This $30 Device Could Fade Your Acne Scars — If You Can Handle Needles

Photo: Erin Yamagata
"You're kidding..." I said, peering at my skin in the bathroom mirror, the morning after rolling 540 microneedles across my face. My incredulity stemmed from the fact I'd spent two weeks battling blemishes, using every product in my skin-care arsenal to try to get the red spots, scars, and blackheads to back the hell off. Nothing had worked, from salt water to salicylic acid, and I was tired of piling on foundation, having given it up for the past few months.
I'd been reading about microneedling and heard devotees (Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly included) wax lyrical about its impact. Sure, anything involving the word "needle" sounds scary and best avoided, but this little guy seemed manageable enough to try. There are several at-home models on the market, but the Stacked Skincare Micro-Roller is a consistently top-rated choice on Amazon and elsewhere — and, at $30, it's about one-tenth the price of a professional treatment.
So one night, after throughly double-cleansing, I slowly rolled my micro-roller back and forth over my chin, cheeks, and forehead for several minutes. I felt a slight pricking sensation, but in all honesty, it wasn't painful, and was even similar to the drowsy, relaxed feeling you get when the hairdresser washes your hair. (Well, maybe not quite that good.) I followed up with a few pumps of serum post-roll, let it sink in before applying the rest of my nighttime skincare routine, headed to bed, and hoped for the best.
Frankly, I wasn't expecting much of a change, especially not the very next day. But I woke up with plump, fresh, less angry skin — and the hyperpigmentation caused by my blemishes looked softer, at least in my mind. I only needed a lick of concealer to get my skin looking clear, which was a marked change from the heavy-coverage foundation I'd been relying on.
I've been using it twice daily since my initiation, and now there are almost no signs of the post-breakout marks left. So how does this spiky little tool work? "Though only very thin, the skin is made up of three layers: epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous. By penetrating the epidermis with very fine needles, the small wounds created encourage the body’s natural healing response and renew the skin cells," Kate Whitling, non-surgical training manager at The Harley Medical Group, explains. "As the skin repairs itself, the collagen production and elastin is triggered, giving an almost immediate plumped and rejuvenated effect."
As Debbie Thomas, professional esthetician and founder of D.Thomas Clinic, tells me, at-home tools are best for the casual microneedler who doesn't necessarily need a serious skin overhaul. Most of the models use needles that are around .2-.3mm long (the Stacked Skincare version is .2), so they're targeted to help your skin-care products better penetrate to make your routine more effective overall, without much risk of damage. However, if you have truly problematic skin that needs a regenerating boost, Thomas still recommends a professional treatment. "The needles are longer at 0.5mm and are for professional treatments only, because you don’t want to risk damaging your skin at home," she explains.
As with anything where needles are involved, do your research and learn how to avoid the risks. For example, you should never, ever, roll over blemishes. (This guide will help!) But whether you're in search of plumper, youthful-looking skin, or want to reduce fine lines and the marks left from old blemishes, don't let the tiny spikes put you off: Microneedling might just be the best — and least expected — place to start.
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