When it comes to the pursuit of flawless skin, we’re living in an exciting time of new treatment options—both at home and in professional settings. Two of our latest faves? Laser therapy and microneedling. They’re some of the hottest skin resurfacing treatments around. But, of course, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless products and therapies on the market. And because there’s a whole new world of skincare to discover every day, we always turn to the experts for guidance.

We sat down with Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce to talk about the differences between microneedling and laser therapy. Below, the board-certified dermatologist breaks down the pros and cons of each, how to effectively combine the two treatments, and everything you need to know about supporting your softest, glowiest skin yet.

Featured image by Teal Thomsen.

Image by Teal Thomsen
Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, MD
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Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon specializing in the practice of both cosmetic and medical dermatology. She views cosmetic dermatology as synergistic to a happy, healthy lifestyle and regularly counsels her patients in a balanced, natural approach to both cosmetic and medical dermatology.

Laser Therapy and Microneedling: An Overview

There’s a big difference between laser therapy and microneedling, and it all comes down to how the two treatments work. By design, lasers use light as energy. This allows lasers to have a specific target to treat in the skin, such as broken red veins or brown spots, without damaging surrounding unaffected tissue. It’s a very selective treatment.

Microneedling is the mechanical method of creating thousands of tiny channels of injury all over a treatment area that force the skin to heal. The results are not selective to a specific problem, but you can see improvement in many issues by nature of causing collagen regeneration and skin turnover.

Microneedling is often combined with PRP (platelet rich plasma), which helps to boost results and healing time. It’s referred to as the “vampire facial.” This involves drawing the patient’s blood and spinning it quickly to separate the red blood cells from the yellow plasma, which is full of platelets and growth factors. The plasma portion is applied to the skin during microneedling, or injected directly into the treatment area.

Both treatments are used to heal certain types of cosmetic concerns, such as acne scarring and rejuvenation. While other issues, like broken red blood vessels, really need a laser to fix.

Image by Belathée Photography

The Pros and Cons of Microneedling

The Pros

A relatively quick recovery time (about a day or two of a light sunburn appearance) and fewer potential side effects. Microneedling is also safe to use on all skin types. If you’re looking to be more proactive about taking care of your skin, microneedling is a quick and easy way to do so without much risk.

The Cons

The results are often subtle. It can take numerous microneedling treatment sessions to achieve the results you desire, and still, some conditions are best treated with a laser.

Image by Teal Thomsen

The Pros and Cons of Laser Therapy

The Pros

In the hands of an experienced physician, laser treatments can often provide quicker, more dramatic, and longer-lasting results than microneedling treatments. If you have a specific problem you would like to address, it may be the case that you are better suited for a laser treatment to meet your goals.

The Cons

When it comes to laser therapy and treatments, greater reward comes with greater risks. Because lasers deliver heat to the skin, we see more side effects (such as temporary darkening or bruising) and longer downtime due to post-treatment swelling and redness. Lasers can also flare certain medical conditions, so it’s important to have a thorough consultation with a professional before diving in.

Can laser therapy and microneedling be used effectively together?

Absolutely! We can target specific issues with a laser and then perform microneedling for all-over skin rejuvenation on the same day. Or, you can alternate treatments on about a monthly basis. It all depends on what you are trying to address.

Who is an ideal candidate to try these treatments?

An ideal candidate feels empowered to ask questions regarding their treatment. They prepare for the procedure and commit to doing their part during recovery. More specifically, patients need to be free of active infections, rashes, or acne in the treatment areas. They also need to avoid sun exposure pre- and post-procedure as this increases side effects.

This post was originally published on January 23, 2020, and has since been updated.

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Comments (14)
  1. 1
    Eva February 13, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve been doing microneedling for a few weeks and I’ve been very happy with the results. My skin is definitely softer, more plump and moisturized, but you’re right, they’re subtle changes! I would consider minor laser treatments to help with broken blood vessels, dark spots, and general anti-aging. But it always comes down to having a doctor you trust.

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

    Reply
  2. 2
    Jasmine February 27, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Does microneedling hurt? What kind of pain is experienced, if any?

    Reply
    • Monica February 6, 2020 at 5:04 pm

      It kind of depends on your pain threshold. Overall, I would compare it to having a rubberband snapped over my face numerous times. Where the skin is thinner i. e., the forehead and temples, the pain is intensified. But I would say the most painful area is around the mouth since there are more nerve endings there. Fortunately they offer numbing cream beforehand, so the pain is uncomfortable but bearable. I’ve had microneedling done numerous times and I would recommend doing it with PRP; so your own blood plasma. Also referred to as a “vampire facial.” Not only does it heal much quicker, but it also yields better results. And if you’re already doing (enduring) the treatment, why not optimize the results? In general I would recommend this procedure as it gave me incredibly beautiful results. My complexion was vastly improved and my skin was glowing! It also plumped up my skin, making me look younger and more rested. No external cream or exfoliating routine could even come close to the results a vampire facial gives. I wouldn’t worry about the minimal pain and definetly give it a try. And what’s that old saying? No pain, no gain? Lol. Make sure you find a reputable medi spa and go for it! I am so glad I did. Once you heal and see the results, you will love it and be hooked. Good luck and if you decide to do it enjoy the benefits of beautiful, youthful, bouncy even skin 🙂

      Reply
  3. 3
    Monica November 12, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Good article! I had three rounds of Fraxel laser for minor acne scarring and for me unfortunately it didn’t do anything for the surface or the few little indents I want gone on my face. I am going to try Micro needling next – it is about half the cost also!

    Reply
  4. 4
    beth v January 31, 2019 at 10:09 am

    I did TEN sessions of pretty deep microneedling here in Austin in hopes of fixing texture issues on my face from acne scarring. I was so hopeful but honestly the results have been nowhere near worth the money. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Fraxel, Monica! I was considering that next. Maybe I just need to keep researching.

    Reply
  5. 5
    Corey Thiel July 14, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    I’m interested in the differences between laser treatments. I’ve had one doctor recommended CO2 laser and another recommended using a plasma pen. How would the results differ between these approaches?

    Reply
    • Debra S. October 30, 2020 at 3:39 am

      CO2 is the master blaster. It is more extreme and more downtime. Best for wrinkles. There are some ricks involved. Depends on your healing ability.

      Reply
  6. 6
    Angelina Carmella December 16, 2020 at 8:42 am

    In laser treatment, single-wavelength light is used that does not spread and target a single point. Moreover, it can be controlled and have the ability to travel long distances. All these characteristics make the laser procedure the right choice for treatment.

    Reply
  7. 7
    Sabiya July 6, 2021 at 9:24 am

    I have done one session on microneedling .. but I want to do laser treatment first to get the best results ..
    what should I do? Is it good to do laser first ?

    Reply
  8. 8
    Rajnikant August 1, 2021 at 11:20 am

    For how much days the darkening will be there after lasering the skin?

    Reply
  9. 9
    pawel September 26, 2021 at 12:42 am

    thanks for the post! which is better for acne scares? and how many sessions are recommended?

    Reply