The Day-By-Day Guide to Microneedling Aftercare

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Microneedling has become one of the most popular in-and-out procedures thanks to its ability to effectively tackle a wide range of skin concerns—from signs of aging to acne scars. It’s minimally invasive, takes only a matter of minutes, and often requires minimal downtime. Best of all, its effects are lasting. “Microneedling helps stimulate collagen and elastin production, so it can be great for overall facial rejuvenation, scarring, fine lines and wrinkles, and reducing pore size,” explains dermatologist Dr. Amanda Doyle. 

However, she adds a caveat: “The treatment of the skin afterward determines the healing and, ultimately, the result.” This means following a guided skincare plan and instructions to a T to ensure you get the best possible outcome while avoiding certain products and ingredients (as well as the sun) that could interrupt the skin’s natural healing process and even lead to infection.

To better understand the dos and don’ts of proper microneedling aftercare, we assembled a team of top dermatologists and plastic surgeons to help navigate the first seven days of post-procedure care. Here, you’ll find what to use, what to avoid, whether it’s safe to wash your face after microneedling, and what’s happening with your skin during this crucial time period. 

Just a quick note before we dive in: although the advice you’re about to read comes from doctors who are specialists in their field, it’s not meant to override any instruction your own doctor has given you regarding post-microneedling aftercare. If you have questions about certain ingredients or feel your healing process isn’t going according to plan, consult your doctor or practitioner. 

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Amanda Doyle M.D., FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist at the Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City 
  • Dr. Smita R. Ramanadham, M.D. is a double board-certified plastic surgeon with her own practice in New Jersey
  • Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City
01 of 05

Day 0

On the day of your microneedling procedure, Dr. Ramanadham says it’s common for skin to feel dry and tight, and you may even experience a mild burning sensation. “Your skin will have small openings after the microneedling is done, so you need to minimize touching your face and avoid applying your typical skincare routine to avoid irritation and infection,” Dr. Doyle adds. 

Dos

  • Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser: According to Dr. Ramanadham, less is more just after your treatment. She even advises some patients not to wash their face after microneedling to allow for any serums, PRP (platelet-rich plasma), or stem cell/growth factors on their skin to continue to absorb. If, however, the technician applied SPF afterward or you feel uncomfortably tight or itchy, Dr. Doyle recommends washing your face using only bland cleansers and emollients that are fragrance and oil-free. 
  • Minimal, healing skincare: Follow with serum products recommended by your doctor or gels that offer a semi-occlusive protective barrier. You may also apply thicker products designed for post-procedure care if you have dry skin. 

Don’ts

  • Working out/heavy physical activity: Dr. Ramanadham says to avoid working out or sweating for the first few days, as this can clog pores and lead to infection or breakouts. This also includes saunas, steam rooms, and hot baths or showers. 
  • Sun exposure: Stay out of the sun at all costs, however, if this can’t be avoided, she recommends wearing a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face and applying a high-SPF sunscreen that’s also moisturizing.
  • Makeup: Face makeup could introduce dirt and bacteria to your skin, so avoid wearing makeup for the first few days.
  • Active ingredients/exfoliation: Dr. Ramanadham says to avoid any and all skincare products containing retinoids, vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). No scented products, either. Also, no exfoliation, scrubbing, rubbing, or facial treatments such as laser, peels, or waxing.
  • Skincare devices: She also advises stashing away skincare tools, including jade rollers, gua sha, and circulation-boosting tools, which could irritate skin and lead to infection. 
  • Ibuprofen: Since microneedling works by using your body’s natural inflammatory process, Dr. Engelman says to avoid taking ibuprofen during the healing phase, as it can interfere with the recovery process.

Tip: Frequent protective mask wearers: it may be best to schedule your microneedling treatment for a time when you can go mask-free for a few days, as Dr. Ramanadham pointed out that the moist, dirty environment that comes with prolonged mask use could be harmful for freshly-microneedled skin. 

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Dr. Doyle recommends this rich, super gentle cleanser because it whisks away any dirt and debris from skin while protecting its delicate moisture barrier. 

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Dr. Ramanadham says a rich, hydrating ointment like Aquaphor can be used in the first few days to provide a protective barrier on skin to help aid the healing process. 

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This advanced moisturizing cream from ZO Skin Health may be a splurge, but it’s loaded with soothing colloidal oatmeal and antioxidants to protect skin and help calm the appearance of redness and irritation.

02 of 05

Day 1

Dr. Engelman says that skin will appear red or pink, resembling a moderate sunburn. You may also see scratches, bruising, or slight swelling and the skin could feel dry and tight. At this point, “Skin will be actively healing,” Dr. Doyle says, “so you’ll want to continue the original gentle skincare for the first three to five days.”

Dos

  • Continue minimal skincare: Carry on with your gentle cleanser and moisturizing products. Dr. Engelman says you can also add a serum containing hyaluronic acid to your routine to increase hydration, just be sure it doesn’t contain any of the no-go ingredients mentioned above.
  • Drink lots of water: She also says proper hydration is essential for skin cell regeneration, so keep a full water bottle nearby. 
  • Apply SPF: “Skin is extremely sensitive to sun damage after microneedling, so sunscreen should be applied daily and often reapplied for the two weeks following treatment,” Dr. Engelman says. 

Don’ts

  • Same as above: No exfoliating products, workouts, sweating, makeup, ibuprofen, skincare devices, or excessive sun exposure. 
03 of 05

Day 3

By the third day, most of the after-effects have calmed down, but there are still a few variables to consider. Dr. Doyle says redness, sensitivity, and swelling should all be greatly reduced, however, some sensitivity may linger, depending on how aggressive the treatment was. Dr. Ramanadham adds that at this point, many people also experience a roughness or dryness to their skin that makes it feel like sandpaper. Finally, Dr. Engelman explains that peeling is also normal at this stage, as well as the formation of milia or even a mild breakout. 

Dos

  • Gradually return to normal skincare: Dr. Ramanadham says by day three, you can start re-introducing your normal skincare into your routine but still avoid products containing potential irritants. Only stick with hydrating serums, moisturizers, and mild cleansers.
  • Working out/light physical activity: Dr. Doyle says you can gradually introduce physical activity into your routine, as long as your skin isn’t too sensitive. Just don’t overdo it, and be sure to wash your face afterward. 
  • Wear makeup: Dr. Doyle also says light makeup is ok at this point, but it’s best to ask your doctor first to ensure your skin is ready. 
  • Keep drinking water: Dr. Engelman recommends chugging as much water as possible to assist with cell regeneration. 

Don’ts

  • Active ingredients: Even though skin is on the mend, all three doctors say it’s still important to avoid any active ingredient which could further irritate your still-healing skin. This includes AHAs, BHAs, retinoids, vitamin C and any other acid, as well as exfoliants and skincare devices. 
  • Sun exposure: Dr. Doyle recommends limiting your outdoor time to before 8am or after 4pm, and wearing both a hat and plenty of sunscreen. 
  • Picking dry skin: Although it may be tempting to pick at your peeling skin, Dr. Engelman urges you to keep your hands far, far away. “We still want the body to go through its natural healing processes at this time, and forcibly peeling skin can affect that. It can also transfer bacteria from your hands to your face, which should always be avoided,” she explains.
04 of 05

Day 5

By day 5, Dr. Doyle says the channels in your skin that were created by the microneedling have sealed up, and most of the redness, flakiness and sensitivity will have subsided by this point. However, Dr. Engelman says a small number of patients experience more peeling by the fifth day, due to increased cell turnover. 

Dos

  • Re-introduce active ingredients: Dr. Doyle tells us that as long as your skin is completely healed (as in completely free of redness and irritation), you can slowly start re-introducing products containing actives including vitamin C, retinoids, and acid-based products. Just try one product at a time, and contact your doctor if you experience any irritation or itching afterwards.
  • Step up hydration: Dr. Ramanadham says that most skin will require extra hydration so soon after such a treatment, so consider adding a hyaluronic acid serum or heavier moisturizer to ramp up hydration levels. 
  • Wear makeup: If you avoided makeup on day three, you can begin to resume by day five, according to Dr. Engelman. She recommends a tinted sunscreen that does double duty, providing protection against the sun as well as imparting a light tint to even out your skin. 

Don’ts

  • Skin-stressing treatments: Even though your skin may be telling you it’s back to normal, Dr. Ramanadham says to avoid any irritating procedures such as chemical peels, laser treatments, tanning, waxing, etc. Also, hold off from your beauty tools for a few more days, including jade rollers and gua sha. 
  • Picking at your skin: Since peeling may still be an issue for some people, here’s a friendly reminder to keep your fingers away from your face. 
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This lightweight hydrating serum is packed with hyaluronic acid to deeply penetrate skin and deliver hours of quenching hydration. It’s ideal for helping to top up moisture levels as your skin heals post-procedure. 

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Dr. Engelman loves this tinted SPF from GloSkin because it provides a touch of light moisture with a glowy tint to help even out redness, thanks to mineral pigments, while its SPF 30 shields skin from the sun’s rays. 

05 of 05

Day 7

By day seven, Dr. Doyle says that skin should be completely healed, and some people even begin to see a noticeable difference in their skin, namely an improvement in fine lines and wrinkles as well as overall texture. Dr. Ramanadham adds that collagen is still being produced and remodeled over the following weeks, so you can expect even more improvement. 

Dos

  • Return to normal skincare routine: All our experts agreed that, by a week later, you can return to your usual skincare routine, including makeup. However, monitor how your skin feels so you don’t risk damaging the barrier function. 

Don’ts

  • Invasive procedures: Dr. Ramanadham says to avoid invasive procedures that may impact the skin’s barrier, including microneedling, waxing, peels, or laser treatments for several weeks.

The Final Takeaway

All three of our experts touted the benefits of microneedling as extremely effective when done correctly and under sterile conditions. However, they continually stressed that the healing process is as paramount to good results as the microneedling procedure itself, so if you want stunning skin, follow a proper aftercare protocol.

Article Sources
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  1. Microneedling improves appearance of acne scars | school of medicine.

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