"Beauty is pain,” a tale of a thousand teeny-tiny needles.

By Kaitlyn Yarborough
February 14, 2020
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After testing umpteen beauty products and honing a multi-step skincare routine so rigorous it could make Estée Lauder shake in her boots, a girl gets prone to boredom. Buzzy new launches offer a tingle of excitement that ultimately wears off, and tested favorites just keep on delivering, as one would hope. So I thought to myself, how can I level up? 

Long intrigued by the at-home microneedling tools, also known as a dermarollers, that I’d seen blowing up on Amazon, it seemed like as good of a baby step into the skincare tool game as any. Prick my face hundreds—nay, thousands—of times in the name of beauty? Sounds like my average Tuesday. (This is the beginner-friendly, $23 Amazon pick with 1,300 five-star reviews that I chose to get started.) 


So, what is microneedling? It’s a treatment, performed either at home or in the dermatologist’s office, that includes using a tool outfitted with hundreds of teeny-tiny needles to penetrate your outermost layer of skin in order to boost collagen production, minimize appearance of pores, fade dark spots, and enhance the effectiveness of the products you apply afterwards. 

“As we age, the body produces less collagen and skin begins to lose its youthful firmness and elasticity,” says Dr. Corey L. Hartman, Birmingham-based board-certified dermatologist. “Microneedling is designed to kick the body’s natural healing process into gear to rejuvenate your skin.”

By creating hundreds of micro-injuries, the tool spurs your skin to immediately start “repairing” itself, which is what improves your overall complexion over time. While I was giving it a go at home in pajamas and watching Gilmore Girls reruns, there is real work being done in the doctor’s office. 

Unsurprisingly, microneedling with a lesser-grade device at home is not going to be as effective as an in-office treatment, which uses a numbing cream and more penetrative needles to garner noticeable long-term results like scar reduction and wrinkle smoothing, especially after three to five sessions. 

“If you do try it at home, choose a pen with short needles, do not apply enough pressure to break the skin and cause bleeding, and be sure to sanitize the instrument properly between uses,” Dr. Hartman recommends. 

At home, you can expect encouraging, but more minimal results. After a month of testing, my skin looks decidedly smoother and more even-toned, and there's always an instant glow awaiting behind the temporary flush. But my favorite thing about at-home microneedling, or dermarolling, is how it makes my skin feel the next morning, which is baby heckin’ soft. 

I also like to think I’m preventatively staving off wrinkles and fine lines, but it’s really the perfectly exfoliated softness that has me going back for more. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t actually hurt that bad. More like just tiny pinches.) My ultimate goal is to make those pores disappear into thin air, but that might take a miracle and a trip to the doctor’s office. 

If you’re interested in trying at-home dermarolling, here’s how I do it:

  1. Cleanse and prep your face with a serum. I deal with slightly dry skin, due to regular use of retinol, so I settled on my favorite plumping, skin-quenching L’Oreal hyaluronic acid serum
  2. Roll the microneedling tool on your cheeks, forehead, nose, and chin in cross-sections, about four times in each direction. Do not ever, ever, ever roll over an active blemish. 
  3. After rolling your entire face, apply an antioxidant-packed, vitamin C-focused, or firming serum to promote healing and brightening. I used Glow Recipe’s Pineapple-C Brightening Serum, but Amazon’s cult-fave TruSkin Vitamin C Serum would also be a great pick. 
  4. Apply moisturizer and eye cream. 

Don’t be alarmed when your face is super flushed afterwards; that’s totally normal. Most recommend starting with only once a week and building up from there—and avoid applying retinol on the same night, as using both could be too much for your skin to handle.

Most importantly, you need to take the disinfecting and cleaning of your tool very seriously. Spray isopropyl alcohol on it before and after each use, and rinse with warm water. If not, you risk infecting your whole face with whatever gunk is growing on there. Remember, you’re poking holes in your face. Open wounds! 

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Beauty might be pricks-full of pain, but at least it’s the prettiest pain we ever did see.