Ask any dermatologist and they’ll tell you that no at-home skin treatment compares to the professionalism, advancement, and efficacy of an in-office treatment, including microneedling. From dermarollers to at-home microneedling pens, poking hundreds of tiny holes into your skin at home might not be the smartest idea. To find out what makes an in-office microneedling treatment different from at-home microneedling, we asked Baltimore dermatologist Robert Weiss, MD for the low down.
At-home microneedling just isn’t as effective or accurate as an in-office treatment.
According to Dr. Weiss, he’s never seen the microneedling pens or dermarollers work to tighten the skin—if anything, he’s seen a little bit of textural improvement with them, but recommends investing in an RF microneedling treatment for the most effective, best results.
Dr. Weiss uses the Potenza microneedling device in his practice to stimulate new collagen production, not only giving his patients tighter, firmer-looking skin, but younger-acting skin, too. This advanced, four-mode technology combines monopolar and bipolar RF at 1 or 2MHz frequencies in a single device and can be used to stimulate new collagen production and target blemishes for a smoother, more radiant complexion. The bipolar mode is used for more superficial skin issues, while the monopolar mode can go further into the dermis for more deep-rooted skin issues—and you won’t be able to find these modes on any at-home devices.
“This is the only device that you can choose the radio frequency—you can choose a 1MHz or a 2MHz,” he says. “The difference between the two is that 2MHz actually heats up things faster, so you can do a shorter pulse with it.”
Another component you won’t find in at-home microneedling devices is the ability to adjust the speed at which the needles enter the skin. “If someone has a [deep-rooted skin concern], for example, and you want to touch through it really quickly, you can dial up the speed [on the Potenza microneedling device] so that it goes right through the skin—the faster it goes, the less you feel it, too,” says Dr. Weiss. “You would want a slower speed when you’re doing an area like the neck, where it pushes back against the needles, and you need time to stretch it (usually the system has to stretch the skin on the neck), that’s when you would want slower penetration on the needles to make sure they go in there and don’t bounce right off the skin.”
It will take longer to get results with at-home microneedling.
Dr. Weiss usually tells his patients it will take three to five treatments with RF microneedling in order to see effective results, and with the Potenza microneedling device, you will see faster healing times compared to other in-office options. “In our office, we usually space them out a month apart, because when you do anything to the skin, there’s a month turnover time from the bottom layer to the top, so I think waiting one turnover cycle is the best policy, and from what I’ve seen, it gives the best results with all devices.” Even though Dr. Weiss recommends patients spread out the treatments over multiple months, it will take a lot longer to see the same results of an in-office RF microneedling treatment when attempting to use a device at home.
At-home microneedling might not be as safe as you think.
There are two types of microneedling devices that are now available for at-home use—the dermarollers, which usually go up to 0.25mm deep into the skin, and the microneedling pens, which can penetrate the skin up to 2mm deep. “At-home devices that can penetrate deep into the skin can cause a lot of damage,” says Dr. Weiss. “If you put too much pressure on the skin or if the needles aren’t sterile, you can cause a serious skin infection or scarring.”
Another issue you might run into with at-home microneedling devices is bleeding. “Obviously when you’re at home, you don’t know what depth to use, and [dermatologists] are much more experienced, so we know that we really want to keep the depth superficial,” says Dr. Weiss. “Otherwise, if you stick too many needles in the skin, you can cause a scar or arterial bleeding, which could be hard to stop.”
You won’t get radiofrequency (RF) benefits with at-home microneedling.
In many dermatologists’ offices, you can opt to receive radiofrequency with your microneedling treatment, something you can’t get with at-home devices. “The biggest difference that I’ve noticed with the regular microneedling devices is that there’s a lot of bleeding happening, because you’re not applying any energy (like RF) that would cauterize the little capillaries,” says Dr. Weiss. “However, with the RF microneedling, we don’t really see any bleeding—it’s very rare to have even one little tiny dot of bleeding, so people walk out of my office and they can be looking good the next day. Their skin might be slightly red, but there’s no bleeding.”
Microneedling at home, without RF, can get pretty gruesome. “With the at-home microneedling pens without the energy source, it can get very bloody, and can look bad for up to a week afterwards,” explains Dr. Weiss.
Over-the-counter numbing cream just doesn’t compare to in-office numbing cream.
Whether you’re receiving an in-office RF microneedling treatment, or attempting to use a microneedling pen at home, you’re going to need to apply numbing cream to the area being treated. Unlike the numbing creams that dermatologists use, which can range from 6 percent lidocaine all the way to 30 percent, the numbing creams available over the counter usually only go up to 5 percent lidocaine. Receiving the treatment in-office is the way to go if you don’t want to be in a lot of pain.