Julie is slim, tanned and has a brilliant white smile. The 50-year-old Weatherby Lake resident obviously puts a lot of time into looking good.
So it’s no surprise that she’s lying on a table at Quinn Plastic Surgery Center in Overland Park having tiny holes poked in the skin on her face and neck. It won’t be long before tiny dots of blood ooze from her face.
Julie (not her real name) has undergone noninvasive cosmetic procedures including Botox, chemical peels and at least one laser treatment in recent years. But this — called microneedling — is the latest.
“I saw a bigger change in my skin with one microneedling than all those other treatments,” Julie says.
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Sharon Wahrman, an aesthetician at Quinn, started performing microneedling in April 2015, and it’s become one of the most popular treatments requested by her clients. Wahrman estimates that she has between 15 and 20 clients a month for the procedure.
Several other local plastic surgery centers and spas also offer microneedling, including the plastic surgery department at the University of Kansas Hospital.
“It’s designed to increase collagen and improve the quality of skin,” says Richard A. Korentager, a plastic surgeon who specializes in burn surgery and wound care at the hospital. “We also use it to help get certain products more deeply into the skin like antioxidants and vitamin C. The goal is to smooth out areas where there’s scars, wrinkles and it helps with pore size. It’s a safe office-based procedure.”
Microneedling can treat a range of skin issues, so people are having it done for various reasons.
“I have people anywhere from their late teens with acne scarring to women in their 40s and beyond using it as an anti-aging treatment,” Wahrman says. “I am treating some stretch marks on the abdomen from pregnancy and have a couple of patients doing it for crepe-y skin on their arms and knees. It’s a great treatment; it just targets so many areas, which is what makes it so popular.”
Wahrman began the procedure on Julie by spreading a numbing gel on her face and letting it sit for 20 minutes. Then Wahrman glided a SkinPen II with 12 very fine, spring-loaded needles over Julie’s slick, shiny skin for another 25 minutes.
Julie’s olive-toned skin started to turn pink, then got more and more red with each pass of the pen. Wahrman passed the pen over her face six times. By the fourth or fifth pass, specks of blood began to appear.
As the tiny microneedle holes heal, collagen and elastin are naturally produced, causing the skin to shrink and tighten. It requires less healing time than a surgical face lift.
“The other advantage is you can use it in some patient populations where you wouldn’t be able to use other techniques,” Korentager says. “Some laser techniques can cause coloration changes in people of color.”
Celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and model Bar Refaeli, have posted pictures of themselves online with blood-splattered faces while undergoing a “blood facial” or “vampire facial,” which involves drawing blood from their arms, centrifuging it to separate out platelet-rich plasma then smearing it on their skin after microneedling to help the healing process.
This was the second time Julie got a microneedling treatment. Experts recommend having at least three sessions done initially — each four to six weeks apart — followed by annual or biannual treatments for maintenance. Microneedling at Quinn Plastic Surgery costs $450 per treatment, or three for $1,200.
The microneedling pens used by professionals typically come with one-time use heads containing needles ranging in length from 1/2 millimeter to 3 millimeters. Once Wahrman was finished using the pen on Julie’s face and neck, she gently dabbed her skin clean with gauze soaked with distilled water.
Then she sent Julie home with Skinfuse, serums and ointments developed specifically for healing from microneedling.
Julie admitted the microneedling got uncomfortable toward the end, but she didn’t think it was unbearable. If her healing went like it did the first time, her face would still be a bit pink the following day, then pretty much normal within two to four days, though the skin would continue to heal and tighten over the next several weeks.
One thing to note: Korentager says people with cold sores, herpes or shingles should be treated with antiviral medications ahead of time to prevent a flareup, and that people with active herpes infection would not be treated.
There aren’t really any downsides to the procedure when it’s done by a trained professional, Korentager says, except that you might not see the dramatic changes you’d like, and definitely not as much as with a cosmetic surgical procedure.