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Microneedling vs lasers: Which Acne Treatment Better?

By Dr Davin Lim
June 16, 2023
6 minutes

In this article, we’ll be comparing microneedling vs laser: which is better for acne scars treatment both economically and clinical efficacy. To demystify these two acne treatment methods, we engaged Dr. Davin Lim a board-certified dermatologist who majors in procedure work and very little in medical dermatologist work.

If your face, forehead, shoulders, and upper back are filled with whiteheads or blackheads, skin bumps, pus-filled painful lumps under the skin, and pimples you need an acne treatment that will tackle the main cause. Different acne treatment methods universally help clear acne. However, you’ll need to select the most suitable based on your skin condition and the cause.

Microneedling and laser resurfacing are two distinct tools dermatologists use when treating acne. Each tool’s usage is influenced by its intended job.

Here are the insights from Dr. Davin Lim on microneedling and lasers when treating acne scars.

Microneedling: How Does It Work?

Microneedling involves pricking the skin using a device with fine sterilized needles. The needles are designed as a stamp and the tool looks like a stamper.

According to FDA , microneedling devices have one main feature – lots of small and thin needles. They are designed to penetrate the skin to change the structure of the tissues below the skin.

As acne scars treatment method, microneedling helps generate collagen and skin tissue that affirms, smooths, and tones the skin. It’s commonly used to reduce the appearance of acne, dark spots, and scars. As opposed to other at-home skincare treatment methods , microneedling is best done by board-certified dermatologists, cosmetic surgeons, or plastic surgeons.

For best results, it’s advisable to undergo multiple sessions. Each session lasts about 30 minutes.

So, how does microneedling work? When you penetrate the epidermis through pricks using microneedles, stampers rollers or even pins worked through CIT (Collagen Induction Therapy) you stimulate collagen production. When you penetrate the epidermis of the upper part of the skin, you cause a cascade of reactions that result in growth factors.

Growth factors can be equated to fertilizer. Once they are released, from the top parts of the skin, it fertilizes the parts below (dermis) and remodels scars, stimulates collagen, and improve fine lines and wrinkles.

Besides treating acne scars, microneedling helps in improving skin elasticity, reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, reducing enlarged skin pores, reducing the appearance of stretch marks, and reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Four Common Microneedling Tools

  1. Derma Rollers

When doing microneedling, you’ll need a Derma roller. They are cheap and readily available on eBay for about two dollars or Alibaba for as little as 50 cents. However, the high-end Derma rollers manufactured by SkinCeuticals will cost you as much as 40-50 dollars. When asked whether these high-end rollers work, Davin replied “Yes they do”. They are effective for treating acne scarring.

These high-end tools are cumbersome and tricky to use. One has to provide traction and counter traction to the skin to make sure the treatment is both safe and effective. Derma rollers are also used for reducing aging signs and rejuvenating the skin.

  1. Microneedling Tool

To get the best results when using Microneedling tools, consistency is compulsory. Most microneedling tools are gold-plated with titanium micro needles which provide needle lengths of about 0.5 millimeters. The microneedling pens are electric, motorized, and have replaceable cartridges.

  1. Microneedling Stamper

The main difference between a stamper and a Derma roller is a stamper needles penetrate the skin vertically whereas roller needles prick the skin at an angle thus making more tears. This results in a longer recovery time.

Microneedling stamper is usually a handheld device with a head embedded with many tiny needles that make small punctures to the skin. These punctures aim to trigger the body’s natural healing mechanism.

The needle lengths are usually 0.5 millimeters. You don’t have to apply too much pressure when using a microneedling stamper. Press the stamp gently on your skin applying pressure you can tolerate.

  1. RF Microneedling

RF microneedling device (Radiofrequency microneedling) is an electric device that uses radiofrequency waves and tiny needles to cause a controlled skin injury. These devices use a medically prescribed conical handpiece with needles that are fitted into the microneedling device. The needles normally penetrate between depths of 0.2 mm and 0.5 mm.

The aim of the radiofrequency is to release pulses of energy into the skin channels thus causing more injuries. The injuries stimulate the growth of new-toned skin and reduce acne scars.

RF microneedling is costly compared to other microneedling tools and is also very powerful. You’ll need sedation and in other cases a lot of anesthetic.

Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is a complex acne scar treatment method. In laser skin resurfacing, laser beams destroy the epidermis (outer skin layer) and also heat the underlying skin layer (dermis) causing the collagen fibers to shrink. As the skin is healing from the damage, the skin forms a smoother and tighter skin.

Lasers work on selective photothermolysis. In photothermolysis, the lasers target a specific problem in the skin to cause a reaction based upon physics, and that gives an endpoint to various targets including water in the skin, pigment, and blood which is hemoglobin.

Once the light hits that particular target, it causes a particular reaction intended to cause a thermal injury while maintaining the surrounding area safe.

There are many different types of lasers you can use to treat acne scars and other skin conditions. They include fractional lasers. Fractional lasers are more gentle compared to full ablative lasers, pigment lasers, Pico lasers, Q Switch lasers, and Vascular lasers which treat blood vessels, and red skin.

Comparing Microneedling vs Laser

In terms of treating acne scars using microneedling and laser treatment methods, there’s an overlap. But when it comes to treating other skin conditions like pigment and redness lasers are much better.

When treating scarring, fine lines, and fine wrinkles, microneedling will give you good results. But it comes to using high-end lasers for skin remodeling, stimulating more collagen production, and treating skin scarring, lasers will give fast superior results compared to microneedling.

Advantages of Microneedling

  1. Microneedling is used by many because it’s more cost-effective when treating mild acne scars.

  2. Microneedling is also much more preferred when treating mild scarring changes, increasing pore-sized diameter.

  3. When treating hair loss using PRP, microneedling together with PRP gives much better results.

  4. Since this method does not produce heat, or target water in the skin it doesn’t cause the temporary loss of hair, or a decrease in hair count as witnessed in laser treatment.

  5. Using a microneedling device is much faster compared to a laser.

  6. When it comes to thermal drug delivery like retinol, and steroids to treat hypertrophic, microneedling is very effective.

Advantages of Laser Skin Resurfacing

  1. If you need to treat deep acne scars which require deep penetration of lasers and heat into the dermis layer to stimulate collagen production, laser treatment is much better than microneedling.

Disadvantages of Using Laser

  1. Hitting your hair with Laser even with gentle non-ablative lasers will temporarily lead to losing your hair and has more side effects .

  2. Laser equipment takes time to warm, and adjust settings, and application of local aesthetics makes laser treatment cumbersome.

  3. It also takes a longer time to treat acne scars per session than microneedling.

Conclusion

Acne treatment can be done using either laser resurfacing or microneedling. To treat severe acne scars, Dr. Davin recommends using the laser method. But if you’re having mild acne scars, or delivering steroids to treat deep scars, microneedling is more effective. For faster acne scar treatment results, a laser should be your best option. However, you should be extra cautious when selecting the laser tool to use.

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