Microneedling has become incredibly trendy over the past few years. Given its prevalence in the skincare world, many are wondering: can microneedling actually reduce the appearance of acne scars?
Read on to learn more about microneedling for acne scars.
What is Microneedling?
Microneedling involves using a handheld roller or pen device that has fine, short needles on its surface. The device is rolled or stamped into the skin, and creates small punctures on the surface. While it might seem scary, the needles are small enough to only cause small pricks in the skin. This unique process is all done in the name of collagen stimulation.
- “Microneedling's fine needles rapidly pulsate in and out of the skin and help penetrate the dermal layer of the skin to induce collagen stimulation,” says Dr. Christopher Zoumalan, a Beverly Hills-based board-certified oculoplastic surgeon.
- "Collagen is one of the main structural proteins in the skin, and helps maintain skin strength, integrity and enable wound healing," explains Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a Beverly Hills-based board-certified dermatologist.
Studies have backed up these claims. In one 2008 study, patients were given 4 microneedling treatments, with one month in between each session. Researchers found up to a 400% increase in collagen and elastin in patients’ skin 6 months after the final treatment.
Does Microneedling Work for Acne Scars?
So, what can this process do for acne scars? Since microneedling stimulates the production of collagen and rejuvenates the skin, it can be an effective choice for treating acne scars.
- “The new collagen helps improve the skin tone and also the appearance of acne scars,” says Dr. Zoumalan.
- "When holes are made, the body responds by repairing them with new collagen," says Dr. Shainhouse. "While scars and scar tissue are formed by thicker, disorganized collagen bundles, the hope is that by creating exact perpendicular channels, that they will be filled in with healthy, thin, organized collagen fibrils."
Microneedling for Pitted Acne Scars (Preferred)
The process, however, doesn’t work the same for every type of acne scar. There are two primary types of acne scars: atrophic (depressed) and hypertrophic (keloid scarring). With depressed scarring, the skin has a loss of tissue, which results in an indent in the skin. With keloid scarring, on the other hand, the body has produced an excess of collagen during the healing process, resulting in raised tissue on the skin.
“Depressed acne scars respond best to microneedling,” says Kat Prim. This is due to the fact that the depressed scars could benefit from the stimulation of collagen, whereas keloid scars already have an excess. “It works best on older scars,” adds Dr. Zoumalan. “I don't recommend performing microneedling on new acne.”
How Many Microneedling Sessions for Acne Scars?
The amount of microneedling sessions required to see an improvement in acne scars depends on the scar type and severity. Results from professional microneedling will take months. Depending on your age, treatments will be scheduled every 4-8 weeks, and you can expect to need at least 4-6 sessions to notice some clinical improvement in the appearance of the scars, says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse.
Microneedling at Home for Acne Scars
While microneedling is offered in dermatologist offices, it is possible to do it at home. However, you should do so with extreme care and caution. Microneedling should not be done on any areas with current acne, or on irritated skin. Those with eczema, rosacea, and perioral dermatitis should also skip microneedling at home, as it could make those conditions worse.
- It is important to note that the effects you get from microneedling at home also won’t be as dramatic if you get it done by a professional. Those with deeper acne scars likely won't see results from at-home devices. “There are various types of over the counter microneedle rollers on the market, and they are at much smaller depth penetration,” says Dr. Zoumalan. “Their effects are limited in comparison to what a medical provider can provide with a medical-grade microneedle.”
- "The spikes are not deep enough to penetrate anything beyond the stratum corneum, AKA the uppermost layer in the skin," explains Dr. Shainhouse. "Tiny holes in this layer may help a moisturizing serum or acne treatment product to reach further into the epidermis, but will not influence collagen production, as it is not creating holes in the deeper thermal layers, where the structural collagen is produced."
It is also important to remember that, although microneedling is one option for getting rid of pitted acne scars, there are a variety of professional options available. Microneedling may not be the best course of action for you. “There are many other treatments available for patients, including laser, chemical peels, and so on,” says Kat.
The Dangers of Microneedling At Home
Microneedling at home does come with risks. "Unlike professional devices that create clean channels perpendicular to the skin surface without significantly traumatizing the epidermis, these rolling devices pull and stretch the skin, create trauma, and can tear and scar the skin," says Dr. Shainhouse.
There is also the issue of sanitization, as unsterilized devices pose a huge risk. "These home devices are meant to be reused, but are not re-sterilized between uses," says Dr. Shainhouse. "If the skin is at all broken, which is the goal of the treatment, it creates a risk for spreading infection both from bacteria that is sitting on the skin, as well as bacteria that remains on the device and is pushed back into the skin."
Best Microneedling Devices for At Home
If you are interested in trying microneedling for acne scars at home, there are a variety of affordable options available, including the following:
Prosper Beauty Derma Roller Kit
This kit has everything you need to do the process of microneedling for acne scars at home, including a handle, 4 roller heads, and a case. The heads contain 600 densely packed titanium micro needles. These needles are 0.25mm long, providing non-invasive but effective treatment on the skin. The brand also offers replacement heads for individual purchase. This means you don’t have to replace the entire kit when the roller heads wear down.
How to Use: Cleanse and dry the skin. Apply a serum to the skin if desired. Using light pressure, gently roll the tool over the skin in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal directions. Pass over each area of skin 2-3 times. Once finished, disinfect the roller (important).
Note: Microneedling at home is not as effective as the professional option
In a professional setting, a dermatologist typically uses a handheld microneedling device that looks like a pen. This device has needles on the tip, which quickly pulsate into the skin in a stamping motion. Professional microneedling for acne scars can cost anywhere in the $100 to $700 range per session. Insurance does not cover microneedling.
Patients interested in microneedling should meet with their dermatologist to create a course of action. "Depending on your age, treatments will be scheduled every 4-8 weeks," says Dr. Shainhouse. "You can expect to need at least 4-6 to notice some clinical improvement in the appearance of the scars."
“It is best to have a consultation with a licensed professional to assist in planning a treatment course to correct acne scarring,” says Kat. With your dermatologist, you can determine whether microneedling is the best choice for you, and how many sessions would be needed. Kat also mentions that some patients may have the best results by combining microneedling with other professional treatments.
Side Effects of Microneedling
While it might seem like a painful experience, many choose to turn to microneedling because of the easy, short process. “This procedure is done in usually less than 15 minutes and is very tolerable with the use of numbing cream,” says Dr. Zoumalan. He also mentions that there is little to no down time.
As with any procedure, there are some potential side effects. The main side effect is skin irritation, but patients can experience redness, swelling, dryness, bruising, flaking skin, and even potential bleeding. More serious side effects can include changes in skin pigment and infection.
Should you do microneedling if you have acne?
Dr. Shainhouse warns microneedling by no means suitable for those with active acne lesions. Additionally, those prone to inflammatory acne should skip it alltogether. Because the inflammation and trauma induced by the microneedling can trigger new acne flares. In short, skip microneedling if you're deal with an acne flareup.
Is microneedling good for acne scars?
Microneedling can be very helpful in reducing the appearance of acne scars. It stimulates the production of collagen. This increase in collagen helps smooth out acne scars and other skin imperfections. Microneedling works best on depressed scars.
How often should you microneedle for acne scars?
If you are trying microneedling for acne scars at home, you should aim to do it approximately every 2 weeks. However, you should pay attention to how your skin is reacting to decide if you should do it less often. Those getting professional microneedling can work with their dermatologist to decide how often and how many sessions they should do.
Can microneedling cause more scars?
Like with any procedure, there are possible risks. Microneedling could potentially cause additional scarring, particularly if done too often, or used on acne or irritated skin.
- Microneedling stimulates the production of collagen, which in turn helps smooth out the appearance of skin.
- Microneedling is best for reducing the appearance of depressed scars.
- Those looking into microneedling for acne scars will get the best results from sessions with a dermatologist, as they have access to medical-grade tools. There are, however, over the counter derma rollers available to buy.
The Bottom Line
Microneedling for acne scars does work, however, it depends on the severity and the type of acne scar. If you are unsure about those, it is best to consult with a skincare professional.