Microneedling: Why Bloody isn't Better
Updated: Apr 6, 2020
A few years ago, I decided to get the oh-so-popular "Vampire Facial'- a microneedling service that involves the application of PRP (platelet rich plasma) spun from your own blood, applied to your skin during microndeelding. The PRP is actually a clear to golden color, so it's the bleeding from the microneedling process that gives folks the often photographed bloody face. The procedure promises younger looking skin, minimization of fine lines and wrinkles, reduction of scars, and improved skin texture. Sounds worth it, right?
What I didn't expect was inadequate numbing beforehand, and an incredibly painful experience. My nurse/ esthetician was so heavy handed, that there were areas I could actually feel my skin folding over itself under the pressure of the microneedling pen. And this was at one of the top med spas in my state. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, with concern for how these professionals were being trained.
Fast forward to now, and I have now trained in microneedling myself. In my own training, I learned just how wrong the experience I had was. I cringe to think of others that were unnecessarily put through such an experience, without knowing how gentle the treatment can actually be. Microneedling is actually one of the best skin treatments out there, in my opinion, as long as it's done right.
First let's consider needle depth. Deeper is not better! The goal of microneedling is to stimulate cells in the dermal-epidermal junction, which is generally found at a depth of about .5 millimeters. For acne scarring, you can go a little deeper, up to 1mm. But you don't ever need to go deeper than that on the face. Your best results can almost always be found by microneedling at about .5 millimeters. Also consider that the skin on the face has varying thicknesses. The cheeks and chin have the thickest thin, so these areas can handle the deeper microneedling. The forehead and around the eyes are much thinner, thus requiring less depth.
So let's talk about the blood. At .5 millimeters and under, you're not really going to get much, if any, bleeding. This is why bloody does not mean better. The purpose of microneedling is not to tear up the epidermis or cause unnecessary inflammation. The goal is to stimulate new collagen growth as gently and non-invasively as possible. This is why we need to stop praising bloody microneedling and thinking that more aggressive means better results. It simply isn't true.
Here are some questions to ask your practitioner before booking a microneedling service:
1. Where and how long was their training? Microneedling is a pretty unregulated service, so you really want to make sure this person has attended an in person training (not online) and that it was at least a day long.
2. What depth do they microneedle at? As outlined above, deeper is not better. They should be needling between .5 and 1mm or around .25 for nanoneedling (a shallower form of microneedling).
3. Where did their device come from, and where was it made? Sadly, you can get a cheap microneedling pen on Amazon these days. The needle cartridges that come with these devices are usually made in China, and may not be a quality product due to bent or compromised needles and the risk of improper sterilization.
4. What will they be applying to your skin during the treatment? The only things that should be put on the skin during microneedling and for 24 hours after, is either Hyaluronic Acid (ideally high molecular weight), or a product designed specifically for microneedling. NOTHING else should be put on your face until a safe amount of time has passed for the micro channels in your skin to close.
It is a scary, unregulated world out there, and I wish I had had this information before I had this service done. Don't feel bad about asking questions! Microneedling is not a cheap service, and you deserve to know exactly what you're getting.