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What’s the Difference Between Microneedling and Acupuncture?

Because they both involve the controlled placement of needles into the skin, many people assume that microneedling and acupuncture are the same. However, microneedling and acupuncture are two unique procedures with their own unique benefits. As a result, you need to familiarize yourself with their differences before seeking either of these procedures. Only after identifying the differences between microneedling and acupuncture can you choose the right procedure for your body.

What Is Microneedling?

Also known as dermarolling and skin needling, microneedling is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that involves scoring the skin with dozens or hundreds of small, shallow holes to induce the production of collagen. Accounting for roughly one-third of all protein in the average person’s body, collagen plays an essential role in healthy skin. It’s responsible for creating strong, yet resilient, skin that can stretch without succumbing to damage. When the collagen content in your skin decreases, you may experience wrinkles, stretch marks, scarring and other problems with your skin.

Emerging within the past few decades, microneedling is a relatively new cosmetic procedure that can restore your skin’s lost collagen. It’s designed primarily to treat and prevent skin problems associated with low collagen levels. Among other things, microneedling has been shown to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, create a more even skin complexion, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, protect against scarring and curb acne breakouts.

How Microneedling Works

Microneedling works by relying on the use of a handheld device, known as a dermaroller, to stimulate the production of collagen in the skin. When the skin is exposed to physical trauma, it responds by producing more collagen. After all, collagen is the primary component of connective tissue in the body, including skin. Therefore, it only makes sense for the skin to produce more collagen when it experiences physical trauma. Microneedling leverages the skin’s natural healing process by creating minor trauma, which in turn triggers the skin to produce more collagen.

During a microneedling procedure, an aesthetician will use a device to score your skin with many shallow holes. There are two types of devices using in this minimally invasive cosmetic procedure: dermarollers and pens. A microneedling dermaroller (see below) is a handheld rolling device featuring a needle-covered cylinder. When rolled across the skin, the needles will create small holes that, ultimately, stimulate the production of collagen.

Alternatively, some aestheticians use a microneedling pen. Microneedling pens are electronic devices that feature a needle-covered head. Like dermarollers, they are designed to score the skin with many small and shallow holes. Both dermarollers and microneedling pens are able to stimulate the production of collagen and, therefore, treat common skin problems associated with low collagen levels.

During a microneedling procedure, the aesthetician will first apply a calming solution to your skin. Next, he or she will use the microneedling device — either a dermaroller or microneedling pen, on this area of your skin. The device will create small and shallow holes in your skin to trigger the production of new collagen. Keep in mind that you’ll typically need several sessions of microneedling to achieve desirable and long-lasting results. Most men and women schedule three to six microneedling sessions, which are spaced about four weeks apart.

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture, on the other hand, is an invasive procedure that involves piercing the skin in one or more areas of the body with thin needles. A form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it’s designed to trigger the human body’s innate self-healing process by correcting or restoring the flow of energy. In TCM, the general belief is that our body’s health is dependent on the unrestricted flow of energy, which is known as qi. When a blockage or restriction of qi occurs, it may lead to physical or mental medical problems. Acupuncture, however, is believed to fix blockages of qi in the body while subsequently treating and preventing a variety of physical and mental medical problems.

While microneedling is just a few decades old — first appearing during the 1990s — acupuncture is a much older procedure. Evidence suggests that acupuncture originated in China around 100 B.C. With that said, some experts believe acupuncture is even older. Regardless, acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, and during that time, it’s become increasingly popular. According to one study, 6.3% of the U.S. adult population has had at least one acupuncture procedure.

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture is believed to work by stimulating areas of the body, known as acupuncture points, with needles. Whether there’s really such as a thing as qi remains open to debate. One theory is that the human body has numerous pathways through which neurological signals and hormones traverse. When these pathways experience physical trauma, the body responds by healing the respective area.

The truth is that no one really knows how acupuncture works, but there’s strong evidence suggesting that it does, in fact, help with the treatment and prevention of several medical conditions. A 2016 Cochrane study, for example, found that acupuncture was effective at alleviating headaches and migraines. A separate study published in 2014 found that acupuncture was an effective alternative to traditional painkillers for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

It’s important to note that the needles used in acupuncture are longer than those used in microneedling.  Although they are relatively thin — measuring about 25 to 30 gauge in diameter — acupuncture needles are about 1 to 2.5 inches long. Because of their longer length, they can be inserted deeper into the skin. As a result, acupuncture is a more painful procedure than microneedling, which may deter some men and women from seeking it.

During an acupuncture procedure, an acupuncturist will place the thin but long needles into your skin in specific areas of your body. The sessions typically last about a half-hour each. However, the actual needles are only left in your skin for about 15 to 20 minutes, after which they are removed.

Choosing Between Microneedling and Acupuncture

So, should you choose microneedling or acupuncture? It really depends on what you are hoping to accomplish from the procedure. If you’re suffering from one or more skin problems, there’s no substitution for microneedling. This minimally invasive cosmetic procedure has been shown to treat and prevent a variety of skin problems. It works by scoring the skin with shallow holes to stimulate the production of collagen. As your skin’s collagen levels increase, your skin will become stronger and more elastic.

Acupuncture isn’t intended to stimulate the production of collagen, nor is it typically performed to treat or prevent skin problems. Instead, it’s designed to restore your body’s qi, which may prove useful in treating or preventing other medical problems.

Microneedling vs Acupuncture: The Bottom Line

Both microneedling and acupuncture involve the placement of needles into the skin. With that said, however, they aren’t necessarily the same. Microneedling is a minimally invasive procedure that uses small and short needles, whereas acupuncture is an invasive procedure that involves the use of larger and longer needles. If you’re suffering from skin problems, such as scarring or stretch marks, microneedling is undoutedbly the right choice. It leverages the body’s natural healing mechanism to stimulate the production of collagen in your skin. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the differences between microneedling and acupuncture.

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