Now today’s topic has been requested a lot. Finally, we’ve managed to get around to it, and the question is, is micro-needling at home safe for skin of color, and it’s an excellent question. The reason why it’s excellent question is because, obviously, you’re causing micro injury when you are piercing the skin with needles, and anyone with skin of color who understands skin of color and loves to learn about skin of color understands that their melanocytes are large, the cells that produce the pigment melanin. Because those cells are large, they are easily triggered. As you’ve all heard me say before, one scratch, one bite, one burn, and we hyperpigment. We cannot afford to damage our skin barrier or irritate our skin too much. So there is a fine line when it comes to treating skin of color, and that’s really why this whole channel exists. As you know, this channel has never been sponsored, it will never be sponsored, and it’s a resource for us and our children to come to for evidence-based information specifically for skin of color.
So I’m happy we’re doing this video today because I know a lot of you want to try micro-needling at home, and you want to know how do you do it? What is it? What are the costs? How effective is it? If you do do it, what do you put on top? How do you choose? How do you prevent yourself from getting more pigmentation? So today’s video is covering all of that, including my favorite products to apply after you’ve actually done treatment because you can increase the absorption when you create little channels into the skin. If that sounds good to you, please give me a thumb’s up. Let’s dive right in.
First of all, what is a dermaroller or a microneedle, whatever you want to call it? It’s a roller that looks a little bit like a jade roller, but with needles. Can you see that at the end? I don’t know if my phone is focusing. This is 1 millimeter, these needles. They do look quite scary when you look at them for the first time. I know I was scared when I looked at them for the first time, but actually we’ll go through that in a second, but this is what it looks like.
You can purchase these dermarollers in different lengths, 0.2 millimeters, 0.5 millimeters, 1 millimeter, 2 millimeter, 4 millimeter, and sometimes even more. That’s important because you have different thickness of skin on different parts of your face and your body. Around the eye area, the skin is much thinner than the face, which is thinner than if you’re trying to treat stretch marks on the buttocks, for example. So you do actually want to look at what you’re trying to do, and then which millimeter is for appropriate for that.
The mechanism of action is that when you cause micro injury and you are piercing the skin, you are triggering collagen synthesis, and this is good for a number of reasons. Number one, it’s very good for anti-aging, so for tightening and firming up the skin. It’s good for wrinkles. It’s good for scars. Some people also use it for acne PIE marks, red marks. The data isn’t so clear on that, and I don’t understand the mechanism action for PIE. But a lot of people do use it for that, too, so it’s important to be aware of it.
The good thing about microneedling is that it’s minimally invasive, and there’s no downtime. Actually you can do it in the evening and the following day, you go back to work and you’re absolutely fine.
You would avoid this, however, if you are on blood thinners, if you’re pregnant or if you’re doing chemotherapy.
Now, even though it’s minimally invasive, you do need to take some precautions before you microneedle the skin. So you would stop retinol that week because retinol can dry the skin, and I don’t want you to do this just before you’re about to do a procedure. I would want you to avoid any exfoliation, so that includes chemical or physical exfoliation. That means avoid low pH products on the skin. I would also be aware of or waxing or shaving the skin before that week. The reason is that that’s another form of exfoliation. When you are shaving the skin, you are actually removing the top layer of skin cells. The same thing happens with wax. Whether strip wax or hot wax, that is what is happening. That’s where your skin suddenly looks like it’s glowing after you’ve shaved, after you’ve waxed your skin. So I wouldn’t do that the week that you’re going to be dermarolling, either.
If you are asking me, “But Dr. V, it’s my face. I need to remove hair,” I would say thread. Threading is probably the best form of hair removal or temporary hair removal that doesn’t affect your skin. Yes, your skin might feel a little bit red that day, but actually, a day later, your skin should be absolutely fine, and I’m happy for you to dermaroll the skin.
The next question I get asked is, “Okay, great, Dr. V. So how exactly step-by-step do I do this at home?” First thing you want to do is to disinfect your dermaroller. So you use 70% isopropyl alcohol, leave it in there for about five to 10 minutes. At the same time, not only have cleaned your face, but also toned your face using a non-alcohol-based toner, so a hydrating toner without any denatured alcohol. Because what that does is, first of all, it’s cleaning the skin, but it’s also hydrating the skin before you’re about to do a procedure, and that’s very important. You want your skin to be in a healthy state, not a dry, irritated state.
Now the next stage, the thing that I do next is because I’m pathetic and I’m a baby, I numb the skin using 5% EMLA numbing cream. Yes, because, I don’t know, I’m pathetic, and it is what it is. But I think a lot of you have a higher pain threshold than me. You know, I say this and I’ve actually had two C-sections. And even when I went for my COVID jab and I’m squealing, or I go for my smear test and I’m crying, whoever is doing it looks at me and goes, “You’ve had two children,” and it’s just terrible, yeah, so I never really grew up. So EMLA for me, but if you can do it without EMLA, good for you.
For me, my main areas are my laughter lines, and what I do is I basically my dermaroll in two directions. I dermaroll in one direction, so I’m going vertically. Then you lift your dermaroll, you don’t drag it across, and then you go horizontally. We used to say you could do it in four different directions, but recent studies have shown that actually doing it in two directions, it means less injury, less of an uneven pattern of collagen formation. So right now, this is what we currently recommend is to do it in two directions.
Now, in my clinic, we do dermaroll around the eye area, but I would never recommend you to do this at home. It’s not something I would ever do to myself at home. It’s very tricky, and you need a professional to do that for you, someone with a lot of experience. So I say avoid this area completely. I’m happy for you to do the crow’s feet, and I’m happy for you to do your laughter lines. Even the rest of the face to tighten up the rest of your face is also fine to do, but please avoid this area.
Now immediately afterwards, you have basically caused inflammation and micro injury to the skin, so skin is going to look flushed. It might look red or burgundy color, and you might see little dots of blood. If you’re using a microneedle that’s more than 0.5 millimeters, you might see these dots. If you’re using 0.2 millimeter, you’re unlikely to see anything. But if you see those little dots, there’s nothing to be afraid of, and that’s closed up by the following day.
Then what you do with your micro needle or your dermaroller is that you take the end and you rinse it in soapy water. Because what you want to do is to remove the proteins, your skin proteins, that are stuck in your dermaroller. When you do that, please make sure you’re not knocking the side of the [inaudible 00:08:27] or whatever you’re using, because I don’t want you to blunt the needles. So you do that, and then you can disinfect it using as your isopropyl alcohol.
Then just let it air dry. I literally let it sit in its case like this so it’s not touching anything, and it rests like that and it air dries. Don’t use a towel or anything or tissue to try and dry it because then you’re going to get little bits of fluff stuck in your dermaroller, which is absolutely not what we want.
If you want, you use products afterwards, but there are two things I want you to remember. Number one, the product should be NAFE-safe. That means no denatured alcohol, no fragrance, no essential oils in that serum that you’re going to apply. The second thing you must remember is that it should be a skin-neutral product, so something that’s 4.5 to 5.5 pH.
The worst thing you can do is having dermarolled the skin and then applied an acid to the skin. Anything less than four is going to irritate and burn the skin, and that can lead to pigmentation. That would be a big problem for skin of color because, obviously, with us, if you cross that line, it’s going to lead to hyperpigmentation and that can take months, or even years, to get rid of.
Ingredients I want you to look for in a serum or cream you apply on top would be things like aloe vera, panthenol. These are anti-inflammatories. You might want to use niacinamide. You might want to use skin brighteners, so a vitamin C derivative, something like tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate or sodium ascorbyl phosphate or peptides. So if you’re looking for anti-aging ingredients, then peptides are a very good thing to put on top.
I was just thinking, actually, we haven’t really talked much about peptides and there doesn’t seem to be much information online for you. If you are interested in me doing a whole video just on peptides for skin of color, can you write down below peptides, please, into the comment section, so I know how many of you are interested in it. If enough of you are interested, of course, I’ll make the video for you. [inaudible 00:10:27] as a side comment.
Right. Moving on to products that I recommend for dermarolling. Okay. Number one, I would say Drunk Elephant Protini is great for anti-aging. It’s got nine different peptides in it and it’s NAFE-safe.
The next one I love is the Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%, which is very good. It’s a humectant, so it’s a water magnet, and we do lose humectants as we age, glycosaminoglycans. We lose them as we age, and our skin gets drier. So this is going to help with plumping up the skin and making the appearance of wrinkles less.
If you’re looking for something for pigmentation, then I do like Good Molecules Discoloration Serum because the pH is 5.5, and that really is essential. If you do have the facial pigmentation kit, which is your X10 tyrosinase inhibitors for skin of color, do not use this with your dermarolling because it’s far too irritating with dermarolling.
The next thing I would say is if you are using dermarolling for PIE, the product I love is Facetheory Azeclear A15 Serum. Again, the pH is 4.5. Even that product on its own is good for PIE. So those would be my recommendations to use after dermarolling.
I realized I didn’t actually make it clear why you shouldn’t use this at the same time. It’s because it’s got three forms of vitamin A in it. It’s got retinaldehyde, retinol and retinol palmitate, and these three things all increase cell turnover. Do you remember I said at the beginning, don’t use your retinol the week before you dermaroll, and so that’s the reason I would avoid this.
Now, there are a lot of mistakes that I see being made when it comes to microneedling. Number one is do not wear makeup for 24 hours after you’ve dermarolled. Avoid swimming 24 hours after. Also sweating, going to the gym, sauna. These things I would avoid for 24 hours.
For home use, I would say start off with 0.25 to 0.5 millimeters. I would just do that once a week or once every other week until your skin can tolerate it. Once you have understood how it works and you feel comfortable, then you can scale up to 1 millimeter. But 1 millimeter I would say is the absolute maximum to do at home. If I’m talking to millions of people, I do prefer stick with 0.5 millimeter until you really do feel comfortable, and you’ve done that for a few months, then try going up to 1 millimeter, but with caution.
If you are microneedling scars or stretch marks, then you’re probably going to need about 2 millimeters, maybe even more. For that, I would say use a professional because it’s very painful, and you really do want the area numb before you do that.
The other thing to remember is please do not do this on live acne, because what you’re doing is you’re spreading that bacteria across the face and your skin is already inflamed. It would be a big mistake to do it on top of live acne so please, please don’t do that.