Cosmetic Needling vs. Medical Needling

Micro-needling is a skin rejuvenation procedure that uses tiny, sharp needles to create small holes, called micro-channels, in your skin. These micro-injuries trigger your skin’s natural healing process, including the production of collagen.


Cosmetic Needling vs. Medical Needling

There are two types of micro-needling: medical needling, which must be performed by a physician or trained skincare professional, and cosmetic needling, which can be done at home. Both procedures lead to increased collagen production, improving the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Cosmetic Needling

Cosmetic needling uses short needles (less than .5 mm long) to fractionally stimulate the epidermis and upper-dermis, your skin’s outer layers. Cosmetic needling can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines but may not be optimal for treatment of acne scars or other scar types, which may require deeper penetration to mechanically break up existing scar tissue.

Dull or skewed needles can damage your face, so it’s important to use only quality needling devices. Do your research before purchasing. Dermatologists recommend checking with your physician before micro-needling at home, as there’s a risk of infection and scarring when using needling devices. Always exercise caution.

Medical Needling

Medical needling uses longer needles (.5 mm and longer) to stimulate the dermis, your skin’s deeper layers. The longer needles (up to 2.5 mm) reach the deep dermis, making it possible to treat acne and other scars by breaking up scar tissue and inducing skin remodeling. Medical needling is overseen by a licensed practitioner and offers minimal risk of infection and scarring when performed properly. SkinPen’s sterile, disposable needle cartridges reduce the risk of cross-contamination, and the physician may apply topical anesthetic to skin before the procedure to help minimize discomfort.

Medical needling has been found to be effective in reducing the appearance of acne scarring. One 2014 study examined the effectiveness of three medical needling treatments (one month apart) on acne scars in 15 adults. Results suggested that medical needling can significantly improve the appearance of acne scars six months after treatments.

Learning more

Another study compared the effectiveness of cosmetic and medical needling in treating wrinkles and other skin conditions in 44 women who had the treatments at least once a week. Objective measurements of wrinkles, pores, tone and pigmentation were used to determine the effects of various needle lengths, ranging from .2 to .3 mm (cosmetic) to .5 to 2 mm (medical). Results suggested that, while all needle depths produced some improvement on all measures, medical needling was more effective at improving these characteristics than cosmetic needling. The .5 mm needle produced the best results in the shortest time, improving wrinkles by 26 percent and UV spots by 16 percent.

Find out how to schedule a SkinPen medical needling procedure of your own. Check our physician finder to locate a provider near you.