With so many different non-invasive beauty technology modalities available today, it can get a little confusing to distinguish the differences. Two of the latest treatments that are getting quite a bit of buzz on social media and online are microneedling and plasma pens. But what are they, what concerns do they address, and how are they different?
While it dates back to the mid 90s, microneedling has gained notoriety recently in part to social media and celebrities touting its benefits. It’s a non-invasive treatment that typically utilizes a specialized handpiece, roller, or pen that has integrated sterile needles that create micro-injuries in the skin when the treatment is performed. It is these tiny punctures that initiate the body’s natural wound healing response where fibroblasts are sent to the treatment area to stimulate the body’s production of collagen and elastin which helps to thicken the skin, improve texture, shrink pores, and minimize acne scars.
Microneedling is an incredibly versatile and proven treatment option because it can be used on the face and body, and even on the scalp to help stimulate hair growth in conjunction with topical treatments. In a recent study, 100 subjects were divided into two groups—one that solely used minoxidil lotion and the other that received microneedling first followed by an application of minoxidil lotion. After 12 weeks, 82% of the microneedling group reported a 50 percent improvement versus 4.5 percent of the minoxidil lotion-only group. Some microneedling devices also deliver radio frequency adding additional skin tightening results to the treatment.
Plasma pen therapy uses plasma, which is thought to be the fourth state of matter along with solid, liquid, and gas. Plasma is a hot, gas-like substance that stimulates fibroblasts cells in the deeper layer of the skin to repair the outer skin layers. A fibroblast is a type of skin cell that secretes collagen proteins in the dermis, which is the layer of skin just below the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. These cells play a vital role in wound healing in addition to maintaining the skin’s firmness and tightness.
During the treatment, the plasma pen burns tiny little holes into the skin that stimulate the body’s natural wound healing process much like microneedling does as well as tightens the skin. The concept behind this non-invasive treatment modality is that the plasma pen device discharges an ionized gas in the air to create a small electrical arc that improves the appearance of the skin without heating or damaging the surrounding tissue.
While plasma pen therapy can be used on many parts of the face and body, most plasma pen technicians chose to treat smaller areas since like forehead lines, crow’s feet, nasolabial folds, and mild sagging around the jawline since the treatment requires a precise dot-by-dot application, which can make treating larger areas a painstaking process. The treatment can also improve the appearance of stretch marks, skin tags, and seborrheic keratosis.
Both microneedling and plasma pen treatments work by creating small, controlled injuries to the skin that initiate a wound response in the body that naturally stimulates collagen and elastin production. While both treatments can provide some of the same benefits, they work in different ways, which we will explore below.
Microneedling can address fine lines and wrinkles, acne, stretched pores, and scarring. Plasma pens on the other hand, can address more challenging concerns like jawline laxity, crow’s feet, and upper eyelid hooding. The main difference between the two is that plasma pens offer excellent skin tightening properties to the treatment, whereas microneedling on its own does not. However, when microneedling is combined with radio frequency, skin tightening benefits can be achieved. Plasma pens can also eliminate skin tags, which is not possible with microneedling.
The time it takes to administer both treatments will vary depending on how many areas of being treated. But typically, microneedling takes less than a half of an hour to treat the face while plasma pen treatments take a half an hour up to an hour.
Common side effects from both procedures include swelling, scabbing, and slight discomfort, but these typically go away on their own within a few days. Swelling is part of the natural healing process and should be left on its own to run its course. Scabbing is also a normal part of the healing process from both treatments. But the scabs should not be picked since picking them can increase the risk of developing scars and or hyperpigmentation in the treatment areas.
Plasma pen treatments take 6-8 weeks to fully heal at which point the results will be visible and will last at least three years, if not longer. Microneedling results can be seen after 3-4 weeks and last anywhere between 3-5 months. Results from microneedling can be maintained with 2-3 maintenance appointments per year. Both treatments take several initial sessions to address aesthetic concerns. Typically, microneedling takes 3-6 sessions, whereas plasma pen treatments normally only require one or two sessions.
Both treatment types address fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen and elastin production naturally in the skin. Plasma Pen treatments can address deeper wrinkles and even drooping eyelids. However, the treatment requires a longer recovery time compared to microneedling. But the results from plasma pen therapy last longer than microneedling. The main difference between the two devices is that plasma pen treatments can address skin laxity.
While microneedling offers some skin firming benefits, it requires the addition of radio frequency technology to deliver skin tightening benefits. Either way, you should talk to your skincare specialist to see which treatment is more appropriate to address your skin and body concerns.