Dark, pesky, and notoriously hard to treat. Melasma surely and literally leaves its mark on one’s confidence. And you’ve probably exhausted all your efforts to get rid of it: from over-the-counter topical creams to expensive chemical peels, and now microneedling.
Micro-needling melasma is virtually non-invasive. It works well in encouraging collagen and elastin production, both of which are essential for healthy, rejuvenated skin.
Now you’re probably wondering, “How does microneedling work?” “Can microneedling make melasma worse?”
We’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll talk about the uncomplicated science behind microneedling. We’ll also delve into how the treatment works and its potential side effects.
What Is Melasma?
Melasma is a skin hyperpigmentation characterized by dark brown, tan, or grayish-brown patches. It often appears symmetrical, particularly on the face, meaning you’ll have it on both sides. The brown patches can show up on the cheeks, chin, and cranial areas like the forehead, jawlines, and nose.
While the true cause is unknown, it is said to be triggered by UV rays due to excessive sun exposure. When your skin is exposed to the sun, it emits UV rays that can overstimulate melanin (natural skin pigment) within the skin’s cells (melanocytes). It’s common among women with darker skin tones, aged 20 to 40.
That said, sunlight exposure isn’t the sole culprit. Melasma can be triggered by certain medications, birth control pills, thyroid issues, stress, genetics, and overproduction of hormones, which is why it’s referred to as a “pregnancy mask.”
Melasma isn’t painful or dangerous. However, it can be distressing. It also doesn’t help that it is incredibly hard to treat because it can come from various triggers.
What Is Microneedling?
Microneedling is a cosmetic procedure that has been extensively used to target a range of skin concerns including wrinkles, fine lines, pore size, and skin texture. However, it can also improve scars and different types of hyperpigmentation such as melasma.
A microneedling device is exactly what it is. It looks like a pen with tiny needles. Typically 0.5mm up to 2 to 3mm in size. The needles are used to create controlled punctures or micro-injuries on the skin’s surface. It’s performed under topical anesthesia.
Microneedling treatment stimulates the skin’s natural healing process while encouraging the production of collagen and elastin. Aside from skin rejuvenation, this treatment also helps the skin absorb topical therapy and skin care products better.
How Does Microneedling Work on Melasma?
The use of microneedles creates tiny wounds in the skin’s top layers, penetrating into the dermis where most of the blood vessels and pigment cells are. The gentle movements break up the blood vessels, which deliver adequate blood supply to the tiny pores, allowing the surrounding skin to create healthier skin.
The new collagen and cells help the skin heal. They can improve skin texture and melasma as well as other types of hyperpigmentation.
However, since melasma is hard to treat due to its complex triggers, microneedling is often regarded as an ‘adjuvant’ or ‘adjunctive’ therapy.
Depending on your skin type and condition, a microneedling procedure with a professional typically involves the application of topical medications. This includes vitamin C, hydroquinone, tretinoin, and other brightening agents. The micro-wounds from the needles make it easy for the skin to absorb these products.
There is also a microneedling technique performed in conjunction with platelet-rich plasma (PRP). This procedure involves extracting the patient’s own blood, which is then applied to the punctured skin. It’s a relatively new technique that is not widely offered by many dermatology clinics.
Can Microneedling Make Melasma Worse?
It shouldn’t worsen melasma as it only creates micro-abrasions on the skin. You’ll want those tiny needles to penetrate into your skin to activate fibroblasts in the dermis. This allows collagen and elastin production.
However, as with any type of cosmetic procedure, there are risks of side effects. You may experience some redness and bruising on the punctured skin, which usually goes away on its own after a few days or a week.
Keep in mind: Due to the cost of micro needling per session at the derm clinic, there are countless affordable microneedling devices available to use at home. However, this is where microneedling treatments pose a risk and can actually worsen melasma.
Make sure to have it done with a skin specialist for a safer and painless procedure and to avoid any further scarring. If you’ve decided to opt for purchasing microneedling devices, make sure to have a qualified person to carry out the procedure.
Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is darkening due to the trauma on the skin.
Is Microneedling Effective for Melasma?
Microneedling is effective in treating melasma. According to a report conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are 100% satisfying results among patients with recalcitrant melasma. The trial was done without even applying any active topical medication.
Such type of melasma treatment, however, requires application depigmentation formula post-procedure for better results. Brightening agents such as tranexamic acid are great. Some melasma patients use vitamin C. But a combination of tretinoin and hydroquinone works well, too.
Microneedling also increases sensitivity to UV rays. So, SPF is a must to reduce any further pigmentation.
How Many Microneedling Sessions for Melasma?
To see visible results, you may need a series of 3 to 6 sessions with a gap of 4 to 6 weeks apart each session. You may also need to continue the treatments for 6 to 12 months to maintain the results.
What Is the Best Microneedling Depth for Melasma?
When it comes to microneedling, you don’t need to go too deep. Start with 0.5 mm to 1 mm, which will be more than enough to penetrate the dermis. Smaller size microneedles keep your skin from any further scarring after the treatment. However, you must still adjust needle depth according to your skin’s condition.
Is Laser or Microneedling Better for Melasma?
Both melasma treatments have their pros and cons.
Lasers may clear excess melanin off the skin, however, because they produce heat, it could worsen the problem. This can result in the formation of even more pigmentation. Microneedling can help treat melasma and skin rejuvenation. However, there’s a risk of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) if not done right.
Do Scars Come Back After Microneedling?
In general, microneedling is minimally invasive. Microneedling creates tiny abrasions on the skin, however, it shouldn’t cause any significant scarring. The needles used in the procedure are much smaller than the ones used in dermabrasion or laser resurfacing. So, there should be less scarring, if any.
However, there’s a high chance you’ll notice some redness and mild bruising or swelling on your skin afterward. It’s completely normal and usually goes right away.
What Are the Side Effects of Microneedling?
While microneedling is extensively used for treating different skin conditions, it comes without any side effects. Skin damage is a common risk. It may leave your skin with some bruising, swelling, redness, and flaking, but the good news is that all are just temporary. Those side effects usually go away after a few days to a week.
Microneedling is one of the many treatment options to target melasma. It’s minimally invasive and generally suits all skin types. However, it is important to consult with and have it carried out by a board-certified dermatologist for a safe and painless process.
That said, prevention is always better than cure. Make it a habit to wear sunscreen, whether you’re spending time indoors or outdoors. Apply a broad spectrum sun protection factor of 30 higher and do so liberally and your skin will thank you later.
If you have more questions about microneedling, feel free to reach out to us and we would be happy to help. Thanks for reading!