Most of us might shudder at the thought of sticking your face with hundreds of needles 鈥 it sounds like something out of a slasher movie. But in the pursuit of flawless skin, editors and influencers are quick to make an exception, as micro-needling (AKA derma rolling) has become a top skincare treatment to stop the early signs of aging, increase radiance, and control oil production. Increasingly, however, the procedure has been used to help treat acne scars and hyperpigmentation.

Sure, it might seem counterintuitive to cause trauma to the skin when it鈥檚 already experienced similar damage and scarring, but dermatologist Carlos A. Charles, the founder of Derma di Colore in New York City, argues that the treatment actually improves the look of acne scars 鈥 no matter your skin tone 鈥 by stimulating the repair and growth of collagen. While scar treatments like intense pulsed light (IPL) and Fraxel lasers aren鈥檛 recommended for darker complexions due to their damaging side effects, micro-needling carries a much lower risk of further hyperpigmentation. In fact, a recent small study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that it worked wonders on hyperpigmentation in dark skin tones without making it worse.

But you can鈥檛 really erase dark or rough acne scars with the available over-the-counter derma rollers, as their short 0.2 to 0.5 mm needle lengths can鈥檛 reach the scar tissue and repair it. For that, you鈥檒l have to visit the dermatologist鈥檚 office or go to a medical spa where the 1.5 to 2 mm-long needles can penetrate through the scar tissue, break up the melanocytes that cause hyperpigmentation, and promote re-healing. 鈥淏y creating small areas of trauma to the skin, we can induce the skin鈥檚 repair mechanism to help treat scars,鈥 Charles says.

There might be a little bit of blood from the puncture wounds during the procedure, but that bleeding releases a series of epidermal growth factors that kick-start the healing process. It turns up collagen and elastin production to plump the skin as well as open up channels to increase the penetrating power of your skincare essentials. So it鈥檚 nothing to worry about, as at worst, you might leave the office with your skin looking a little pink and slightly swollen.

The in-office treatment offers pretty fast results, with some seeing significant improvement in the texture and tone in as little as a few days. That鈥檚 not to say additional at-home micro-needling treatment will further enhance your results. In fact, it can increase the chances of worsening the scars and further pigmentation if you don鈥檛 know what you鈥檙e doing.

Charles argues that for serious scar repair, especially for those with darker complexions, treatment is best left in the hands of professionals who can pretreat the skin with certain medications to minimize the risk of unwanted side effects. 鈥淲hen performed correctly by an experienced board-certified dermatologist, micro-needling can be performed on almost all skin types,鈥 he explains. 鈥淎lso, the appropriate depth and technique must be employed for optimal and safe results.鈥

To boost the brightening benefits of the treatment once you鈥檙e home, Charles recommends using serums infused with vitamin C, like Ole Henriksen Truth Serum ($48) or SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($166). 鈥淭opical vitamin C serums can be used after and in conjunction with micro-needling,鈥 he explains. 鈥淲e also will sometimes apply certain medications used to treat hyperpigmentation after the treatment to increase penetration of the active ingredients.鈥

If you decide to erase your scars with the treatment, be sure to visit a board-certified dermatologist or a licensed medical spa trained instead of trying your hand at it with an over-the-counter derma roller. Tapping professional practitioners will ensure you don鈥檛 make your scars or hyperpigmentation worse and prevent infection. Since the treatment has the potential to help many who might feel self-conscious about their acne scars be able to achieve a clear complexion, we don鈥檛 expect its popularity to subside any time soon.

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(Photo via Getty and Ole Henriksen.)