How Microneedling Treatments Saved My Skin Before My Wedding
Article Published by: glamour.com
As soon as I got engaged, I started thinking about my skin. It was impossible not to. Everywhere I looked there was something making me focus on the spots and scars I’d accumulated on my face from years of having acne. Even in the photos from my proposal there was a huge pimple smack dab on my chin. It motivated me to do something to help my complexion, but the thought of trying to find the right fix stressed me out just as much as the wedding planning itself.
My treatment history reads like a list of prescriptions for five newly hormonal teens. I’ve tried nearly everything: just about all the topical acne treatments offered over the counter, and most of the good stuff, the remedies only available through a derm, like spironolactone, a mild blood pressure medication that’s prescribed off-label for acne. Accutane is just about the only one I haven’t tried, and only because of medical reasons. (It’s a notoriously intensive and high-maintenance treatment.)
I’m on birth control now, which helps, but it doesn’t completely eliminate my acne. It only helps with the big, cystic zits I used to get. Then, for the scarring, there isn’t much I can do. I use retinol, a form of vitamin A that helps minimize discoloration and acne, but for pitted scarring like mine, where the scars are deep and look like small dents in your skin, retinol doesn’t do anything.
So in January—five months before the wedding—I went to my dermatologist at Newport Beach Dermatology and Plastic Surgery because I knew I needed more than a topical cream and hormonal therapies. I assumed that’d be trying some type of laser. I was so desperate, I was willing to splurge on any treatment that would help. Surprisingly, my dermatologist suggested microneedling instead, because of my age. I’m young, only 25, so I don’t need lasers for wrinkles or skin damage, and my derm said microneedling is better for the acne and acne scarring. A nice bonus: The price point was more affordable. It costs around $350 per session, cheap in comparison with some of the other in-office treatments that can run up to $500 each visit.
A quick primer on microneedling for the newly initiated: It’s a treatment that involves swiping a pen with super-tiny needles all over your face, causing microscopic injuries to your skin. Because of the little punctures from the needles, your skin is forced to repair itself, which increases collagen and elastin production, minimizes the look of pores, and smooths out skin.
I was nervous. I’d never had anything like this done on my face before. A pen with needles. All over your face. Injuries to your skin. It sounds medieval. But everyone working at the derm’s office had had this procedure done, so they could give me their honest feedback. I’d asked them about other treatments before, and they had told me if they found it painful. Across the board, though, they all loved microneedling, for everything from evening-out skin tone to making your skin feel soft and helping with acne. They told me to give it a couple of weeks and that I was going to be obsessed.
The day of my first session, I was excited, but I was still nervous about the aftereffects. I’d heard that it would look like intense sunburn with raccoon eyes. The physician assistant, Jennifer, applied a topical lidocaine, which numbs your skin. She left it on for about 20 to 30 minutes, which is a little longer than usual, since I was so nervous. The actual microneedling feels like more of a tickling. The only time I could feel any poking is when it was on active acne. So the most recent session I had, she went a little bit deeper with the needles where I have intense scarring, like a chicken pox scar on my temple. It still didn’t hurt, but it felt like I was being poked. It’s bearable for sure. The benefits definitely outweigh any discomfort felt.
Similar to my experience with facials, it seemed like the treatment cleaned out everything from my skin in the form of a breakout—which means the acne-causing gunk in my pores was exiting ASAP via new pimples. I noticed that I usually have some zits right after, for about four days, and then my skin gets completely clear within a week.
But the thing about microneedling is that if you’re using any topicals, it makes them about 100 times more effective because they’re getting deeper into your skin through the wounds on your face. My breakouts clear up faster because what I’m using penetrates my skin better. You do get really dry afterward, so after the first time, I was peeling quite a bit all over. The second time, I told the physician assistant about that, and she gave me a really good enzyme mask and moisturizer to use. It’s been a huge help with my skin.
My dermatologist recommended getting treatments once a month for six months, and after that, once every six months. I really like the office I go to, but it’s a far drive, so I went two months in a row (January and February), skipped March, and just had my session for April. I took May off for my wedding, but then I’ll go back at the end of June. For maintenance, I’d like to go more than every six months, though, because it’s the only thing that helps with my acne. Any less, and I don’t know if that’d be enough to help with it.
Microneedling is hands down the best thing I’ve done for my skin—and I’ve done a lot for it. I only wish I’d started treatments earlier and had been more consistent with them. It was hard because my now-husband and I moved farther away from my derm’s office. Still, I notice a difference even in my skin tone, and I’m comfortable going without makeup. I don’t even think twice about it, which is something I’ve never done before in my life. The difference from when I first started the treatment—when I was putting on foundation just to go to the appointment because I was so embarrassed by my skin—to now, where I feel completely free to live my life without makeup, feels amazing.
Oh, and as for my wedding, I used a sheet mask the night before with my sister, but that’s it! Thanks to the months of treatments, I didn’t think or worry about my skin at all on the day—just how happy I was.
ABOUT IFFIE OKORONKWO, M.D.
Iffie Okoronkwo, M.D. is a Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management physician at Manhattan Spine and Sports Medicine (http://www.manhattanmd.com/), a private practice based in New York City with 40 years of experience providing the finest expert medical care and services to patients around the world.
Dr. Iffie is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and, as a physiatrist, utilizes ultrasound guided injections, fluoroscopy guided injections, PRP, regenerative medicine, and more to evaluate and treat a variety of conditions affecting muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves.