Adventures in Home Microneedling, Part 1: Eradicating a Lip Wrinkle

Despite using Retin-A regularly for about 27...

Despite using Retin-A regularly for about 27 years, I've developed my first wrinkle. I'm 52, so I'm not complaining about that. What bugs me is that it's a vertical lip wrinkle, located above my top lip, and it's become quite noticeable over the past year and I've decided to do something about it.

After researching possible treatments -- lasers (too unpredictable), fillers and Botox (pricey and don't last long for the money) -- I learned about microneedling. I got a derma roller and a dermastamp, both with 1.5 mm needles, the length recommended for the upper lip area in order to reach the dermis, the layer beneath the epidermis where collagen is produced. I also got a tube of 5% lidocaine numbing cream.

This morning I started the process. I forgot to take a "before" photo, so the ones you see were taken about 4 hours afterward. You should be able to see it -- it's like the San Andreas Fault.

First, I soaked the roller and the stamp in alcohol for 15 minutes, and then set them up to air-dry. Then I applied the lidocaine generously to my upper lip area and let it sit for 30 minutes. The area felt pretty numb. I cleansed off all traces of it so it wouldn't be driven into my skin by the needles. You must start with clean skin, because any substance on your skin will end up IN your skin, and if you're allergic to any of the ingredients, you could end up with a bad reaction.

Then I went to work on that wrinkle, as well as the rest of my upper lip area (but not the lip itself)!

Well, I don't consider myself a wimp, but it hurt like hell! First I used the derma roller, and worked in thirds (left side, middle, right side), moving the roller about 10 times back and forth, 10 times up and down, and ten times in both diagonal directions. I didn't use to heavy pressure or go too fast. I could see in the mirror the entire length of the needles was penetrating my skin, so I knew the pressure was just right.

I had to stop several times to take some deep breaths and wipe my eyes, which were watering like mad because of the stinging. I patted the blood off with a cotton pad (at 1.5 mm, you WILL have pinpint droplets of blood wherever the needles have punctured your skin), and then used the derma stamp specifically on the wrinkle. I pressed the stamp into the wrinkle several times. I patted the area again, and then applied tretinoin (in the form of Retin-A). Whatever you choose to apply afterward will enter the microchannels, so again, be careful. The channels close up in a few hours.

I was so glad to be done, and to know I'd have a 4-week break before the next self-torture session! Good grief!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the very strange popping/crunching sound as the needles went in to my skin. It was a bit unnerving.

The treated area was bright pink at first, with burning and tingling. Now it's been about 5 hours and it's mildly pink and has a tingly/itchy feeling, but it's not bad.

I rinsed the equipment afterward and plopped it back into some alcohol to soak.

I used a DRS Titanium Dermaroller that contains 200 needles (I bought a set of three, as I intend to do other areas, like my neck, if this works) and a DRS derma stamp with 40 titanium needles.

Be careful about the type you buy. Many of the super-cheap derma rollers don't even have actual needles -- they're more like triangular knives, which will tear or slice your skin up. That's not the goal of derma rolling -- you do NOT want to create injuries that fill in with scar tissue -- you want to create "micro-channels" (straight punctures) that stimulate fibroblasts to produce collagen through your natural healing process. The loss of collagen is what produced the wrinkle in the first place, caused by movement of the lips, sun exposure, and age. It makes sense to replace it.

I will take photos after 4 weeks, and post them here. I expect to need several treatments over several months. I can only hope it will become more tolerable! I'm going to apply lidocaine twice, over an hour, the next time I do this. The upper lip area is very sensitive.

Lip wrinkles are tough, but I'm determined! Wish me luck!

I forgot to say...

I forgot to say I curled my upper lip around my teeth during the needling, to stretch the skin taught so the needles would penetrate more easily with less pain.

Also, I just found an interesting website called Bare Faced Truth dot com. It's written by two guys who are doctor/scientists who specialize in cosmecueticals, and there are several articles about microneedling. Two articles of interest are "Cosmeceuticals Applied to Skin during Microneedling. Safety, Efficacy, and Restoration of Sanity" and "Roll your own. Face."

They say using the wrong products along with microneedling can result in some serious skin reactions, including granulomas. They also say:

"A minimum of six weeks is recommended between two treatments as it takes that long for new natural collagen to form...

It is important to stress that in micro-needling, the longer the needle used mandates that the interval between treatments should also be longer. As noted above, needling into the deeper dermal layers requires time for desired changes to occur. More frequent use can produce a state of chronic inflammation that is in fact counterproductive...

Needles longer than 1.5 mm should not be used on the face.

Medical needling (0.5 mm or more) should be infrequent, spaced at least 2-4 weeks apart to allow healing around the dermal-epidermal junction, and to prevent scar tissue formation and collagen bundling problems due to due to chronic stimulation of the first phase of healing which is inflammatory."

I know there is some controversy over how long to wait between treatments, but since waiting 4 to 6 weeks can;t hurt (while doing it too frequently can) I choose to wait until my skin is definitely ready.

Is it possible? Results after 7 days!

I never expected to see results so soon, but my lip wrinkle has improved significantly! It's only been 7 days since my first home microneedling procedure.

This photo was taken right after washing my face. No moisturizer or makeup. I'm telling myself it must be due to something else... but that doesn't make sense; the wrinkle hasn't changed over the last year, not until now! It's surprising. The length and depth are markedly improved.

I still have 3 weeks until the next treatment, and it should continue filling in with collagen during that time. Who knows, I may not even need another one! I'll keep you posted...

Misadventures in Home Microneedling, Part 2: Lip Wrinkle

I had great results from the first lip-wrinkle microneedling session, as pictured. Four weeks passed and it was time for another one. Since it was so painful last time, I left the 5% lidocaine gel on my upper lip area for one hour.

When I washed off the gel, the area felt very numb. "This'll be a piece of cake," I thought. HA! It was far worse than last time. The 1.5 mm roller was intolerable, so I switched to a 1.5 mm stamp. I managed a few half-hearted stamps along the length of the wrinkle and gave up, planning to find a better anesthetic. I tried again with a 1.0 mm roller but it wasn't any better.

I have a chicken pock scar above my right eyebrow that I rarely notice, but since I had a dermastamp in my hand I decided to take a stab at it. I stamped it a dozen times, without the use of anesthetic and without pain. Amazing how different parts of our face have such different levels of sensitivity! I didn't take photos of the scar, but I'll let you know how it goes.

My determination to eradicate that lip wrinkle led me to Amazon in search of a stronger topical anesthetic. 5% is the highest strength allowed for over-the-counter lidocaine... unless the product is made for prolonging an erection, so I snatched up a bottle of Apex Spray with 10% lidocaine. The things we do for beauty!

Speaking of lidocaine, there is a reason for limits on the strength. Lidocaine isn't just a numbing agent; it's a potent cardiac drug used for slowing down the heart rate. When you put lidocaine on your skin it's absorbed into the bloodstream, and depending on the amount there could be some serious consequences (death is one). Since my upper lip area is very small I'm not worried about that, but if you're going to microneedle a large area or multiple areas, it could be a problem. It's probably best to do smaller areas, each one on a different day.
Oh, and for goodness sake, after the area is numb, WASH OFF THE LIDOCAINE with soap and water before you begin microneedling! Anything on the surface of your skin will be driven INTO your skin by the needles. Not only does this increase the risk of it affecting your heart, but it can also cause granulomas to form under the skin (hard bumps that are not easy to treat). Granulomas can form after microneedling due to inflammation triggered by irritation or allergy to any substance (not just lidocaine gel) ON the skin or applied AFTERWARD before the microchannels (openings left by the needles) close, which can take up to 12 hours. I know there are all kinds of potions for sale claiming they're for use with microneedling. Don't do it! If you're using needles long enough to penetrate into your dermal layer, you need to use extreme caution with what you apply before, during or afterward. There are very few products actually formulated for (and safe to use with) microneedling.

One such product is Cellese's AnteAge Home Microneedling Solution with stem cell cytokines. I've ordered some for my next session. I applied Retin-A after my last treatment because a few docs here said it was safe, but I'm not 100% sure. The doctors on this site haven't exactly gained my trust, having seen some of their errors followed by their refusal to take responsibility (or to even acknowledge them) in many cases. That's why I avoid them. I'll do what I can, and leave it at that.

Stay tuned for Part 3...

Myself

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