I Tried Microneedling, a.k.a. Kim K’s Insane ‘Vampire Facial’
Plastic surgery has always fascinated me. And last week, I finally got my first taste of a real, honest to god cosmetic treatment you can only get in a doctor’s office: microneedling.
It all started when I got an email from RealSelf, the plastic surgery social network and review site with 9 zillion before-and-after pics I love to peruse when I can’t sleep at night. Their publicist invited me to try a new cosmetic treatment free of charge — all I had to do was write about it. Um, duh! Why would I say no to that?
But my enthusiasm kind of bit me in the ass because I don’t read most emails in *SUPER* minute detail. I just skim them and respond “yes” or “no” and put the relevant deets in my iCal. Like a normal person.
So I was surprised when, a few days before the treatment, I got another email asking if I could come in earlier so that the dermatologist’s people could numb my entire face. Ermmm, sure, but WTF was the meaning of this? Why did I need my entire face to be numb? Wasn’t I just getting a facial?
It was at this point that I looked back at the original email and saw that what I was getting was something called “microneedling,” which sounded terrifying. I hate needles. But maybe I would be okay if my face was numb and whatever they were using on me was more “micro” than “needle,” so I kept the appointment.
What ended up happening was a face full of blood and redness, and eventually, Kim K-fresh skin.
But speaking of Kim, let me show you the photo of herself and myself that we banned from the top of this post because it was too hot for TV and/or Facebook:
Gross, right? I’m famous.
I should mention a disclaimer though: our two treatments weren’t exactly the same. I went in for microneedling, which is when tiny needles penetrate your skin in order to stimulate collagen regrowth. Collagen is the cute pillowy substance that makes young people look young. The issue is that it rudely departs from the skin as we age, leaving us looking old af.
So my procedure was supposed to stimulate collagen, like a cheaper version of a fraxal laser. But Kim’s procedure is a PRP facial, which takes microneedling up a notch by taking blood from your arm, spinning around in a centrifuge to separate the most youth-boosting parts, and then reincorporating it into your face.
The blood re-injection sounds a bit much, I gotta say, and it doesn’t seem like something that would particularly make a difference.
But hey, Kim looks like a pore-less archangel from the heavens and she isn’t even on a dairy-free skin diet like I am. In fact she eats hella dairy and still looks amazing. So clearly she knows what the fuck she’s doing.
And while I would if I could, I am not yet a beauty warlock who does elaborate blood swapping rituals like Kim’s. It’s fine. Someday.
But the whole process can be divided into 7 steps. So here’s what it’s really like to try microneedling like Kim K.
1. The numbing
On the day of my appointment, I arrived horrifically late because my taxi app of choice utterly screwed me. So instead of letting numbing cream sit on my face for 45 minutes, I had to settle for about 20.
This is less than half the normal amount of numbing, but still with the same amount of needles poking into my face.
It was my own fault for being late, but I started to panic a bit — especially when my ethereally chill derm for the day, Dr. Sejal Shah, showed me the actual “microneedle” that would be entering my hopefully-numbed skin over and over again.
2. Learning about the needle and recovery
This was the scariest part and I almost wish she didn’t show it to me. Dr. Shah showed me the needle wand before repeatedly jabbing it into my face for 20 minutes. As a person with a needle phobia, this probably did more harm than good, despite the doctor’s glam devil-may-care demeanor.
So what did the needle look like? Well, picture a tiny meat-pounding mallet, but instead of dull wooden points, it’s made out of metal needles. And instead of pounding a chunk of meat that’s already dead, it’s going to pound into your face, which is very much alive and still attached to your head. It was scary.
I can’t even find a picture of it on Google Images, because why would anyone who sells this treatment want you to see the microneedles ahead of time? Just take it from me: it’s not fun to look at so if your doctor offers you a chance to see and you’re skittish like me, I’d pass.
3. Real talk about pain
After the numbing process was over, Dr. Shah rubbed hyaluronic acid all over my face to help the needles glide better across my skin. My face felt pretty numb during this process, but after seeing the needles, I wasn’t 100% convinced that I wasn’t about to experience horrific pain.
I mentioned to Dr. Shah that I was nervous about the pain with an awkward laugh several times, like the chill person that I am, and she told me that one client of hers had had 20 minutes of numbing instead for the recommended 45, and was totally fine. She also added that since I don’t have any deep wrinkles or acne scarring (I take care of my shit, guys), she’d have a pretty light touch and wouldn’t be “going too deep” with the needles.
I really hadn’t realized how microneedling works before I was in the chair getting ready to have it done, so Dr. Shah explained the whole thing to me. Basically, she said the needles going in and out and in and out create “columns of injury,” which is poetic, terrifying, and possibly your emo ex-boyfriend’s old AOL screenname. When your skin starts recovering from these “columns of injury,” that’s when the new collagen is created and you start to look younger. This would help me to look younger and more refreshed, and could even minimize my pore size.
What I liked best about this part was that Dr. Shah didn’t seem like she was lying or sugarcoating anything when it comes to pain. We’ve all had doctors and dentists who tell you you’re going to “feel a little pressure,” then proceed to hack away at you like a worm in science class, which has eroded a lot of my trust in medical professionals. But Dr. Shah seemed trustworthy and she was.
4. The “columns of injury” start
Dr. Shah started with my right cheek and I was super nervous. But as soon as the wand hit my skin, I realized it was all good. The numbing had worked pretty well — the procedure basically felt like microdermabrasion. In fact, most of the time it was less painful than microdermabrasion.
My forehead hurt a little more than the rest of my face. It was the only time when I really felt like there were needles going into my face. Dr. Shah said it’s normal for the forehead to be more sensitive.
As she continued to do the procedure, it felt like barely anything was happening. But Dr. Shah reassured me that if they hadn’t numbed my skin first, I would have been in a lot of pain. I definitely trust her on that.
So after 15 or 20 minutes of her going over my face with the wand — right cheek, left cheek, forehead, nose, philtrum area and jawline — imagine my surprise when I was…
5. Super bloody and red
Because the procedure didn’t hurt at the time, this was kind of shocking and I had to laugh. I also had to take a selfie and send it to everyone I know because I looked so crazy. Plus all the blood really brought out my eyes.
6. Ice and sunscreen
After you undergo microneedling, your skin is super sensitive — especially if, like me, your skin is finicky to begin with. So your doctor will give you this fun ice roller to rub all over your skin so that the swelling will go down.
Dr. Shah’s assistant also rubbed a mineral-based sunscreen on my face so that I wouldn’t get super burnt on my way back to work.
But I didn’t make it to work, because I was…
7. Looking like the guy who gets burned in the face with an iron on “Home Alone” for the rest of the day
I scared a cab driver, I scared strangers on the street, I scared myself. I was definitely not ready to go out in the world in this condition.
I also learned the number one rule of post-cosmetic-procedure lyfe, which is: never believe your Gett, Uber, Lyft, or Juno driver’s estimated arrival time. They are lying.
Still reeling and ashamed due to my tardiness in the morning, I had decided to try and be early for my taxi. I’d wait for my driver on the curb like a god damn honor roll student. I wasn’t going to let another person down with my lateness, not now!
So as soon as Dr. Shah told me I was good to go, I bounced. I summoned the car in the elevator, and waited for it in the lobby. Then, as the the driver was clearly going to take longer than I had originally anticipated, I decided to wait on the curb and make it easier for him to find me.
All of this resulted in about 50 people seeing me in my fragile state. This was me waiting for my cab:
Why did I choose this moment to be a girl scout and wait outside? I don’t know. But it was stressful and dumb.
In conclusion, there’s no way celebs or smart people do it this way. They definitely wait in the exam room until their Uber is safely at the door and then scuttle into it so no one will see them. They definitely pack a hat and sunglasses, which I did not.
Plus no one in the office was rushing me out, so I’m sure they would have been fine with me staying in the room and guiding my driver to the front door over the phone instead of waving him down like an air traffic control whose face got run over by a moped in the middle of Broadway.
8. Recovery time
Now, I have read some reviews saying there’s no recovery time for microneedling and that is a load of hot garbage. Maybe my skin’s just sensitive, but I really wasn’t fit for public consumption in the 12 hours after the treatment. To be fair, Dr. Shah warned me of this, saying the redness could last a few days.
So after my procedure, I ended up working from home. And amusingly, that episode of Sex and the City where Samantha gets a chemical peel, as referenced above, was on. Less amusingly, when I sent intern Keely Quinlan a pic of my face, she quoted the episode, exclaiming, “Veil down!”
I was roughly *this* amused:
As the day continued, the redness started to go down. But my mustache area (not that I have a mustache — I really don’t, it’s one of my few physical gifts) started to burn so I was worried it would “blister” or “scab,” two horrible words I read on the consent form.
Plus the numbing cream doesn’t last forever, so ever since an hour after the procedure, my face has felt like it’s just had its first Brazilian then been dipped in sriracha. It’s a constant dull burn.
I still haven’t seen my full results yet. But if I was going to spend $300 on a cosmetic procedure, I’m not sure this would be it. If I had some more serious wrinkles or any acne scarring, I’d keep going. But all I want is smoother skin. Dr. Shah told me I’d need about five treatments to really see my pores shrink, and I’m just not sure it’s worth the cash unless I start to feel like it really has made my pores and skin texture improve in a noticeable way.