Formulate user Helena has some questions about the frequency of microneedling:
"I'm not a person who usually gets excited about skincare treatments, but microneedling seems pretty awesome. My dermatologist told me it could really help with my acne scars. It's also very expensive and of course it's not covered by health insurance. How often do people get microneedling done? Is it permanent, or is it something you have to keep getting forever, like botox? If I stop doing it, how long will the results last? And how long do you need to wait in between treatments? I've heard it can irritate your skin a lot, so I imagine you shouldn't do it too much."
Thanks for writing, Helena! Before we answer your questions, let's first define what microneedling is.
Microneedling is a cosmetic procedure that improves the appearance of the skin by stimulating collagen production. It involves the creation of small, controlled injuries to the skin which prompt the body's natural healing response - as the skin repairs itself, new collagen fibers are produced.
"Collagen is what gives thickness to our skin," shares Cincinnati based microneedling provider Hope Merz, CNP DNP. "It begins to deplete in our 20s. This is the main reason that we start to see textural issues like fine lines, wrinkles, larger pores, and worse acne scarring over the years. We also lose elasticity to our skin, causing it to crease/fold easier and sag around the jawline and neck. So the reason that we do micro needling is to trigger collagen and elastin growth within our skin to help prevent and reverse skin aging and improve textural impurities."
If you are micro needling in a doctor's office with professional-grade tools, the general rule is to microneedle in intervals of 4 to 6 weeks during the initial series of treatments. If you are micro needling at home using shallower needles, you can do it more often, up to once a week (Be sure to use caution if you choose to microneedle at home, for reasons described below).
That being said, there's no magic number for exaclty how often you should microneedle. Every patient requires a treatment plan unique to them. "The frequency and the total number of microneedling treatments vary per individual depending on skin type, treatment method (PRP, RF, at-home, in-office), age, and desired results," advises Dr. Michele Green, a microneedling provider based in New York City. "Patients in their 20s likely need fewer sessions as younger skin heals faster and naturally has a higher level of collagen synthesis. Microneedling requires customization to minimize the risk of unwanted side effects and reach skin goals safely and effectively."
If you decide to microneedle at home, professionals recommend completing the treatment no more than once a week. "If needles are 0.1mm, once a week with good quality serum gives good results," says dermatologist Dr. Rosmy Barrios. "You might be tempted to microneedle 2-3 times every week with shallow needles, but don't do that. Stick to just one session per week and you'll be able to give your skin ample time to recover and heal. You'll start noticing results only after you've done it 3-4 times."
If you're interested in microneedling at home, keep in mind that DIY treatments are not as effective as getting treatment from a professional. Professionals use deeper, more precise needles that can reach deeper layers of the skin. This helps to improve issues like acne scars, wrinkles, and hypigmentation. At-home microneedling reaches just the top layer of the skin and may only improve surface issues. This is true regardless of how frequently the DIY version of microneedling is performed -- you just won't get the same transformation that you would see with a more intense treatment. Also, keep in mind that there is greater risk for infection and scarring when microneedling is done at home. When done in a spa or clinic, microneedling is performed by a trained and licensed aesthetician or dermatologist who can ensure that the procedure is done safely and effectively. Speak to your doctor before you pursue a DIY microneedling treatment.
Most of the effects of microneedling are not permanent -- a single treatment will not stop your skin from further aging. The longevity of results depends on how long the newly produced collagen lasts (this can vary from person to person) and how well the individual takes care of their skin.
"Scarring and dark spots that are diminished won't reappear, however skin texture and tone concerns can re-emerge as your skin continues to age and be damaged by exposure to external influences like pollutants and sun," shares Arkansas-based microneedling provider Nurse Leslie Harmon. "Once a patient has reached the maximum benefit for their skin, they will be put on a custom procedural plan to maintain their youthful glow and elasticity. These touch-up treatments may be scheduled anywhere from 6 to 18 months later."
"Keeping up with maintenance micro-needling treatments will provide long-lasting results," says Dr. Green. "It is important to note that everyone's skin is different, so some may experience long-lasting results from microneedling, while others may need more frequent maintenance treatments."
In general, results from microneedling last about 3-6 months before fading. However, it's hard to say for sure how long the effects of microneedling will last. The treatment's longevity depends on factors such as an individual's genetics, lifestyle, smoking, sun exposure, and skin care routine.
Research into the overall longevity of microneedling indicates that some results may last longer than others. "One study examined the skin of 20 patients after microneedling and showed a considerable increase in collagen and elastin deposition at 6 months post treatment," shares Dr. Yelena Deshko, a Toronto-based microneedling provider. "The study also noted that the patients epidermis demonstrated 40 percent thickening at 1 year postoperatively.Therefore, we can extrapolate that some benefits of microneedling can remain for as long as 1-year post treatment."
Downtime between microneedling appointments is essential. It's important to follow your medical provider's guidance on how often to microneedle, and have the procedure performed no more often than is reccommended. This is true regardless of if you microneedle with a provider, or at home.
"The creation of new collagen is a relatively slow process and takes approximately 4-6 weeks post-treatment," explains Dr. Deshko. "If microneedling is performed more frequently, this decreases the efficacy of the treatment as more damage is incurred without giving the skin adequate time to heal and develop new collagen fibres. This can create the opposite of the desired anti-aging effect with increased skin damage and inflammation."
It's also important to take a break from at-home and in-office microneedling if you develop any skin condition contraindicated with microneedling. You should not microneedle if you have active acne lesions, a skin infection, eczema, or rosacea. The additional injury created by microneedling can worsen these conditions. You should also not engage in microneedling if you are undergoing another type of skin treatment. While microneedling can be an excellent and effective treatment for a variety of skin concerns, it's essential that it be completed safely.
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