Needling 101

I had cystic acne throughout my 20s. It could have been a lot worse, but it was bad enough to leave scars on my face, ones I knew would get worse with age. So when I first started covering beauty, I asked every single dermatologist, esthetician, and even other beauty editors about acne scarring. Some recommended lasers, others chemical peels, while some suggested I was still too young to start doing anything about the scars on my face. “Your skin’s still turning over,” they said. Topical products were suggested and eventually, the products I was using did start making a difference. But I wanted more. “You need to be needled,” said LA-based esthetician Oni Chaves of Santa Monica's Ko'An Center. She was mid-facial and I hadn’t even asked my go-to question. Though I’d heard the term, I had a million questions. Her answers to the most important ones, below.

What is needling?
It’s the act of rolling what looks like a miniature rolling pin covered in tiny needles over your skin.

Why would I do that?
It’s a great tool for fighting stretch marks, wrinkles, surgical scars, pore size, hyperpigmentation, and yes, acne scars.

How does it work?
The needles break the skin—think of it as a controlled injury—tricking it into healing and thus producing significantly more collagen, plumping, and re-texturizing the skin. “They used to call micro-needling ‘collagen induction therapy’ because you’re telling your body to heal the wound,” says Chaves. “It stimulates repair so that you’re basically building new skin.”

Does it hurt?
It probably would, if they didn’t numb your face beforehand. Post-numbing, it feels a bit like microdermabrasion.

Is it new?
The technology used to look like an actual steamroller, says Chaves, but new technology’s responsible for the procedure’s comeback. Instead of manually rolling the needles over the skin, “they’ve developed devices that are much more sanitary and sterile.”

How much does it cost?
It starts around $350 and can go up to almost $5,000. Why the wide range? Usually, when your skin is needled, it’s covered in product meant to soak into all of those open wounds. The product can range from a traditional serum to the plasma from your own blood (known to Kardashian fans as vampire therapy). The former will keep costs down while the latter costs a small fortune. (There are at-home options, but do you really want to poke your own face?)

Is it worth it?
Totally. The worst part of the experience was having my face numbed—there’s nothing painful about a topical numbing cream, but it’s a very strange sensation to have an entirely numb face. Otherwise, it was a breeze. The only time it felt like something sharp was on my face was along the contours, especially my nose, and it was over in minutes. My skin was red for the rest of the day, but glowing by morning (exact downtime will vary by skin type) and though it takes 30 days for full cell turnover, my skin looked—and felt—very different within just a few days. On top of smoother scars, I also noticed significantly smaller pores. Would I do it again? Absolutely.