Microneedling: What happened when I tried this scary sounding skin treatment

Nicole Wilmshurst

My skincare regime is slapdash at the best of times (more slap than dash if truth be told): a bit of baby oil to take off my eye make-up and a slick of Nivea for the rest. I’m also fond of slathering on some night cream and hoping for an overnight miracle, as promised on the jar.

So, I’m not good with facials. The last time I had one I had to suppress a case of the giggles. While monks chanted through a Bluetooth speaker, a face mask tightened on my skin and a beautician spoke to me in absurdly soft tones that I strained to hear, I struggled to relax. So when an email popped into my inbox about the latest facial trend of microneedling, I almost deleted it.

But then I remembered that a friend of mine had the procedure done some time ago and her skin looked great, so I decided to go along and give it a go. What was the worst that could happen?

Microneedling (collagen induction therapy) is a minimally invasive treatment that involves making tiny punctures in the skin with a series of fine needles. Apparently a “brilliant collagen stimulator” – the “micro-injuries” caused by the needles stimulate the body’s healing processes, producing lots of lovely collagen, not only during the process, but for some time after too. And it isn’t limited to the face, apparently able to help with stretch marks, scar tissue and the after-effects of acne. It’s billed as “safe and effective” on a range of skin types, including sensitive skin.

With a birthday coming up, I read on. The treatment, they said, would be “comfortable” – the needles in a microneedling device are thinner than a strand of hair. If they were coming anywhere near me I certainly hoped so. A mention of numbing cream was reassuring.

The next morning I booked my appointment at Regents Park Aesthetics, being careful to avoid Googling microneedling images.

When I arrived at the clinic a week later I was met by Natasha, who was going to do the honours. She immediately put me at my ease, explaining each step of the procedure with calming clarity. And her own youthful, dewy complexion couldn’t help but inspire confidence.

First, Natasha applied a topical local anaesthetic cream to my face, and I had to wait for about five minutes for it to take effect. It was all reassuringly clinical: next, she unwrapped the sterile microneedling pen, or “Collagen P.I.N.” (Percutaneous Induction Needling), as it’s apparently called.

And so the treatment began. I’m pleased to report that it was completely underwhelming: I had imagined blood, tears and probably a bit of wailing, but it was fine. At best it was quite relaxing, at worst a bit like pins and needles on your face, which was a bit weird, but nothing more. The sensation round and over my nose was strange, but none of the procedure was in any way painful.

Nicole pictured on the way home from her first appointment (Nicole Wilmshurst)

All the while Natasha explained what she was doing, asking if I was OK or if I wanted her to stop, so I felt in control of the whole experience. She worked on my face for about an hour all in all, concentrating on "problem areas" (my whole face, I think) and as she microneedled away she applied the growth factor serum, which promotes collagen production.

When it was all done, I looked in the mirror – and looking back at me was a red-faced person. Not bloodied and bruised, not 10 rounds with Anthony Joshua, as I’d feared, just red-faced. Natasha gave me some collagen cream for the next few days and gave me clear instructions about what I should and shouldn’t do over the coming days and weeks (“You haven’t got anything planned tonight, have you?”).

Nicole straight after the treatment (Nicole Wilmshurst)

The regime wasn’t too difficult to accommodate: no make-up for at least 48 hours; no face creams or serums containing retinol or highly concentrated acid-based products; use gentle skincare products with no active ingredients; and apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ when going out for at least the next two weeks.

Natasha also told me what I could expect in terms of the aftermath of the treatment, how long the redness would last. My skin would start to flake, she warned. Going home was slightly comical: deciding to get the tube, I wrapped my scarf around my face and didn’t make eye contact with anyone. That evening, my partner said I looked like Sir Alex Ferguson – which I could only take as a compliment, knowing how highly he regards him

Nicole pictured the evening after her appointment (Nicole Wilmshurst)

I had thought that as the anaesthetic cream wore off, it might be painful but it wasn’t at all. The following day my skin was very red, but not sore - apart from when I applied the cream - which admittedly did sting. The worst part was when my skin started flaking, as Natasha had warned. It began about day three and really was unpleasant. My skin was patchy, dry and incredibly itchy. But it only really lasted for a day – I would say give yourself a weekend to get over it.

Now three weeks on from the procedure, I would say my skin is looking better – not especially youthful, but somehow healthier. And there may be a slight improvement in my lines, but they were far from fine lines, so any improvement is good. Results vary from person to person, but most people report to seeing a positive change one to two weeks after the first treatment. One single full-face session at Regents Park Aesthetics costs £200 and a course of three costs £550. My experience was that one session wasn't enough, so for the full benefits the complete course of three is probably what you'd need, of course that will set you back a pretty penny, so perhaps starting with an acid peel could be the way to go.