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  • Writer's picturePenn Smith

Cosmetic Needling (with before & after photos!)

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

I am such a huge advocate of microneedling. Oftentimes when we hear about microneedling we associate that with 'medical needling' or collagen induction therapy (CIT). Whether CIT is performed in the treatment room or at home, it is an extremely effective treatment for anti-aging. But CIT doesn't come without caveats. As the needle depths are 0.5mm+, extra care needs to be taken with hygiene and aftercare. Also, those deeper needles used in medical needling can cause discomfort, so many prefer to prep the skin with a numbing cream, adding an extra step to the process. Finally, redness and peeling can persist for several days with CIT, making it less than ideal for periods where we can't allow for a bit of flakey downtime.

Even with all these caveats, make no mistake, I LOVE medical microneedling (CIT). I think of CIT as my best friend in skincare. Thankfully, my best friend has a younger sister called Cosmetic Needling. And she's, really, really cool and she's my other BFF 🥰.

Think of Cosmetic Needling as, quite literally, a less intense version of CIT. Cosmetic needling may not be your 'exciting' best friend who takes you on the superhighway to collagen induction; but she's your other best friend - the steady one, bringing out the best in you('re skin).


  • Releases growth factors which overtime can impact the production of collagen and elastin

  • Thickens the epidermis

  • Evens pigmentation

  • Increases product penetration from 10% (without needling) to upward of 80% (with needling), enabling you to 'infuse' products more deeply to address a variety of skincare issues (laxity, pigmentation, lack of glow, etc)

*Penn Smith Skincare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program. Many links are affiliate links, meaning I am compensated when you shop through these at no extra fee to you.


  1. Cleanse (you could even dermaplane or do a light microdermabrasion first if you have the time - but not essential)

  2. Use an essence or toner. Because Cosmetic needling is a modality all about infusing the skin with amazing ingredients, we start with an essence or toner that has lots of 'goodies' appropriate for your skin the

  3. Grab your microneedling pen or derma roller! If using a pen I favor the 36 pin cartridges - but the 12 pins are just fine too! Use high molecular weight hyaluronic acid for slip with the pen (but not necessary for a dermal roller!!). I like to work in circular motions. It should take 5-10 mins depending on whether you go down to your neck and chest (I recommend that you do!!)

  4. Splash face with water to remove excess hyaluronic acid and provide a fresh surface for the next step.


Microneedling impacts our skin barrier (we're poking thousands of microscopic holes in that barrier!) and can cause dehydration, so it is really smart to get some ingredients in right away that will rehydrate.

The serum steps:

  1. Copper peptide: copper is integral in so many enzymatic processes in our body one BIG one is collagen synthesis. Topical copper peptides are a HUGE favorite of mine. Do check out my copper peptides videos for even more information. My current copper peptide:

  2. Growth factors: more collagen please! Growth factors can amplify this treatment if you are working on fine lines and hydration.

  3. Retinoid. I don't recommend using a Retin-A/Tretinoin after microneedling, as for most people, an OTC retinoid will be more than strong enough (although I do think for general use Retin-A/Tret are amazing). Deeper - skin rejuvenation.

  4. Moisturizer. This is really important because we want to hydrate, soothe and promote repair and seal in water. This one is great:

  5. Other good options for post-Cosmetic Microneedling serums are brightening serums with arbutin, glutathione, tranexamic acid (a favorite), and beta glucan. The choices are many and the list is LONG, making this a very customizable treatment! A good one is this one by Naturium:


You may still be a bit pink but all of those channels we created are already closed. In the morning we'll use actives that complement those we used the right after micrneedling.

  1. Cleanse. Feel free to wash your face with a gentle cleanser - it can be nice to get off any flakes and product that you applied after needling.

  2. Vitamin C. Is the compliment to CP (the night before), GF and retinoids - working synergistically to promote collagen and fresh, beautiful skin- I like this one by Strivectin (although it has's otherwise amazing! An interesting Vitamin C from Strivectin (does have fragrance so be aware, otherwise super interesting):

  3. Antioxidant. I love Maysama!!! (Code Penny10 for a 10% discount)

  4. Moisturiser (use what you have and love!)

  5. SUNSCREEN!! See below for my recommendations :)

Find more Cosmetic Microneedling supplies here

The key to Cosmetic Microneedling is CONSISTENCY. I think it can be very helpful to plan your microneedling out so it fits with your schedule and your other skincare 'commitments' such as microcurrent, radio frequency and peels.

Download PDF • 736KB


*This before/after is Dr. Setterfield himself, three years apart (ages 51 and 54).

* I've included FAQ at the very bottom of this blog, so do look there if you need any clarification!!


REAL needle dermaroller

Complete Skin Solutions Copper Peptides

Drmtlgy Retinol (Code Penn 20% off) La Roche Posay Toleriane Night Cream

DERMAL NEEDLING BOOK (before and afters are IN THIS BOOK!)

Maysama Serum (this green rooibos rather than green tea, but it shares many properties, and I LOVE it)

US/UK: (Code Penny10 gets 10% off)

OTHER products I like:

Top 2 Dr Pens on Amazon:

Topical Vitamin C

Drmtlgy CE Ferulic is excellent

Use code MH991 for 20%off


Sunday Riley Luna Retinol (6.5%)

Cos de Baha Retinol Serum (2.5%)

Retinal (a.k.a. Retinaldehyde): This is my preferred form of non-non-prescription retinoids as it is stronger than retinol yet tends to cause far less irritation. I find this works well for beginners and sensitive skin.

Osmosis Renew (0.15%) or Correct (0.075%) (use code penn20 for 20% off)

Avene RetrinAL (0.05%)

MyChelle Retinaldehyde (1.0% yes, I double-checked!!) It contains a special formulation called IconicA® which seems to make it more stable. I'm not sure if the others use this too?®-was-created-first-stable-retinaldehyde-industry

Gentle cleanser

Vanicream is amazing


CeraVe tinted is awesome

Drmtlgy tinted spf 46 is another favorite code Penn for 20% off


Mito Red LED code PENNY for a discount on any Mito products!



Q. How much time do I have after needling to infuse products before the channels close up?

A. Work fast. Think 15-20 minutes to get products infused.

Q. Can I use my serums to microneedle directly into the skin rather than using high molecular weight hydronic acid?

A. Yes you can. Cosmetic needling is MUCH more flexible in this regard (than medical needling). I like to use HA so I don't "waste" the more expensive serums. But use what you like!

Q. I've seen your videos where you use gloves and alcohol swabs prior to medical microneedling. Is that necessary with Cosmetic Microneedling?

A. The risk of infection with cosmetic needling is incredibly low. Local and systemic infections are not likely so while we should still be aware of sanitation it is no where the same as medical needling.

Q. Are there any products/serums that I should NOT use immediately after Cosmetic Microneedling?

A. I personally avoid AHAs and BHAs (irritating).

Q. What’s the real difference in tools.- Roller vs. Pen vs. Derminator vs. Stamp?

A. Just different ways of making the holes people. Use what feels right for you :)

Q. Do growth factors have a special role in Cosmetic Microneedling (will I get more benefit from my growth factors if I use them during/after cosmetic needling vs. on normal clean skin?)

A. Yes! These are messengers. Getting them "in" to the skin will encourage the release of MORE growth factors deeper in the skin where collagen production can be affected.

Q. Are there any ingredients that shouldn’t use DURING and IMMEDIATELY AFTER Cosmetic Microneedling?

A. I try to avoid fragrance and citrus peel oils. Anything that normally irritates your skin slightly will irritate it much more with needling.

Q. What are the best serums to use in cosmetic needling if I have hyperpigmentaion?

A. Queen 7-1 brightening serum (a cocktail of brighteners)

Vitamin C



Q. Can I reuse Dr. Pen cartridges after cosmetic needling if I sterilize them?

A. They are one time use cartridges.

Q. If I’m needling my face and immediately after my neck/décolletage do I need to change cartridges?

A. No, one should be fine with this shallow depth.

Q. What speed settings should I use on my Dr. Pen?

A. I always use the highest two settings with cosmetic needling.

Q. Is it okay for me to share my microneedling pen with another member of my household?

A. Yes, but never cartridges.

Q. I'm trying to save money. Can't I sterilise my Dr. Pen cartridge and get a second use out of it?

A. I don't recommend it.


Q. I prefer to use a derma roller. What should I look for? Are there any that you recommend?

A. ALWAYS look for the needles going all the way through the roller. If you can't see the entire needle skip that device!

Q. How do I clean/store a derma roller between use?

A. I show roller sanitation in this video

Q. If I use a derma roller how often do I need to replace it (I'm using it 1x per week)

A. 10-30 uses is ideal. I know that that is a range but you need to assess your roller. Inspect it closely for bent needles before each use.


Q. I have an LED mask - can I use that safely after cosmetic needling?

A. Yes, you would use this immediately PRIOR to needling on clean skin.

Q. How quickly after cosmetic needling can I resume my... (microcurrnet, Peels, RF, etc)?

A. The very next day you may do any treatment you like as long as you watch for irritation.

Q. How quickly after cosmetic needling can I do a light/medium/strong peel?

A. The next day on. Obviously waiting a little longer is better but technically you may as soon as the very next day.


Q. Do I need to numb before cosmetic needling? Are there any risks?

No. There are always risks. Please research even more especially if you have allergies, auto immune issues or a history of adverse reactions to treatments.

Hope this helps!!

Love you all, stay safe!



FTC: Links in this post are affiliate ~ Please note that all links on this page are affiliate and I participate in the Amazon Associates program which is an affiliate program. Any time you see an Amazon link it is affiliate. If you choose to use my links please know that I appreciate it!

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Content provided on this blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or skin related diagnosis or treatment options. Information on this website should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare/skin professional. The statements made about specific products throughout this website are not to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. It is important that you check labels to determine if a product is right for you. Before starting any treatment at home consult a health care or skin care professional to determine if it’s right for you.

Please join my private Facebook group for more information on Cosmetic needling and lots of chat on all things skincare!!

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Deborah Cole
Deborah Cole
Apr 01, 2021

If I want to numb, when would I do that? I've done cosmetic needling twice now and I'm very jumpy because of the pricking. It's not painful, but I can't keep a steady hand or keep the pen on my face smoothly. I have an LED that I used before cosmetic needling, so do I numb after that and then wash it off and go on to toner and the rest of the steps?


Feb 09, 2021

If I want to do micro needling & micro current treatments how long after a Medical (at home) micro needling treatment can I use micro current? For Both face and body?


Feb 04, 2021

Thank you for such great information! How long after medical needling should we wait to cosmetic or nano needle? I know we can cosmetic or nano needle once a week, but should we wait a certain amount of time after medical needling to resume?


Jan 20, 2021

Great information! I also watched your video and it was very helpful. I recently started cosmetic needling and am planning on working my way up to medical needling!


Brenda Barrelle
Brenda Barrelle
Jan 19, 2021

Hi Penny! Thanks for all your great advice, I've been following you for over a year now and my skin has never been better. Microneedling has really improved my skin. I do medical (.5mm) with my hydropen once per month and then cosmetic with my derma roller (.25mm) maybe once per week. I feel like a scientist the way I study ingredients on and take in all your advice. Wondering how you feel about this daily serum protocol? In the am I'm using Le Mieux Stem cell EFG serum (or the EFG Booster, love these), The Ordinary Copper + Buffet, and I'm going to now layer in the new SuperGoop Daily Dose Vitamin C +SPF 40 Serum. I'm…

Deborah Cole
Deborah Cole
Apr 01, 2021
Replying to

I think you're right about the SuperGoop Vitamin C +SPF 40 is fine with copper peptides. I had to look that up too because I used good molecules niacinamide toner with vitamin c in it. What I found out was, if the Vitamin C is not expensive as hell, it's a Vitamin C derivative. Think Skinceuticals for $180 and/or is the CE with ferulic 15% l-asorbic kind of thing, which is the brand I use in the mornings because my skin does not tolerate environmental stressors well so I want a good Vitamin C, a real Vitamin C. Why not try the Good Molecules niacinamide with vitamin c and arbutin that Penn has recommended instead because she recommended it for…

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