This Is What Microneedling Really Does to Your Face

Hundreds of tiny pin pricks going into your skin might sound like the beauty version of waterboarding, but it could just be the best thing that ever happened to your face.

gloved hand microneedling a woman with closed eyes

What is microneedling?

Microneedling (also known as collagen induction therapy) involves using fine needles to create hundreds of tiny, invisible puncture wounds in the top layer of skin. It may not sound appealing. But this minimally invasive treatment—whether it’s done in-office by a trained aesthetician, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon or at home using a derma roller (a small, handheld paint roller coated in tiny needles)—can be very effective. “The micro-injuries you create stimulates the body’s natural wound healing processes, resulting in cell turnover and increased collagen and elastin production, therefore reversing as well as preventing signs of aging,” says Sejal Shah, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in New York City. (Microneedling works the same way lasers do, only you’re injuring the skin mechanically instead of using heat or light.)

gloved hand microneedling woman's forehead

Microneedling may reduce fine and deep wrinkles

One of the main benefits of microneedling is its ability to stimulate the growth of collagen and elastin, which is the key to new, youthful-looking skin. Because of its ability to trigger the generation of new skin cells, dermatologists have found that a few sessions will noticeably reduce fine lines, crow’s feet, and deep wrinkles on the forehead. “This is one of the reasons I like microneedling—because it’s able to use the body’s own natural healing mechanisms, so the results are very natural,” Dr. Shah says. “And because there’s minimal downtime with it, I often recommend it as maintenance for people who are trying to stave off the signs of aging.” To treat wrinkles, a needle no longer than 1.5 mm should be used. These are the 17 skin-care tips dermatologists follow themselves.

esthetician or dermatologist microneedling woman's cheek

Microneedling may repair visible scars

In a study on the effects of microneedling published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, nearly 100 percent of acne-scarred participants reported a marked improvement in the visibility of their scars. With at-home microneedling, a 1.5-mm handheld roller is long enough to improve the appearance of acne scars. For severe acne scars, however, you may need longer needles for maximum results. Professional grade microneedling devices (used in a dermatologist’s or facialist’s office) can be as long as 3 mm, which will treat deep acne scars that occur beneath the surface of the skin. How effective is microneedling compared to fractional laser treatments for reducing acne scars? Research in the journal Dermatologic Surgery in 2016 found both treatments to be comparable and effective but gave credit to microneedling for being better tolerated, with fewer side effects and less downtime.

close up of micro needle on woman's cheekbone

Microneedling may reverse sun damage and pigmentation

Collagen is arguably the best way to improve the look of skin, and this goes beyond reducing wrinkles. Stimulating collagen growth with microneedling can also reverse sun damage and discoloration, including the hyperpigmentation that comes with melasma. A study in Brazilian Annals of Dermatology showed microneedling to be a promising treatment for the blotchy, brownish facial pigmentation that comes with this chronic condition. To improve extra pigmentation from sun-damaged skin, dermaroller needles should range from 1.0 mm to 1.5 mm in length. These 13 foods are tied directly to younger-looking skin.

dermatologist with needle and hand on woman's forehead

Microneedling may help aging skin

In addition to its ability to smooth and correct damaged skin, microneedling can also tighten loose skin in older men and women. (Remember: The older you are, the less collagen you’re naturally producing.) A study in the International Journal of Dermatology found that microneedling is a new way to achieve “skin rejuvenation, tightening, and scar remodeling” and that it offers a “simple and effective treatment for photo-aged skin,” according to the researchers, with minimal side effects and downtime. Also helpful: avoiding these habits that are making you age faster.

close-up of micro needle on woman's cheek

Microneedling may shrink pores

It’s a bit counterintuitive, but microneedling doesn’t actually enlarge pores as you might think piercing your skin hundreds of times would. Rather, one benefit of the procedure is that it helps pores appear much smaller, Dr. Shah says. Microneedling stimulates collagen in and around your pores, which causes them to plump and appear shrunken, if not closed. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want smaller pores? For more smart advice on having great skin, check out these 15 everyday habits that are wrecking your skin.

woman looking in mirror and applying cream to face

Microneedling may make your skincare products work better

Did you know that only 4 to 8 percent of that expensive serum you’re using on your face actually penetrates your skin? Another microneedling benefit is that it improves product absorption. A study in the European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that the treatment can help topical medications penetrate skin more efficiently, allowing you to reap greater benefits of any product. This makes sense considering that microneedling creates thousands of invisible holes in your skin that are ready to absorb products in a way clogged pores can’t. “The tiny punctures actually act like little channels, allowing topical products to penetrate better and work more effectively,” Dr. Shah says.

esthetician/dermatoligst microneedling woman's thigh

Microneedling can be done all over your body

Another microneedling benefit is that this treatment isn’t exclusive to the face. It can be done on any area of skin that needs to be repaired—including areas that display stretch marks or acne scars, like the legs, chest, back, and butt. Four to six sessions could make a difference in these areas, says Dr. Shah. Next, check out these 20 ways dermatologists wake up with younger-looking skin.

Medically reviewed by S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, on September 02, 2019

Aubrey Almanza
Aubrey Almanza is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and King's College London. Her writing has appeared in Prevention, SHAPE, and Reader's Digest, among others. She specializes in data-driven content on topics of wellness, beauty, culture, art, and fashion.