Can Micro-Needling Improve the Appearance of Wrinkles and Acne Scars?

The Ache: Treatments to minimize wrinkles and scars from acne or chickenpox can involve multiple doctor visits with long recuperation periods, and often aren’t recommended for people with suntans or darker skin.

The Claim: A therapy called micro-needling—in which a device delivers tiny needle pricks to stimulate the skin’s natural healing processes—can minimize wrinkles and improve the appearance of scars in all skin types and with minimal recovery. Dermatologists and aestheticians typically offer the treatment, but home devices are also available.

The Verdict: Several published studies have found micro-needling, when applied by a doctor, is effective against acne scars. But dermatologists urge caution in doing it at home because of the risk of infection and scarring. And a recent scientific paper detailed three cases of an allergic reaction caused by serums applied after the therapy at a spa.

Micro-needling devices include rollers with wheels of needles and pens with a cluster of needles at the tip. The slight injury they cause stimulates the growth of collagen, the scaffolding under the skin, which then improves the appearance of some scars and wrinkles, scientists say.

The technique works great for sunken areas on the skin caused by acne, but not for deep, narrow “ice pick” scars, says New York dermatologist Doris Day. Dr. Day says she generally sees a 60% to 70% improvement in the broad acne scars with four to six treatments.