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Exploring Microneedling Options: In-Office Treatments vs. DIY Techniques

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Potenza Microneedling at the skin lab
Potenza Microneedling

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 derma rollers to at-home microneedling pens, poking hundreds of tiny holes into your skin at home might not be the most brilliant 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 is just less effective or accurate than an in-office treatment.

According to Dr. Weiss, he's never seen the microneedling pens or derma rollers work to tighten the skin—if anything, he's seen a little bit of textural improvement with them. Still, he recommends investing in an RF microneedling treatment for the most effective, best results.

Dr. Weiss uses the Potenza microneedling device to stimulate new collagen production, giving his patients tighter, firmer-looking, and younger-acting skin. This advanced, four-mode technology combines monopolar and bipolar RF at one or 2MHz frequencies in a single device. It can 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 is that 2MHz heats 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 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 to see effective results. With the Potenza microneedling device, you will see faster healing times than 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 for 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 that patients spread out the treatments over multiple months, it will take much 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.

Two microneedling devices are now available for at-home use—the derma rollers, 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 much damage," says Dr. Weiss. "If you put too much pressure on the skin or 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 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 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 much 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 see any bleeding—it's rare to have even one tiny dot of bleeding, so people walk out of my office, and they can look 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 look bad for up to a week afterward," explains Dr. Weiss.

Over-the-counter numbing cream doesn't compare to in-office numbing cream.

Whether receiving an in-office RF microneedling treatment or attempting to use a microneedling pen at home, you must apply numbing cream to the treated area. Unlike the numbing creams that dermatologists use, which can range from 6 percent lidocaine to 30 percent, the numbing creams available over the counter usually only go up to 5 percent lidocaine. If you don't want to be in much pain, receiving the treatment in the office is the way to go.


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