There are a lot of skin treatments out there that claim to overhaul your complexion, and to be honest, I’d say I’m equal parts sceptical and TAKE ALL OF MY MONEY. That’s likely due to the fact that I’m fortunate to hear about A LOT of the latest and greatest skin care treatments as part of my job (and have to figure out which ones are the real deal), but I’m also eternally optimistic that *something* out there will finally fix my niggling skin concerns.
One of the biggest trends in facial treatments at the moment is skin needling, specifically a treatment called Dermapen Skin Needling. It’s something that’s being touted as one of the best anti-ageing treatments in the world. And apart from that, it’s also said to generally rejuvenate and improve your skin health (more on that in a bit). So, does it work? Will it save us all?
I went off to the Clear Skincare Clinic on Clarence Street in Sydney’s CBD to find out. Given they’ve got over 20 years of experience and have some seriously high-tech machines that are operated by highly trained and certified therapists, I felt like I was in safe hands. Full disclosure that Clear Skincare Clinic is a partner of Beauty Crew, but everything I experienced and subsequently feel about the treatment is my own, truthful opinion.
Before I get into it, just a bit of background on my skin type and concerns: I have normal to combination skin, and my biggest concerns would be congestion, enlarged pores around my nose, blackheads, dullness, uneven skin tone, and some fine lines around my eyes and mouth. I’ve also got a few faint acne scars around my chin and jaw (so just a few things!). Here’s an alarmingly unflattering makeup-free (unfiltered) picture I took the morning of my appointment (in really awful light, no less) so you get an idea of what I’m working with:
What is Dermapen Skin Needling (also called Dermapen Skin Resurfacing)? Is it an actual, literal pen? Well, kind of. But it’s a pen of tiny needles. Alyssa O’Brien, Senior Skin Therapist at Clear Skincare Clinics explains, “It [has] tiny, little needles that create controlled trauma to the skin. It tricks the skin into thinking that it’s traumatised, so it produces new healthy collagen and elastin, which is what decreases as we age.” It moves pretty quickly, too, to penetrates the skin - I’ve been told it creates about 1296 micro-channels per second. Basically, all those little micro-punctures encourage your body’s natural healing process and stimulate collagen and elastin production to help rejuvenate, plump and firm skin. It can help tackle things like uneven skin texture, sun damage, loss of firmness, lines and wrinkles, enlarged pores, acne scars, and the overall appearance of your skin.
But yes, as you read, there are needles involved and the goal is (very mild) trauma, so it doesn’t come without its discomforts. As O’Brien describes, there isn’t downtime as such, but expect some redness post-treatment. “You’ll be red on the day of the treatment, it’s like a sunburn effect, quite tight and dry.”
Okay, now to the fun stuff. What actually happened. The whole thing took about 20 minutes. First, my skin was thoroughly cleansed, and then a thick layer of hyaluronic acid gel was applied to my skin. Then came the needles.
As you can see, my skin is pretty red. Was it sore? At first, it just felt like some tiny pricks on skin. Admittedly, it did get a bit more intense as the therapist moved over an area a few times. I would describe it more like discomfort than pain.
Once she was done, my skin felt really warm and a bit prickly and I could feel the dryness and tightness she warned me about. Here’s how I looked immediately after the treatment:
I also had to follow some very specific instructions post-treatment. First, my skin had to remain absolutely dry for six hours post-treatment. So, I couldn’t wash my face or apply any products until the next morning (I went late in the afternoon). I was also told to avoid any stimulating active ingredients (like vitamin A, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, etc) for seven days, and was recommended to use the Clear Skincare Hyaluronic Acid Serum from the morning after the treatment to help hydrate my skin (after the six-hour wetting my skin/product use ban was over), and to incorporate Clear Skincare Copper Peptide Serum into my skin care routine after a 48-hour waiting period to “help with the healing of the skin [and] reduce redness and inflammation,” says O’Brien. I was also not allowed to exercise for about a day (an instruction I fully understood the purpose of when I picked up the pace to catch my train later that day and felt like my face was on fire).
The immediate payoff was an interesting one. My skin was red, and I could feel every pulsation, and yet it was still glowing underneath the redness, and despite it feeling tight and dry, it felt really plump and full. When I got back to the office, I expected people to ask me if I was okay, but I got more comments about the glow than anything. I’ll be honest that in the evening my skin did feel a bit uncomfortable as it was dry, hot and a bit prickly (and heads up: linen pillowcases are not a good idea post-skin needling. Use silk pillowcases instead!), but I woke up and my skin felt 100 per cent fine. Still a little tight, but the redness and discomfort were gone.
I was warned that I could experience some light crusting for a few days post-treatment, but I never felt anything other than a little dry. I could see a tiny bit of flaking, but that was about it. I made sure to follow the directions given to me to a tee (no stimulating actives, only gentle products, formulas enriched with hyaluronic acid and copper peptides) and I found that really helped my skin heal quite quickly.
But never mind the healing, how did it look? I have to admit (and I was fairly sceptical about this before stepping into the clinic), pretty damn good. The biggest thing I noticed was how smooth and even the texture of my skin was, and that it looked brighter overall.
Here’s another unfiltered makeup-free selfie taken in the same bathroom a few days after my treatment:
To me, my skin tone looks so much more even, and some of those old acne scars aren’t as dark. I just look a lot fresher in general (also, the lines in my forehead aren’t as prominent).
You can’t tell from this picture, but I also noticed the enlarged pores around my nose were much smaller and my makeup didn’t settle into them as much. And speaking of my makeup, I found that it applied much better and lasted so much longer after having the treatment. Usually come 6pm, I’m looking a little haggard and my blemishes and dark circles have started to come through, but there was a significant improvement in longevity after my skin had healed. I also found that I could get away with super minimal coverage (just some Kosås Tinted Face Oil) on the weekend and my skin still looked smooth, even and bright.
This was all after the one treatment, but it is recommended that for the best results you get a few. “You’d want to do a course of at least six to nine treatments, every four weeks apart…and then you’ll probably do maybe two treatments a year to maintain,” says O’Brien.
The final verdict
If I’m being honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced about the claims before going into this treatment, and I was genuinely surprised to see the changes I did after just the one session. I can’t speak to how big of an anti-ager it is, as given I’m in my early thirties, my signs of ageing are quite minimal. I can (and will happily) vouch for the skin plumping, brightening and evening effects, though.
Is it the most relaxing facial I’ve ever experienced? Far from it, but I’m all about a treatment that delivers. So, if that means short-term discomfort for long-term end result, sign me up.
Have you tried a skin needling treatment before? Please share with us in the comments section below.
Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.