Learn how to perform holistic microneedling at home
Microneedling has become the darling of the beauty industry over the past five years. With research showing it’s able to increase your own natural collagen up to 1000 per cent after a single treatment and is safe for all skin types, it’s no wonder people were queuing up at salons when it was first released. Yet did you know this treatment can be performed completely holistically, working with your body to reduce side-effects and increase results? Best of all, it can be performed either in a salon or in the comfort of your own home.
Interested? First, it’s time to explain what microneedling actually is. Microneedling is also referred to as skin needling or dermarolling. It involves the use of tiny microneedles being rolled or stamped onto the skin to produce micro punctures. This process stimulates your own natural healing cascade to create a completely new, smooth layer of collagen in the area.
Importantly, [the ancient Chinese] also believed that if you treated and improved the appearance of a particular area of the face you also benefited the functioning of the particular organs it represented.
In addition, creating these microscopic channels in the skin naturally increases the absorption of any products placed on the skin before or immediately after treatment. The increase in absorption can be up to 10,000 times that of normal topical application, according to research published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. This dramatic increase can be of huge benefit to the skin when applied with safe, natural and effective beauty products.
Microneedling has been researched and applied in a number of different ways over the past 20 years. Originally, with the advent of the technology to create such tiny needles affordably, it was widely researched by the pharmaceutical industry as an alternative means of drug delivery. This research is ongoing and it’s not unlikely that, at some point in the future, immunisations will be performed using this technology, so effective is the absorption.
During this research, stamps containing microneedles were mainly used. As further research showed how effective this treatment could be cosmetically, focus shifted to microneedle rollers. These rollers allow you to cover a wider area of skin much more smoothly and efficiently. Now, when people talk about microneedling or skin needling, this is usually what they are referring to.
The past … & the pain?
To find the origins of skin needling for cosmetic purposes, we have to go all the way back to ancient China. Historically, acupuncture needles were used. Acupuncture needles were inserted under lines or blemishes to help reduce their appearance.
The ancient Chinese were interested in reducing lines and blemishes on the face for more than just cosmetic reasons. They believed that each line or blemish reflected damage or ageing of a particular internal organ. They believed that if you improved the functioning of the internal organ the lines or blemishes would reduce. Importantly, they also believed that if you treated and improved the appearance of a particular area of the face you also benefited the functioning of the particular organs it represented.
These practitioners would have never heard of the word “collagen” and would have activated it unknowingly. Their perspective that improving the appearance can improve one’s health is an interesting one, and one we need to focus on as we pursue holistic beauty practices. The practice of cosmetic acupuncture proved so popular in China that it is still practised today. A large research study in China in 1996 demonstrated its effectiveness on 300 people.
Microneedling can actually thicken the epidermis, research shows, so is great for older skin that has thinned with age.
It’s important to realise the long history of cosmetic skin needling, as it’s by drawing on the principles of these ancient treatments that we can perform microneedling more holistically today.
Before I dive into that, though, one question that has inevitably crossed your mind is, “Is it painful?” The answer, if the treatment is done correctly, is surprisingly, “No, not usually.” As a long-term teacher, I have trained several thousand practitioners to use these devices in their clinics. Several years ago, I conducted a survey of 70 of my students, all of whom responded. The results showed that 91 per cent did not find the treatment painful. What makes those results more impressive is the students performing the treatments were doing so for the first time with only several hours training.
This brief survey was further supported by research in the US which has shown that, when using microneedles from 0.5mm to 0.75mm in length, patients found the treatment 10–20 times less painful than injection with a hypodermic syringe. Clearly, if done correctly, this can be a relatively painless procedure.
Now it’s time to discuss the nuts and bolts of microneedling. Who is it for? What can it assist? How can you perform it holistically?
Who is it for?
Microneedling is for everyone, regardless of age and skin type. Microneedling can actually thicken the epidermis, research shows, so is great for older skin that has thinned with age. The oldest clients I have treated successfully with microneedling are in their 80s. In these cases, more care must be taken and only shorter microneedles used, but excellent results can be obtained.
Microneedling is also completely safe for darker skin. There have been many issues in recent years with various cosmetic laser treatments resulting in loss of pigmentation in the skin of darker patients. Research in 2008 showed that microneedling does not adversely affect melanocyte production in the skin, so does not lead to pigmentation loss. Accordingly, the treatment has been recommended extensively for people of African and Southern Indian origin through the UK and US.
What can it assist?
So what can microneedling assist with? Microneedling is excellent for improving the appearance of the skin by creating a whole new layer of your own smooth collagen. This has made it popular for improving the appearance of the face. This same mechanism also makes it very effective at improving the appearance of both the hands and décolletage. Cue its popularity in Australia and the US, with our high rates of UV damage.
The second most popular treatment is for scarring. Here, microneedling works to break down old misaligned collagen that forms scars. By breaking down this older layer of collagen and creating a new smooth layer, the visible appearance of facial scarring can be reduced by up to two grades, according to some research, and burns scars by up to 70 per cent, according to other studies. It’s proving most useful to naturally assist acne scars and also scars from gynaecological procedures.
Stretch marks are formed from much the same misaligned collagen as scars. Microneedling for stretch marks has become increasingly popular and early research has indicated the effectiveness of this approach.
Finally, I must mention hair loss. Ancient Chinese practitioners used a similar treatment to stimulate the scalp, combined with Chinese herbs to restore hair. Microneedle rollers have been adopted by some of the largest hair clinics around the world. These clinics have largely used the rollers to increase absorption of hair regrowth products like minoxidil.
Interesting recent research showed that 82 cent of patients with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) reported more than a 50 per cent improvement after using microneedling for 12 weeks. Even more interestingly, the researchers suggested that this improvement seemed to be independent of product application to the skin and resulted directly from the needles being applied to the scalp.
From all the above information it’s very easy to see that microneedling works and that it can aid a wide variety of cosmetic complaints. Now we need to learn how to apply it holistically.
How can you perform it holistically?
The first step is to decide whether you wish to receive the treatments in a salon or do them yourself at home. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. As mentioned above, microneedling with a 0.5mm roller isn’t generally considered painful. This does not change the fact that fear of needles is one of the biggest phobias in our society. For many, the idea of performing treatments at home will be out of the question. If this is the case, it’s best to find a practitioner who can give you more guidance and be a great help throughout a series of treatments.
The advantages of performing the treatments at home are cost but also convenience. A microneedling treatment takes less than 10 minutes. This is very short time once every two weeks. The treatments can simply be performed at night before bed. For many people, this will be the deciding factor in where to have the treatments done.
If performing the microneedling at home, the first thing you need is the equipment. Home treatment packs generally contain two essential parts: the microneedle roller and the appropriate serum for use with it. Some packs may also contain a cleaner to ensure maximum hygiene for the roller.
When purchasing a pack, look for some key features. Make sure the roller is from a supplier you trust. Remember that, despite the pretty colours and almost invisible needles, the rollers are still needling devices and sterility is important. Make sure the rollers arrive in tamper-evident packaging as a bare minimum of safety.
When choosing the correct microneedle length, employ the first of the three principles of holistic microneedling: always use the least invasive techniques possible. This incorporates both the rolling techniques discussed later and the choice of microneedle length. Below, you’ll find a table of the correct microneedle size for a variety of conditions.
Many microneedling companies in the market employ a one-size-fits-all approach to microneeding and use longer 1.5–2mm rollers for everything and everyone. This ignores research showing that, even when using a 1.5mm roller, the collagen induction only takes place up to a maximum depth of 0.6mm. Other research has also shown that a 0.5mm roller is actually more effective than the longer 1.5mm roller at increasing transdermal absorption due to the delivery depth. There are reasons to use longer needles in some cases, usually when there is thick scar tissue. In these cases, up to a 1.5mm roller can be used.
Interesting recent research showed that 82 cent of patients with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) reported more than a 50 per cent improvement after using microneedling for 12 weeks.
The trick is to use the shortest microneedles that will get you the results you want. Any longer simply causes unnecessary trauma to the body. My aim is to work with your body as much as possible to achieve the results with your own natural collagen.
The second important part of the treatment is the serum for application with the roller. When choosing this serum, it’s important to remember that any products applied with microneedling can be absorbed in much greater quantities into the skin and eventually into the bloodstream. For this reason, I only ever recommend natural products without preservatives that are safe enough to eat. This is principle two of holistic microneedling: use only natural products.
This has become a point of contention in recent years. Many of the mainstream cosmetic companies have seen microneedling as a new way to sell their existing cosmetic range. Many have trumpeted the increase in absorption of their products, but failed to pay attention to all the ingredients contained in them and the potential toxicity.
Vitamin A in a variety of forms is also widely promoted in the cosmetic industry as an ideal cream to assist microneedling. Vitamin A is toxic to the liver but unlikely to cause any problems in the doses delivered during microneedling. The real problem with vitamin A is that it increases the three known side-effects of microneedling: inflammation of the skin, dryness of the skin and slight photosensitivity (sensitivity to sunlight).
When a treatment is performed with a 0.5mm microneedle roller and the correct serums, these three side-effects have usually passed in as little as 24 hours. For most people, that means you can go back to work the day after a treatment without anyone noticing. Vitamin A can dramatically increase this recovery time. If combined with a one-size-fits-all treatment that uses a 1.5mm roller or longer, recovery times can be up to six weeks.
This takes a much larger toll on your body resources. Additionally, there is no evidence that vitamin A improves the results of treatments. Some of the best studies showing up to a 1000 per cent increase in collagen production have actually been performed without any topical applications at all. This shows just how effective microneedling is.
In clinic, I use a green tea oil serum that has been infused with Chinese herbs. The green tea oil has several advantages for microneedling treatments. First, it improves the treatment. Topical green tea and several of the herbs have been shown to naturally increase collagen production in the skin and repair UV damage.
Second, this serum can also reduce the side-effects of conventional microneedling quite dramatically. The oil is better than water-based moisturisers at decreasing skin dryness and, unlike other oils, it does not clog the pores, which leads to blemishes. Topically, green tea is also excellent at decreasing UV damage and reducing photosensitivity. Keep in mind if you are going out in the direct sun, for several days after a treatment you will still need a high factor sunscreen.
The final principle of holistic microneedling is: draw from the cosmetic techniques of traditional medicine to improve the treatments and work more closely with your body. The traditional Chinese cosmetic rolling and massage techniques all worked with the natural energy flow of the body. There were several principles they employed on the face that I suggest you incorporate into your treatments:
- Always start on the right side of the face and then cover the left. This is the way energy is traditionally believed to flow.
- Always roll outwards and upwards. This lifts and stretches the skin of the face.
- Roll with a jade roller before treatment. This is a traditional roller made of jade, which was believed to increase qi (energy) and blood circulation. In modern terms, we would say it increases lymphatic drainage and healthy interstitial fluids so you have higher nutrition levels in your skin to create collagen.
The diagram above shows the rolling directions described on the face. Any reputable company you purchase from should provide quality instruction, and do make sure they provide ongoing support in case you have questions as your treatments progress.
Holistic microneedling can provide a fantastic natural Beauty treatment. It’s ideal for those who want a scientifically proven cosmetic treatment delivered in a less invasive and more holistic way.
5 tips to improve your treatment
- Cleanse the skin thoroughly before treatment.
- Roll only once every two weeks so the skin has time to recover.
- Roll in the correct direction to work with the body.
- Apply green tea oil afterwards to decrease dryness.
- Avoid direct sunlight for 24 hours after a 0.5mm roller treatment.
Correct microneedle length
|0.2–0.3mm roller||Transdermal absorption only||Too short to increase collagen induction|
|0.5mm roller||Anti-ageing, pigmentation, UV damage||The shortest length that will induct collagen; virtually painless to use|
|0.75mm roller||Scarring, acne scarring, breast stretch marks||The largest needle length that can be used relatively painlessly on the face|
|1mm dermastamp||Hair restoration, isolated scars||Does not tear out hair like the axels of the rollers on the scalp|
|Cellulite and stretch marks on the lower body||Longest needle length to break down thick stretch marks|