- Microneedling involves piercing the skin with microneedles to create small wounds, causing skin cells to regenerate.
- The regeneration of skin cells that microneedling causes can disperse clusters of melanin, lightening dark spots.
- Microneedling is a mildly invasive but relatively safe procedure with minimal side effects.
- It should be avoided by those with skin that scars or becomes inflamed easily.
Hyperpigmentation can be treated by microneedling, a mildly invasive but safe procedure. It has not been widely studied in isolation as a treatment for dark spots, but its ability to cause skin regeneration points towards it being an effective treatment.
How can Microneedling Treat Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation refers to patches of pigmented skin – “dark spots” – that have been darkened by the clustering of excess melanin. This often occurs because of sun exposure, inflammation or hormonal changes. Microneedling can help lighten these dark spots by encouraging your skin’s wound-healing response.
Microneedling involves piercing the skin with small sterile needles on a “dermaroller” to create microscopic wounds. This triggers your skin’s wound-healing response, and after this, new, healthy skin can form that matches your normal skin tone. This reduces the appearance of dark spots.
Does it Work?
There is evidence supporting microneedling as a treatment for dark spots. However, most studies tested microneedling alongside other skin lightening chemicals. Because microneedling causes skin cell regeneration, and because skin regeneration can treat all types of dark spots, there is reason to believe microneedling can treat all types of hyperpigmentation.
In the cases where microneedling most improved dark spots, there was a repeat treatment 30 days after the first treatment. These cases also involved the use of topical treatments on the days between the two microneedling sessions.
Scar hyperpigmentation refers to dark spots that form when an injury or blemish heals. This often occurs alongside acne scarring. Microneedling can be used to treat scarring in all skin types, and there is little risk of it making dark spots worse. Because it can also lighten the skin, microneedling can be a safe and effective way to treat scar hyperpigmentation, as long as you don’t have sensitive skin that scars easily.
Melasma is most commonly found on the face and appears as brown or gray-brown dark spots. There is evidence supporting microneedling as an effective treatment for this condition. One report studied microneedling treatment in 22 cases of melasma. All patients showed good results, their dark spots having been successfully lightened.
Sunspots are flat brown spots that often resemble large freckles and develop in response to sun exposure. There are no studies that directly test microneedling on sunspots, but the regenerative effects that microneedling has on the skin can break up clustered melanin. This can reduce the appearance of sunspots.
Other types of hyperpigmentation
Other types of hyperpigmentation can result from conditions like Acanthosis nigricans, Schamberg’s disease, and Gougerot-Blum syndrome. These conditions are rare, however, and no studies have tested microneedling treatment for them.
Side Effects of Microneedling for Hyperpigmentation
Side effects of microneedling include mild to moderate skin redness and irritation, which can last for a few days after treatment. Skin may also peel during the first few days, as old skin cells shed to be replaced by newer, healthier cells. During the first 24 hours after treatment you should not apply any topical products, such as sunscreen, to your skin.
Although this is a mildly invasive treatment, it risks fewer and milder side effects than other treatments like microdermabrasion. Side effects are also more minor and easy to manage than those caused by treatments like laser therapy.
You should avoid this treatment if you:
- Have skin that scars easily
- Are pregnant
- Have an active acne breakout, skin infection or an open wound
- Have recently undergone radiation or chemotherapy
Can microneedling make hyperpigmentation worse?
Microneedling may worsen dark spots if your skin scars or becomes inflamed easily. If this is the case, microneedling may cause more inflammation. Following this, your body will send white blood cells to fight off bacteria and infection. This can trigger the production of more melanin, which can then form dark spots or worsen those that are already there.
Can microneedling make melasma worse?
There is no evidence that microneedling will make melasma worse, and there are studies supporting it as an effective treatment for melasma. However, it could make melasma worse if your skin scars or becomes inflamed easily.
Alternatives to Microneedling for Hyperpigmentation
There are a number of home remedies, OTC creams and professional treatments for treating dark spots:
- Vitamin C and soy extract are natural ingredients that can be added to a natural face cleanser as part of your skin care routine.
- OTC treatments such as hydroquinone, corticosteroids, and retinol can regularly be applied to the dark spots.
- Professional treatments such as stronger creams, laser treatment, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion are available and can be discussed at a dermatology clinic.
Although microneedling for dark spots has not been widely studied on its own, there are many studies supporting its use when combined with other skin lightening treatments. Also, because it causes skin cell regeneration, microneedling itself can be an effective treatment for dark spots. When skin cells regenerate, the clustered melanin that forms dark spots can disperse, reducing hyperpigmentation. Side effects of this treatment are minimal, but it should be avoided by those with skin that easily scars or becomes inflamed.
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