- Microneedling seeks to stimulate collagen and elastin production by causing minute damage to the skin’s surface.
- You may want to think twice before microneedling at home, especially with so little current FDA involvement.
- Dermapen can be coupled with serums and numbing creams for optimal results and a more comfortable experience.
Microneedling, also known as collagen induction therapy (CIT), is a popular method for treating common skin ailments, as well as generally promoting healthy, youthful looking skin.
This procedure can be done in a clinical setting at the hands of a trained technician or in the privacy of your own home. However, if you opt to try microneedling at home, you’ll need to do your research. The variety of tools at your disposal don’t all operate the same way, and aren’t all of equal quality.
In this article we’ll examine one of the newer available tools for both clinical and domestic settings, the Dermapen, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this skin needling technology to help you make the best choice for your skin.
What is the Dermapen?
Basically, it’s a handheld microneedling device. Like many other microneedling devices, it punctures the skin using a series of small needles, thereby stimulating collagen production.
This collagen stimulation is said to treat a wide variety of skin ailments, including wrinkles, fine lines, and acne scars. It’s also alleged to reduce large pores and improve the effectiveness of skincare products. Finally, microneedling can be done on other parts of the body to treat stretch marks and other skin ailments.
How does the Dermapen work?
What makes the Dermapen unique is the method by which it punctures the skin. Other types of microneedling devices, known collectively as derma rollers, look like small wheels with outward facing needles evenly spaced across the surface. These needles create tiny punctures in the skin as the wheel is dragged across it.
The Dermapen, on the other hand, works via a spring-loaded automated function. It moves up and down perpendicular to your skin, puncturing it with eleven evenly-spaced microneedles as you move the device across your face.
According to the manufacturers, this microneedling method causes less damage to the epidermis because the needles themselves aren’t dragged in and out of the skin at odd angles. This also means less bleeding and discomfort.
Just as with older microneedling devices, the Dermapen needles can be easily adjusted to suit individual needs.
Are at-home microneedling devices FDA-approved?
First of all, there’s no such thing as an FDA-approved at-home microneedling device. If you see a company claiming that their device has FDA approval, they’re making a false claim. That being said, these companies should be registering themselves and their devices with the FDA and may say as much on their websites.
These handheld microneedling devices are considered Class I medical devices and don’t require FDA approval to be sold in the United States. However, the FDA has struggled over the question of microneedling devices, particularly the Dermapen and the similarly functioning Skin Pen.
In 2015, the FDA wrote a letter to Dermapen, instructing them to cease sale of a product that was claiming their approval and had no clearance to be sold for at-home use. Dermapen identified the device as a counterfeit and notified people not to buy it. The FDA did the same to SkinPen in 2016.
So is it legal or not to sell these products? It seems that the FDA has backed off for now. However, they’ve recently shown some interest in getting back in to the business of assessing and regulating at-home microneedling products, so there could be some big changes on the horizon.
Is it safe to do microneedling at home?
Many people have had positive experiences microneedling at home, and you can absolutely purchase a device, like the Dermapen, for home use. However, we urge you to exercise caution.
You are puncturing your skin when you choose microneedling. There will likely be bleeding and subsequent risk of infection. In short, if you’re serious about microneedling at home, you need to make sure you know what you’re doing.
- Choose the right length needle. This is essential. A needle that’s too small won’t be effective, but a needle that’s too large could be extremely painful and damaging. Your device will likely come with some guidelines. However, understand that anything over a millimeter in length is not recommended. Consider erring on the side of smaller and working your way up if you feel it’s necessary.
- Replace device pieces as recommended. The Dermapen has needle attachments, or “cartridges,” that can be purchased separately and in bulk. The manufacturer recommends never reusing the Dermapen needles.
- Clean your device properly. If you insist on reusing your needles, there is a risk of infection. Remember that these needles will come into contact with your blood. If they have bacteria on them, you’re asking for problems. Disinfect your device between every use with skin friendly agents (i.e. not bleach). Allow the device to air dry before storing it.
- Consider training. Dermapen urges users to understand the risks associated with incorrect use of the Dermapen product. In fact, they recommend (and provide) training to better prepare you for the self-application process. You don’t need to undergo training to be able to use Dermapen or similar products, but if you’re serious about microneedling you should consider it.
Finally, understand that with the FDA’s iminent involvement there could be some significant changes to at-home devices in the coming years. It might be worth waiting before you spring for an expensive product. In the meantime, consider having your Dermapen microneedling done by a professional.
» If you’re interested in professional microneedling, find a nearby doctor to explore your procedure options.
Is the Dermapen painful?
Although the Dermapen claims to be less painful than traditional derma rollers, you should still expect some discomfort. In fact, the degree of painful involved probably has more to do with the size of the needle than whether you’re using a derma roller or the Dermapen.
The treatment area also plays a big role in determining the level of discomfort. Sensitive areas, like the skin around the mouth, will be more tender.
Should I use a topical anesthetic?
You may not need a topical anesthetic at all. If your needle size is less than a half millimeter, you may be able to get away without it. However, if you are using a larger needle, or if you’re concerned in general, you can always purchase over-the-counter or prescription numbing creams.
If you’re having microneedling done in a clinical setting, then your technician will likely use BLT cream. This combination of benzocaine, lidocaine, and tetracaine effectively and safely numbs the face. However, you’re not going to find it in the aisles of your favorite drug store. You will need to purchase it directly from a pharmacy or seek a prescription from your dermatologist.
There are other less expensive creams available on the shelf, many of which include lidocaine, however, they may not be as effective. Consult with your dermatologist about your plans to start microneedling. They may have a product in mind that would work for your skin.
Once you’ve settled on a product, do a patch test before applying it to your face. The last thing you want is to have an allergic reaction in such a sensitive area, so be sure to closely follow all of the product’s instructions. It’s likely you’ll be directed to avoid the eyes and mouth and wash the product off before using the Dermapen.
Should I use a serum?
The right serum is said to enhance the benefits of the Dermapen. After microneedling, skin products absorb more quickly into the skin. Coupling your Dermapen with a good product can be a great way to get the most out of the process.
However, don’t apply just any skin product right after using the Dermapen. Remember that your skin will be extremely sensitive. This is not the time to lather it with any ol’ lotion or apply a mask. You could end up doing more harm than good.
The manufacturer of the Dermapen provides serums of its own that can be used with the microneedling tool. If you really want to play it safe, using one of these serums will do just fine.
However, if these don’t appeal to you, you can look into different options. There are other manufacturers who make serums and lotions specifically for use before and after microneedling. True, your favorite lotion may yet be fine, but we highly recommend choosing a product that’s intended for use with microneedling to be sure it’s gentle enough for your skin.
What is recovery from the Dermapen like?
Immediately after using the Dermapen, or any microneedling tool for that matter, your skin will be red and could bleed. You’ll also notice some tenderness and inflammation.
The larger the needle you used, the more likely it is that you’ll see blood. This bleeding will primarily be dotted or pinpoint bleeding. If it’s much more than that, you’ll want to use a smaller needle or otherwise reassess how you’re using the device.
Swelling may worsen on the second day post-treatment, but by the third day, any swelling and redness should be gone or almost gone. If not, then you might need to reconsider how you’re using the device. If inflammation gets worse, you should also examine the numbing cream or serums that you’ve used. It’s possible your skin is having a reaction.
For the first 24-hours after using the Dermapen, avoid applying makeup or wearing sunscreen. You should also avoid any vigorous exercise (that would make you sweat). Some technicians advise avoiding any kind of heat, even a hot shower. Finally, avoid direct sunlight. A sunburn on your still healing face will do significant damage.
If you performed microneedling at home, follow the instructions that come with your device and consult with your dermatologist for more guidance on what to avoid and for how long. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with being overly cautious.
If you had microneedling done professionally, then use any aftercare products you receive in accordance with your technician’s directions. It’s also worth noting that professional microneedling will likely be less painful and have a lower risk of side effects.
How often do I need to use the Dermapen?
According to the manufacturers, the Dermapen can safely be used every 2 to 4 weeks for mild treatments and every 4 to 6 weeks for deeper ones.
Many clinics recommend a total of 4 to 6 treatments spaced appropriately for optimum results. However, you may want to pick the Dermapen back up after a little while, as time and damage begin to take their toll on your skin again.
How much does the Dermapen cost?
You can purchase the genuine article directly from the manufacturer. However, it will cost you. Dermapen offers a variety of packages, and none of them cheap.
- Pen and Tips Only – At $3,900, this is, believe it or not, the cheapest option. It comes with a pen and replacement tips.
- Pen Master Kit – For $5,820, you can have all of the above plus some hydrating masks and serums.
- Pen Pro Kit – At $6,947, this is the most expensive option. It comes with the same stuff as the Pen Master Kit, only more of it.
- Pen Starter Kit – For $4,312, you can get all of the above, only significantly less of it.
Of course, you can always go into a clinic for a Dermapen treatment costing anywhere from $200-$700. If we average that out to $450 and multiply it by the recommended 4-6 treatments, you could be looking at a total cost of $1,800 – $2,700 for full effects, less than the cost of the cheapest package.
Then there’s always Dermapen-like products that sell for as little as $80. But then it becomes a case of buyer beware, because there’s no accounting for quality when you’re main focus is finding the least expensive devices.
How does the Dermapen compare to similar tools?
Many physicians and technicians who administer microneedling seem to favor the stamping technology of the Dermapen and SkinPen over dermarollers. It’s considered less damaging to the skin and is less painful. If you are going to a clinic to have your microneedling done, definitely consider one of these devices.
As to whether the Dermapen or the SkinPen is better, it’s difficult to determine. The technology is essentially the same. If you’re having your microneedling done professionally, the skill of your technician will make a bigger difference to your comfort level and final results than which device they use.
If you’re springing for an at-home device, a quality dermaroller will cost less than a an authentic Dermapen. Of course, when it comes to putting needles in your skin, you might not want to skimp.
Finally, if you’re looking for an at-home treatment you can feel more comfortable with, consider a chemical peel. There are a variety of peels on the market and they enjoy many of the same skin rejuvenation effects as microneedling without the “needling.”