "Some people describe it as similar to getting a tattoo, while others say it feels like a cat licking you or fine sandpaper being rubbed on the skin."
The sensory experience of microneedling can vary depending on person's pain tolerance and the size and depth of the needles used during the treatment. Some people may experience a mild to moderate discomfort, similar to a slight pricking or scratching sensation on the skin.
"The results were worth it, but getting it done hurt," shares Formulate user Elizabeth H. "The nurse I went to numbed my skin, but I had to use the long needles since I was targeting the stretch marks from my pregnancy. It hurt less at the beginning and more at the end. I think I'd compare the end pain to being like if I scratched my hand on something and rubbed it raw. Not terrible, but not fun."
Pain can also increase or decrease depending on how the skin is treated once microneedling is over.
"I'm very scared of needles, so I went for the most tame type of microneedling I could find," shares Formulate user Cat J. "That turned out to be a 0.25mm dermaroller that I bought at Target. I was surprised by how much it didn't hurt. I'm not sure if I was too light with the pressure or not, but it felt like a gentle prickling sensation. It actually hurt more when I applied my favorite serum afterwards - that stung. Not a ton, but definitely enough to notice."
Other users might not feel very much at all when microneedling. "I bought a pen for microneedling, like the one my aesthetician uses," says Formulate user Layla S. "I used to use numbing cream, though I don't anymore since I really don't feel anything. I use it at the 1mm setting. I also have a very high pain tolerance in general."
One of the most common descriptions associated with microneedling is a slight stinging or sensation. This typically worsens where skin is thinner and more sensitive.
Another common sensation is a mild pressure or tightness on the skin. This can be more pronounced in areas where the skin is thicker or more elastic.
"My skin definitely felt tight during and afterwards," says Formulate user Beth Y. "It seemed a little puffier than normal during the next day, and definitely tighter. It went away within a few hours, but it was not fun. I also had some tiny dots of blood. Nothing bad, but it was a little startling since I wasn't expecting it."
After the procedure, most people experience some redness, swelling, and, depending on the depth of the needles, small amounts of bleeding. The redness and swelling usually subsides within a few hours, but can take up to 24 hours to completely disappear.
"Pinpoint bleeding is something that can occur during microneedling, especially if longer needles for deep microneedling are used," says Dr. Green. "This pinpoint bleeding looks like very small, round spots of blood on the skin, which people are typically not sensitive to."
Depending on the depth of the needles and the pressure with which they were applied, there may be some peeling and bruising as well.
"I got freaked out after I got it done because my skin was flaking more than usual," says Formulate user Samantha C. "I called my derm and they said it was a sign of cell turnover, and actually a signal that the treatment was working. My skin was a little irritated and it stung a little to put on my normal product routine while my skin was peeling but it went away. It itched, which sucked, but moisturizer helped."
If you'd like to pursue microneedling but are concerned by the pain, there are a few different steps you can take.
"A topical numbing cream can be applied about one hour prior to the microneedling session to eliminate any discomfort from the treatment," says Dr. Green. "Avoid any products that may increase sensitivity, such as exfoliants and retinoids. Avoid laser procedures and overexposure to the sun before the treatment."
There are also some things that you should not do before a microneedling appointment. "We DO NOT recommend taking an anti-inflammatory before or after treatment." shares microneedling provider Nurse Leslie Harmon. "These drugs interfere with the natural inflammatory process of the body which can affect the results of the treatment."
Overall, many people are fans of the results they get from microneedling, regardless of the pain they may endure. "I'm a huge baby about pain," continues Elizabeth H. "I faint when I get blood drawn and my husband has to hold my hand when I get a shot. But nothing else made my stretch marks get better the way this treatment has. So yeah, I have no regrets!"
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