Microneedling at home: is it safe?

Published 06th Sep 2022 by PB Admin
Microneedling at home: is it safe?

Professional microneedling can have many benefits, including treating acne scarring, pigmentation and stretch marks. However, there has been a rise in non-professionals carrying out their own treatments at home and posting advice on social media platforms like TikTok.

In the second instalment of our #PBTikTokTruths series, Ellen Cummings spoke to the skincare experts to get their verdict on non-professionals carrying out their own microneedling or dermarolling at home.

What is microneedling?

Microneedling uses small needles to make 'micro-injuries' in the skin. These small wounds encourage the skin’s natural healing process, which stimulates collagen production in the dermis. It’s a great treatment for firmer, smoother skin, as well as for people who want to reduce scarring and pigmentation and make pores appear smaller.  

The micro-injuries created by the needles also allow skincare products to penetrate deeper through the micro-channels created in the skin, meaning skincare products applied as part of the treatment will have better absorption. 

Microneedling can also be performed on other areas of the body like the neck, décolletage, upper arms, thighs, buttocks and stomach.

Interested in needling treatments? Check out our guide for the skin benefits of microneedling and mesotherapy.

Can non-professionals do microneedling at home? 

With microneedling usually being at the higher end of the price list on a beauty business’ treatment menu and multiple sessions being recommended for the best results, some people have taken matters into their own hands by carrying out microneedling at home to cut costs. 

“Home microneedling devices are instruments which are used to mimic or enhance the results of professional microneedling procedures,” explains Jody Taylor, founder of SkinDeep Clinic in Epworth and expert speaker at this year’s Professional Beauty North.

“They are designed to have the same benefits as professional devices to improve acne, ageing concerns, scarring and to enhance skin performance.” 

What microneedling devices can non-professionals buy?

Taylor says, “Alarmingly, it is possible for the public to buy a huge variety of devices."

While some trained professionals sell home-use devices to their clients to maintain treatment results, it is also possible for the public to buy a huge variety of devices online, including rollers, stamps, and pens with a needle cartridge. “These come in varying needle lengths, from 0.15mm up to 2mm, and prices start from as little as £15,” says Taylor.

What’s the difference between professional microneedling and at-home microneedling?

While people carrying out their own microneedling at home might be saving themselves money and a trip to see a beauty therapist, are they getting the same standard of treatment? The short answer is: no.

“Professional in-clinic treatments are performed by trained therapists who know the skin and its responses to treatment applications,” explains Joanne Leahy, head of training at 3D Aesthetics. “Professional devices can also contain other technologies to enhance the results of microneedling, for example, radiofrequency.”

Dr Ahmed El Muntasar, GP and advanced facial aesthetics doctor, adds, “Professional treatment is much more precise because we use machines and devices where how deep the needle goes is very calculated. 

“Plus, we make sure that the needles go in and out at a 90-degree angle, whereas with things like derma rollers, the needles will go in at one angle and leave at another, so it doesn’t leave perfectly straight lines on the skin – it leaves wedges, which is a lot more dangerous.”

In addition to more precise microneedling techniques, the devices used are also very different. 

Rhiannon Smith, training manager at Lynton Lasers, says, “Typically, home-use devices (should) have shallower needle depths whereas needling which is carried out in a clinical environment has the ability to use longer needle depths so are more effective for treating common skin concerns such as acne scarring, stretchmarks, lines and wrinkles, and skin laxity. 

“Devices which are used in clinic have often been through rigorous testing to ensure they are safe and effective.”

“The main difference with professional devices in comparison to home devices is that the needles and devices used may have a class IIb medical device conformity from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA),” comments Taylor. 

“The MHRA is responsible for ensuring that medical devices meet standards of safety, quality and efficacy. 

“The needle cartridge used in these devices will ensure no backflow of fluids into the main device, the needles are made from surgical steel and are contained in sterile packaging with needles supplied for single use only. Professional products used within a sterile procedure have been clinically formulated to safely inject into the skin.” 

What are the risks of microneedling at home?

Another big difference between professional microneedling and at-home microneedling is the increased risk of complications when treatment is carried out by someone who isn’t trained or qualified and is using a non-professional device.

“There are many risks from at-home needling,” explains Taylor. “The main concern is that needles are reused, cheaply made or blunt – these needles will not puncture the skin with the same efficacy as a professional needle, putting the consumer at risk of scarring, infection and other adverse reactions.”

Smith adds that “there have also been reports of needles from home-use devices breaking away from the device and lodging itself in the skin”.

“Consumers are unaware of contraindications to microneedling treatment and may carry out these procedures at home when really they are unsuitable, leading to further skin complaints,” continues Taylor.

Contraindications for microneedling include active acne, eczema, psoriasis and pregnancy, among others.

The products used by consumers to glide the microneedling device over the skin or which they’re aiming to get the skin to absorb may cause as many issues as the device, with Taylor explaining that people are risking “granulomas, allergic reactions, scarring, pigmentation and infections”.

Are there any regulations around microneedling?

Since microneedling isn’t an invasive treatment, there aren’t any regulations to prevent non-professionals from purchasing devices or carrying out treatments. 

“Unfortunately, there are still no specific regulations to carry out microneedling in the UK,” says Taylor. “Non-medical establishments are required to register to carry out procedures such as electrolysis or skin piercing treatments (micro-needling) which pose a risk, and obtain a special treatments licence under the Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1982.”

Samantha Kendrew, training and development manager at Gerrard International, comments, “All therapists have a legal responsibility to uphold health and safety regulations. It should be of the highest priority to avoid causing harm or putting clients and staff at unnecessary risk.  

“There is a variety of guidance on regulations and legislations available for health, safety and welfare from The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) and Cosmetic Practice Standards Authority (CPSA) for microneedling treatments.”

What training do people need in order to carry out microneedling professionally?

Although platforms like TikTok and YouTube are rife with people offering advice on microneedling techniques, beauty professionals are well aware that training to do microneedling properly isn’t as easy as watching a five-minute video or reading a book.  

Taylor says, “Microneedling is an aesthetic therapist Level 4 qualification progression course for therapists with a NVQ Level 3 or equivalent in beauty therapy. These units have been designed for those who wish to progress as a skin specialist.  

“There is no specific training requirement for microneedling in the UK; insurers will ask for manufacturer’s certification to carry out the treatment. There are many courses available for microneedling training and certification, but the content and quality of the training will vary considerably.

Dr El Muntasar adds, “For a lot of the professional microneedling devices, you need to get advanced training to do them. So, for example, with the SkinPen or the Dermapen, you need to do their training in order to offer their treatment.

“A lot of brands that offer microneedling devices allow beauty therapists to do the treatments. What’s different is the depth which you can go, so you need to be a medical professional to go deeper than 2mm, or beauty therapists can go up to 1.5mm.”

How can therapists explain the risks of non-professional home microneedling to their clients?

In the age of DIY treatments and skincare hacks, some clients might be under the impression that microneedling is simple enough to do themselves after they’ve gone down a TikTok rabbit hole. 

The experts have a number of tips on how to persuade clients that receiving microneedling treatments in a salon or clinic is both the safer and more effective option.

“Therapists can explain that the treatment performed in a professional environment is controlled and monitored, keeping the client safe and enabling the therapists to achieve the best results possible,” says Leahy. 

Taylor comments, “When I’ve had a client who has expressed an interest in carrying out at-home procedures such as microneedling, I have always explained the differences in the quality of the device, why the treatment is different and the risks it can pose. 

“I give the client options of suitable products or other at-home devices they can use to promote the inhouse treatments they have.” 

Explaining the risks of non-professional microneedling is key to helping clients make an informed decision. Dr El Muntasar says, “Basically, [therapists should] tell clients they can cause a lot more damage to the skin than good. If the device is not sanitised properly then infections can occur. 

“If the client is a person of colour, they can end up causing a lot of pigmentation because they’re creating trauma to the surface of the skin and the skin can produce melanin around it. 

“If the client has active spots, they can cause scarring and the pus of the spots can spread infections. Microneedling can be very traumatising if it’s not done right.”

Read more about how to persuade clients to stop taking skincare advice from influences and internet searches.

However, some clients might still choose to do their own microneedling with equipment and guidance that they have received from a trained professional.

Kendrew explains, “For safe use at home, all needle lengths need to stay below 0.5mm so as to not pierce the skin. If needles pierce the skin the risk of reactions or issues are greatly increased, and this must be performed by a trained professional. 

“It is important that therapists complete a full consultation to ensure clients are suitable for microneedling especially if they are planning to perform it at home. I would advise any therapist to be completely honest with clients about the treatment risks and offer details about the best recommended aftercare.”

Have you experienced clients carrying out their own microneedling? Let us know in the comments…

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 06th Sep 2022

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