“Microneedling and radiofrequency left my sensitive skin plumper, brighter and smoother in 6 days"
5th May 2022

Written by Morgan Fargo

The best my sensitive, reactive skin has ever looked – why an expert told me to pull back on skincare ingredients and focus on microneedling and radiofrequency instead.

Hands up if you’ve heard of microneedling? A fair few of us, then. It’s a popular treatment that can be performed in a clinic by an aesthetician or dermatologist, but it’s also something that can also be performed at home too – albeit to varying degrees. A way of creating microtears in the skin using a sterilised nano-needle, these small punctures kickstart your skin into repair mode, increasing the natural amount of elastin and collagen produced and improving the skin texture, fullness and absorption of products. 

But, what if I told you that combining microneedling with a form of high-frequency light waves (read: radiofrequency) could address skin tone, improve skin laxity and help reduce scarring, too? A month ago, I went for my first microneedling and radiofrequency facial at 111 Harley Street, the home of 111Skin. A spoiler? It’s the best my skin has ever looked – but more on that later.

For now, here’s everything you need to know about the celebrity-loved treatment – scroll to the end for my review and pictures. 

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What is a microneedling radiofrequency facial?

A microneedling radiofrequency facial is an in-clinic treatment that combines two specific forms of skin therapy: microneedling and radiofrequency. Popular treatments, microneedling and radiofrequency are able to be performed at the same time, as Milena Naydenov, head aesthetician at 111 Harley Street, explains:

“Microneedling creates small, controlled injuries on the skin to stimulate and kick-start collagen production. Radiofrequency is a type of energy used within the medicine and aesthetics industry to treat various skin conditions. It works on specific indications like scarring, but also treats fine lines and wrinkles, rough skin texture, loss of elasticity and stretch marks.”

In terms of the question of what does microneedling when combined with radiofrequency do? A surprising amount, in far less time. 

“By combining both methods of microneedling along with radiofrequency, this creates a more effective treatment that delivers faster results, and better ones. Generally this works better as opposed to using only using one technology for all skin types.”

The 111 Harley Street clinic where I had a microneedling and radiofrequency facial.

What are the benefits of a microneedling radiofrequency facial?

“Both microneedling and radiofrequency can treat pore size, scarring, pigmentation, stretch marks, loss of elasticity or rough skin texture, but they can also be used for skin rejuvenation in general if the skin is feeling lacklustre and suffering from looseness and uneven tone, for example. The Potenza device by Cynosure, in particular, is great because it has the capability of being able to treat not only acne scarring but active or ‘live’ acne,” says Naydenov.

“The Potenza device has unique Tiger Tip™ technology, which means it has semi-insulated needles that treat more tissue at multiple depths which can translate to shorter treatment times – a good option for those patients who find the treatments uncomfortable. Each treatment can be customised for each individual and their concerns, skin type and medical history, so whether it’s a single acne scar that’s treated with one needle for precision or a larger area, your skin can be treated with a needle length of 16, 25, or 49.”

Is there anyone who isn’t suitable for microneedling with radiofrequency?

While customisable, especially with a device like Potenza, microneedling and radiofrequency is not a suitable treatment for everyone. If you are someone who has a pacemaker, are susceptible to keloid scarring, have a skin infection, metal implants, have previously had gold-thread skin-rejuvenation treatments, are pregnant or breastfeeding, experience nerve sensitivity or bleeding disorders, have used accutane or have diabetes, 111 Harley Street recommends finding an alternative.

What it’s like to have a microneedling radiofrequency facial

Before my treatment, I explained my skin history to Milena, as well as the main current concerns I had – sallowness, reactivity and a general lack of plumpness. Add to that my skin’s innate ability to hold onto hyperpigmentation and dark spots for what feels like years

However, as Milena explained: “All skin types, including even the most sensitive, can benefit from the treatment as Potenza (the machine used) has four different radiofrequency modes and different tips (interchangeable heads with different numbers of needles)to make each treatment individually tailored to target the patient’s respective needs and concerns.” 

Plus, even though I experienced frequent and persistent dark spots and pigmentation, this treatment wouldn’t exacerbate that. In fact, the depth that the needle would penetrate and the strength of the radiofrequency waves can all be made suitable for different skin types. For example, as a first-timer, we kept both at a lower level to see how my skin would respond. 

My skin immediately following the treatment – the redness has already started to disperse around my cheeks and nose.

Now, a microneedling radiofrequency facial is not a treatment you hop on the bed and the aesthetician sets straight to work. Numbing cream is applied for up to 20 minutes, a medical questionnaire is completed and your technician will chat with you about any concerns and you’ll confirm the strength and depth of the treatment. 

However, once the numbing cream has been removed and your skin has been sanitised, the actual treatment isn’t lengthy. Working in a steady, strategic pattern, Milena performed microneedling with radiofrequency on the right side of my face before moving onto the left. The areas around the centre of my nose and forehead were treated last.

Unlike other skin treatments, combining microneedling and radiofrequency in one device means that your skin is only being treated once. There’s no “going over” sections two or three times, so to say. Your aesthetician might work on missed areas but not the same section over and over again. 

My skin two hours post treatment – faint grid pattern visible and some residual redness.

How painful is a microneedling radiofrequency facial?

Thanks to the numbing cream, I didn’t feel the majority of the treatment. That is to say, I experienced no pain. (For reference, my pain tolerance is exceptionally low – wearing the wrong socks counts as an uncomfortable amount of pain in my world and I’ve left more than one waxing appointment early.) The more fatty areas of my face (cheeks and jaw) were painless; in the less fatty areas, it felt like a quick pinch. Almost like a faint pinprick – startling but not overwhelming. 

The Potenza device can emit two forms of radiofrequency – bipolar and monopolar. With bipolar radiofrequency, the current is passed between two electrodes, creating a more intense and targeted treatment. Monopolar (the type used on my skin) passes between one electrode and a grounding current placed in the middle of your upper back. This lowers the potential pain and keeps the energy created at a lower level. Your aesthetician will discuss both these options with you.

24 hours post-treatment – no residual redness, very faint lattice pattern still visible, some areas pink.

How long does the skin stay red, pink or purple after the treatment and when do you see the benefits?

“Depending on the type of treatment received, you should expect redness and slight puffiness, which is normal up to 48 hours after the treatment. Slight bronzing or darkening of the skin is normal, and the skin will feel slightly rough as it is healing. It should be completely back to normal a week later, and results will start showing four weeks post-treatment as new collagen is being produced,” says Milena.

The first day after my treatment, the redness had totally disappeared – the areas where I had blemishes remained but the surrounding skin had returned to its normal tone. Faint “bronzing”, incredibly small brown spots, appeared in certain areas where I had had microneedling but unless you were inspecting my face with a microscope, you wouldn’t have noticed. 

Two weeks post microneedling radiofrequency facial – significantly reduced hyperpigmentation, more even skin tone and brighter, plumper skin.

As early as six days post-treatment, I could already feel and see how much plumper and more “full” my skin felt. I suffer from sensitive, reactive skin and it can often look papery and sallow, peppered with angry patches of red. Not only did my skin tone look more even and luminescent but the texture had improved too. Two persistent dark spots on my chin (the effect of tiny pimples that never came to a head) had significantly reduced – something that would usually take up to eight weeks to disappear otherwise.

How should I look after my skin following a microneedling with radiofrequency facial?

For the first two days, you’re advised to avoid all make-up and only use gentle cleansers and your regular SPF. As Milena explained to me, after a microneedling treatment, it’s best to minimise the volume of bacteria being introduced to the skin. That’s not to say the products themselves contain bacteria but the brushes you’ve been using for a while probably do.

Also, this is not the time to be switching up your usual SPF. Tried and tested is the name of the game to minimise reactivity post-facial. 

So, would I have this treatment again? 

Without a shadow of a doubt. As a non-surgical treatment that doesn’t require the use of multiple products with long ingredient lists, I was able to let go of the fear of having an allergic reaction or my skin disliking what was being applied. Plus, the fact that I could feel (and see) my skin improving day-on-day, knowing it was making it more resilient, firmer and plumper while also lasting for up to 18 weeks – I’m a fan. 

Main image: Morgan Fargo

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