Skin Needling Lesson 5: Skin Preparation

Needling with no use of topical actives before or after the treatment is called “dry needling.” Most people want to get the most from their needling treatments and will use skin care products with active ingredients before and after needling. Although dry needling is shown to be effective, you’ll get much better results by preparing your skin a few weeks or longer before your needling treatment.

Vitamin A is one of the most important active you can use to prepare you skin for needling. Vitamin A influences 350 to 1000 genes that control normal function, proliferation, and differentiation of cells. It is an essential nutrient for normal skin physiology, but is sensitive to UV exposure from sunlight and can be destroyed before it is able to work for the skin. Effective doses of Vitamin A stimulate cell growth, the release of growth factors, and the production of healthy new collagen. You can use various forms of Vitamin A. Prescription retinoic acid is popular, but it is irritating for many users and may be prohibitively expensive to treat large areas of body skin. Other forms of Vitamin A work well for skin needling, including retinol, retinaldehyde, retinyl acetate, and retinyl palmitate.

Vitamin C is another important nutrient for collagen formation. It is stored for 48-72 hours in the skin as long as it isn’t degraded by sun exposure. All forms of Vitamin C are recommended to pretreat skin for needling, but ascorbic acid and magnesuim ascorbyl phosphate are the forms that show the greatest boost to collagen production.

Antioxidants like Vitamin E, green tea, and alpha lipoic acid are also helpful to use to preteat the skin. Vitamin E is particularly helpful because it enhances the effects of Vitamins A and C. If possible, use the mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols as your preferred forms of Vitamin E. If you can’t find a cream containing them, consider adding them to another cream by squeezing the oils from a softgel used as an oral supplement.

Certain peptides are also beneficial for skin preparation. First and second generation copper peptides and palmitoyl pentapeptide (matrixyl) are popular choices that help stimulate collagen formation. Copper peptides may counteract the benefits of Vitamin C, so don’t use them on the same day.

Ideally, at least some of these actives should be used regularly for 2-4 weeks before each needling treatment. Many of these actives are irritating, so you will need to take your time to adjust to the ingredients by strength building. You don’t need to use every single one of them at the highest strength available to get the benefits. Using a Vitamin A product daily and a Vitamin C product every other day are the most important. If your skin is very sun damaged, you should ideally pre treat the area with Vitamins A and C for 2 or 3 months before needling.

Dry brushing is another helpful technique to prepare your skin for needling. It increases blood flow to the area, which is beneficial for healing. Skin brushing also helps the lymphatic system. It needs to be done for about a month before your treatment in order to be effective. Use a brush with plastic bristles that can be cleaned easily and won’t harbor bacteria. An extra soft facial brush is ideal for all sensitive areas like the face, breasts, and inner arms.

Protecting the area from UV exposure for at least a week before needling is also important. Use a good sunscreen daily and avoid sunbathing or going to a tanning booth in the weeks ahead of your needling treatment.

As with all skin remodeling techniques, you’ll get the best results if you have proper nutrition. Collagen synthesis requires many nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, key amino acids (proline & glycine), bioflavonoids, selenium, silicon, magnesium, calcium, copper peptides, zinc, iron, and essential fatty acids. These nutrients need to come from diet and possible supplementation along with topical application. Eat lots of nutrient rich vegetables and consider taking the skin care supplements described in the “Diet” chapter. If you are going on a special skin care diet or starting to take supplements to prepare for needling, start about a month ahead of time.