Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or in the case of collagen, the skin grow looser. Collagen is a protein that helps maintain the skin’s elasticity and firmness, and sadly, it decreases as we age. So while you can smear creams and potions on the top layer of skin, if it’s losing essential collagen, you will still look less than glow-y, no matter what you rub on your face and body. Think of it like this: you change the sheets on the bed and they’ll be all crisp and lovely. But if the mattress is lumpy and saggy, well, you get the idea.
So how do you increase collagen? You can try collagen-infused skin-care products, but most experts agree that the molecules in such products are too large to penetrate the skin, leaving the collagen sitting on top, doing nothing. And your body naturally stimulates collagen when it is injured — it sends out tiny soldiers to repair damage like the amazing machine your body is — but who wants to induce pain for firmer skin? That’s where micro-needling comes into play.
Micro-needling, sometimes called collagen induction therapy, involves using tiny needles in a pen-like device to tap tiny pinpricks all over your skin. These little “injuries,” just enough to make the collagen soldiers come to life but not enough to make you look like your skin went through a shredder, are the medical community’s newest weapon in antiaging treatments.
When Kerstin Stevens, a licensed aesthetician with Advanced Aesthetics Medical Spa, told me about the treatment, I was skeptical. To know me is to know that I will opt for flu mist over the shot, even when it costs more … needles are not my thing! But Kerstin promised the pain would be on-par with microdermabrasion, a skin-care treatment I have had often with hardly a wince. After some hand-wringing, I signed up to become a human pin cushion.
After slathering a numbing cream all over my face, Kerstin left the room, giving the cream time to work. At that point, I was panicking, wishing I could have a glass of wine to help numb my nerves along with my face.
Once my skin was numb to the touch (a similar feeling you get at the dentist when he numbs you up for a nasty procedure involving a drill), Kerstin fired up the wand that holds 12 sterile micro-needles. She made several passes with the wand across my skin, and I barely felt a thing. And after about 20 minutes, she pronounced me done. She then applied a tinted moisturizer to my face and warned me to wash with a gentle cleanser and nix any treatment products, like my nightly Retin-A cream.
I expected my skin to be really red; after all, I was just accosted by a manic micro-pin, but it was only mildly pink. (Hallelujah on the no-downtime front!) However, if I was expecting smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom skin, I was sorely mistaken.
Initially I was, in fact, disappointed. Yes, my skin looked more taut in about 48 hours, but I’m pretty sure it was because of the slight swelling. And it did look smoother, yes, but sort of like I had applied one of those primers that blurs imperfections.
Patience is a virtue, though, even in the quest for better skin. About six weeks after my first treatment (I have had three now), I started getting compliments. While the praise was always “you have really pretty skin,” I’m pretty sure they were really noticing not only the skin texture, but the springy tone, which even I could tell was markedly improved.
So was the whole needling process worth it? On a pain scale, it was around a three, although Kerstin did increase the depth of the needling on my last treatment, making it more painful and closer to a four. The deeper the needles, the more collagen your body is going to send out, which is (sadly) the tradeoff. But am I willing to endure a little pain for beauty? Let’s just say I’m looking forward to my next visit with Kerstin!
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