Ever since I realized almost 10 years ago that I could buy an actual microneedling (MN) pen and perform collagen induction therapy at home, I was hooked.
As more and more people watch my MN videos, I receive more and more questions regarding this procedure. Although the extensive catalog of MN videos I have do answer all of these questions, I thought I would write it all down plus create a Microneedling 101 video to try my best to cover all your questions, across multiple mediums.
WHAT IS MICRONEEDLING?
Microneedling is when little tiny needles are pressed, rolled, or mechanically stabbed into your skin to create trauma. This trauma in turn causes the skin to respond with a building/healing response.
Microneedling, which in our private group, The Natural Kaos APP, we abbreviate to MN, is Collagen Induction Therapy, (CIT). As our skin ages, we look older because the structures, Collagen & Elastin, which made our skin plump, bouncy, smooth, and lifted when we were young, both decline as we age. The act of microneedling stimulates both Collagen and Elastin to rebuild by triggering a healing response.
When you MN, either with a stamp, a roller, or my choice a pen; you cause controlled trauma to the skin, you are essentially stabbing holes into the Epidermis and Dermis depending on how deep you are MN. This stabbing, can cause bleeding or a sunburn feeling, and although it is not super painful nor hard to do on yourself, this mechanical act of puncturing the skin, will not only help smooth, tighten and plump your skin, it will also help deliver serums deeper into your tissue so that you can actually get the benefits of those expensive ampoules.
Microneedling, or collagen induction therapy, is one such technique that uses fine needles to puncture the skin at various depths and create controlled skin injury without damaging the full epidermis. Each puncture creates a channel in the dermis, triggering the release of growth factors and cytokines. These, in turn, stimulate neocollagenesis, neoelastogenesis, and angiogenesis. A number of microneedling devices are available such as dermal rollers and the more recently developed, dermal stamps or automated pens. Microneedling is safe on any skin type due to the lack of thermal energy and is an effective technique for the treatment of fine lines, wrinkles, loose skin, acne or other scarring, stretch marks, and potentially melasma or hyperpigmentation as well as alopecia.
WHAT MICRONEEDLING PEN SHOULD I BUY?
I get asked this question nearly every day. I have a lot of MN pens, stamps, and rollers. I realize because I have so many of these devices and have used them all, many want me to just tell them which one I think is best.
First, the pen that you can afford is the right one for you. Don’t overspend when you are starting out on your DIY Microneedling journey.
Second, I will not speak on rollers and stamps as I don’t find them to be as effective as a pen. I like pens because every time I MN I will use a new sterile cartridge. A new sterile cartridge has clean, sharp, and straight pins each and every session; this is extremely important. Bent spurred, or non-sterile pins being plunged into your face will only open you up to scratches, torn skin, and potential infection.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Dr. Pen; I purchased my first Dr. Pen A1 around 2012 and used it for years. Although I have newer, stronger pens the A1 will always have a place on my tool list because it has given me many good years and good results.
I like this one because it comes with 6, 12 pin cartridges. I will cover cartridges later, but needless to say, this is a good start.
During my past years on Youtube, I have amassed a bunch of pens from the above A1, to the A6, A7, M8 , and my Illuma Pen. All of these pens are good and you can compare their nuanced differences for yourself here in a collection of these pens. I find that I reach for either my Dr Pen M8 or my Illuma pen on a regular basis.
I really like my Dr Pen M8. It’s dial is very tight so there is no concern of it accidentally twisting to a greater or lesser depth. The drive shaft appears to be stronger, giving me better penetration and less scratching. This device also has a new cartridge, the 16 pin which seems to be a perfect middle ground between a 12 pin and a 36 pin. I will speak more on cartridges later in this post.
The Illuma Pen is my most expensive pen and has the accuracy and motor longevity for professional esthetician’s. The Illuma is a work horse and in comparison to my other pens I can truly feel and notice a difference.
First, I can never dial as deep with my Illuma as I can with my Dr Pens, I believe this speaks to its depth being more accurate. The motor is super fast so I have never noticed any scratching, which can happen with the less costly models. With all of this said, I find the Dr Pen M8 to work the most similarly to my Illuma pen.
STILL… WHICH PEN SHOULD I BUY?
If you are an esthetician looking for a professional microneedling pen, you should consider the Illuma Pen.
6 years ago I began to microneedle my face at home with a microneedling pen. At that time there was not sufficient information about the needle cartridges and what they did. The options were Nano, 12 pin, and 36 pin cartridges, but I couldn’t find information on what made them different, besides the obvious addition of more needles. Because of the lack of information I reasoned, more punctures from a cartridge with more needles, would invariably cause more consistency in my skin during application, thus I picked the 36 pin cartridge to accompany my first microneedling pen, the Dr Pen A1.
Back in 2019 I ventured into using other pinned cartridges because I didn’t understand the nuances and differences until now. Frankly the lack of information did not hurt me, if anything it prevented me from buying cartridges I most likely never would have used. However, I get this question so much; “which cartridge should I choose? or what is the difference in cartridges?” that I decided to dig in and look at what sets these needle pin cartridges a part.
The Nano Round Cartridge is great for regular use. This basically touches the top layer of your skin, allowing your products to penetrate more fully and helping get rid of old skin cells that build up causing your skin to look dull. A Nano cartridge has a max depth setting of .25mm and can be used with BB Glow serums. This cartridge stays in the epidermis.
The Nano Square Cartridge is exactly the same as the Nano Round, the major difference is that it is a square and not a circle. The square is ideal for brows when you want straight edges and for hard to reach areas like in the nose crevices. This cartridge stays in the epidermis.
The 12 Pin Cartridge is actually very aggressive because by having more space between needles this cartridge can really stab thoroughly having great effect on scars. Because this cartridge can needle up to 2.5mm in depth, it will help to induce collagen by entering into the dermis. Just because the 12 Pin Cartridge can go to 2.5mm in depth does not mean you will always use it at this depth. Its a great option for certain areas that you are treating, like in my case a chicken pox scar, but I rarely needle my whole face at this depth, in fact it would be quite difficult considering some areas of your face are very thin, like your forehead or eye areas. So although it has the range to needle at 2.5mm you will constantly adjust its depth on your pens dial.
The 36 Pin Cartridge is what I use the most. I like it because it picks me very evenly and causes my skin to glow. Like the 12 pin, the 36 pin cartridge has a max range setting of 2.5mm in depth. I attribute this cartridge the most for improving my skin.
In the end, the choice is yours. What are you looking to achieve? I don’t truly believe you need all of these cartridges. If you buy a 36 Pin Cartridge this will give you options and range. For instance, perhaps you have a couple of scars that you want to address this year and you want to improve the texture and luminosity of your skin while inducing collagen production. The 36 Pin Cartridge will treat all of these concerns. You can needle deep during a session to induce collagen and treat your scars, then 2 weeks later you can set the depth to only .25mm and basically nano your skin, allowing products to penetrate, you can even use BB Glow with 36 pin at the .25mm setting.
If you never ever want to think about the possibility of bleeding then you are perfect sticking to a nano cartridge. Nano cartridges are painless and your skin will glow afterward.
CAN I STERILIZE & REUSE CARTRIDGES?
NO, NO & NO!!!
If you are serious about taking care of your skin at home and performing professional protocols on yourself, then please attempt to use a more professional mindset. These cartridges come sealed and sterilized for a reason. First, if you are having this done professionally, then the esthetician or doctors office should show you that they are always using NEW sterilized cartridges. Second, just because you can effectively sterilize a cartridge does not mean it is meant to be used over and over. These cartridges break down during use. The needles can become bent and spurred and finally dull. You do not want to stab yourself with a dull instrument, you want it fresh and sharp. In fact, I use 2 cartridges if I am MN my face plus my neck and chest. This is because I want a nice sharp cartridge and if I dull it while MN tougher skin like my chest and neck, and then move to my face, I will not be giving myself the best outcome. Please do not reuse cartridges, they are not meant to be reused and you will only open yourself up to potential issues.
I like cartridges that give me flexibility, which is why I don’t buy nano cartridges. I have some because I receive them from time to time but I would never order them because with my pin cartridges I can get the same results.
After nearly 6 years of at home Microneedling my skin is constantly improving from all of the sun damage I created while in my twenties. Now I am 39, and my skin looks more radiant, even, and smooth.
WHAT DEPTH & SPEED TO USE WHEN MICRONEEDLING?
Depth and Speed are going to be something you need to troubleshoot based on your face or the area you are treating. Further, there is a 3rd element to consider and this is you, how fast do you move your pen around? This ultimate factor that cannot be dialed in, is something that you will learn as you use your pen, you will find a rhythm as you glide and this will correlate to both depth and speed.
3 FACTORS: Depth + Speed + Human Movement
The correlation between depth and speed has always been a difficult one for me to sort out, even on some sites they will say the opposite of me, which is fine; I am simply sharing with you my experiences which lead to my conclusion. Again, this is my opinion…
If we use the Dr Pen M8 as the example, this pen spans a depth range of 0 – 2.5mm deep and has a speed range of 1- 6, 1 being the slowest and 6 being the fastest.
If you want to MN at 2.5mm, its deepest, this means the needles need to travel a longer distance than if they were set to .5mm depth.
Originally, I would do as they suggested on the different pen sites, setting my speed at the fastest with the deepest penetration. What I found is deep settings & high speed does not work well. I personally feel the deeper you go the slower you should set the speed because the “needle pins” need time to retract. People get scratches when the pen is being moved around too fast for the depth. This is where that 3rd factor comes in, you.
For instance, in the video, I filmed to accompany this post. The deepest I ever MN in this session was 2mm deep and that was on my chest, neck, and cheek area. I had the speed dialed down to a 2 speed, nearly the slowest speed. Being at a deeper depth means you should move more gingerly, especially since skin is not perfectly flat, nor are the depths of your skin consistent.
When I am doing BB Glow (max depth .25mm) or a very lite MN session, meaning I will not go deeper than 1mm and most likely will stay around .5mm. In this case, I will have the pen set much faster, on the M8 it might be maxed out at speed 6. I can move the pen much faster at these shallow depths, which means the pen can puncture faster and not cause scratches.
I believe my theory of deeper settings on the pen correlating better with slower speeds works not simply due to providing more time for the needles to travel up and down, but also for the third factor, which is the human element. When you are stabbing yourself deeper, typically you are moving slower and how fast you move the pen around does correlate to how fast you set the pen.
HOW TO TROUBLESHOOT SETTINGS
-Where are you MN? Determine your location, goal, and depth.
I want to MN my stretch marks on my hips. Body skin is much deeper than your forehead, so you can max the pen out in the depth treating body stretch marks. If I was MN my hip stretch marks, and I was using the M8 I would dial it up to a 2.5mm depth and have the speed set to a 1. I would test this, determine the slip, and does my pen glide or is it getting caught. If it is getting caught, is it due to me moving too fast? I will slow my glide down and see if that helps. If not I will increase the speed and determine if that helps. Troubleshooting these 3 factors is part of MN. You can keep a journalof your settings and areas you treated to help you remember once you have successfully troubleshot a region of your body.
Some people write me about getting scratches as they MN, although this can happen from time to time it should not be a normal experience. If you are getting scratching; linear lines that you can see; then check your cartridge.
-Is it seated correctly? Did you install the cartridge when the pen was dialed down to 0?
-Is the cartridge brand new? If so still inspect the pins at the end of the cartridge, they should all be straight. If you have been MN a lot and you’re noticing an issue later into your session, the cartridge needs to be changed out for a new one.
-Another reminder that you do not re-use cartridges.
-If the pen is set too deep and on the fastest setting this can lead to scratching as well.
WHICH SERUMS TO USE WITH MICRONEEDLING?
You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you want. In the end, the biggest change is happening in your skin because of the mechanical stabbing action of the needles. That’s not to say, this isn’t your best time to infuse with the best ingredients possible, because it is, your skin barrier is pricked and ready to absorb nutrition.
Kick Up Your Microneedling with LED RED Light Therapy
Studies have demonstrated that improvement in fine lines and wrinkles continues to improve up to 12 weeks post treatment. Red light therapy has proven to be beneficial for wound healing, and photodamage. When considering treatments that offer measurable results that are cost effective with minimum downtime and side effects, combining microneedling and light therapy appears to offer the best of both treatments.