Oily skin supposedly comes with some benefits—studies have shown that it may help delay wrinkles, for one—yet I’ve always looked upon my own shiny complexion as a curse. My makeup melts off within four hours of applying it, the pores in my T-zone are visible from 20 feet away, and I have to be super-vigilant about my diet and skin-care regimen to keep from breaking out. And even then, I still end up with a chin full of hormonal zits at certain times of the month.
So when I heard that new Los Angeles skin studio The Things We Do was offering a “micro-infusion” treatment perfect for greasy-faced gals like myself, I zoomed downtown to test it out. Essentially, it uses a special microneedling device to plant a cocktail of ingredients into the top layer of skin. One of these ingredients is Botox, which has shown promise as a method of reducing oil production, though it’s certainly an off-label use.
Even though I’m in my late 30s, I’ve always resisted getting cosmetic injections—no judgement, I’m just lazy and scared of large needles—but The Things We Do founder Vanessa Lee, RN, assured me that this treatment would have a very different effect than you’d normally expect from Botox. “The Botox is only in the surface of the skin,” she explains. “It doesn’t change muscle movement—this is only a skin treatment.” It does, however, “soften” excess oil production in the more surface-level sebaceous glands, as Lee puts it. It can also have the same effect on sweat glands, which can be helpful for people with hyperhydrosis, AKA excessively sweaty skin.
It’s important to remember that Botox and filler are regulated as drugs, and since a facial like this one is technically an off-label use, you want to make sure you’re going to somewhere that you’ve vetted and that’s legit. And, as Lee says, certainly keep your expectations in check. The results from these procedures are closer to that of a great facial than an injectable appointment. “I think it may help for sure, but you’re not getting the maximum benefit,” according to Mona Gohara, MD, a Connecticut-based dermatologist. “It’s kind of like at-home hair-removal lasers, as opposed to in-office hair-removal lasers in that you’ll get some but not all the benefit.” With the promise of less oily skin at hand, however, I signed myself up.
So just how does a microinfusion facial work? The magic is in the stamp-like tool: The Things We Do has its own proprietary version, which consists of 49 hair-width needles that puncture the skin at a depth of 0.5mm. (Microneedling tools can have up to 3-mm needles.) Each needle is hollow, and the tool has a chamber designed to be filled with a concoction of skin-boosting ingredients. These blends are different depending on the skin clinic, but at The Things We Do, the standard formula includes glutathione, a potent antioxidant with brightening properties; a hyaluronic acid dermal filler that plumps the skin; and, of course, Botox, which is meant to subside sebum. When the tool is pushed gently into skin it deposits the ingredients directly into the epidermis (injectables for what it’s worth, are placed much deeper within skin).
Micro-infusion differs from regular microneedling in a few ways, says Lee. For one thing, the tool itself is gentler on skin than dermarollers and other microneedling devices. “It’s a straight in-and-out poke, so there’s a lot less surface area of injury—and less chance of being susceptible to photo damage and sun damage afterwards,” Lee says. (Less recovery time, too—a matter of hours with micro-infusion, versus days for other forms of microneedling.) The second difference is that it involves a more direct infusion of ingredients into skin, which lends itself to longer-lasting results, but by and large, they are quite comparable.
In my experience, the treatment itself was pretty painless and over in less than 10 minutes. There were a few tender areas when the nurse did a second pass with the stamper, but overall I left with minimal redness and only a little bit of stinging. I was instructed to stay bare-faced for the rest of the day—no sunscreen, either, so bring a hat if you try it—and to avoid a strenuous workout that night.
I didn’t really notice any difference in my complexion until about a week after the treatment, but at that point the change in oil production was pretty dramatic. Not only did my foundation stay put all day long, but my skin was perfectly clear and luminous for about a month after the treatment—even around my period, which never happens—and any breakouts after the 30-day mark were minor. Two months after my first micro-infusion I went back to try the treatment again, just to make sure I wasn’t experiencing beginner’s luck. And so far, the results have been even better than the first time around.
On average, Lee says people can wait three months before they return for another session—but, even though it’s just a seasonal thing, it’s an investment. At $650, I sadly can’t afford to get professionally micro-infused on the reg, but Lee’s developed a solution for that. You can now buy the exact tool used in The Things We Do’s treatments, with vials of a special serum designed for monthly at-home use ($225 for four uses). In place of Botox and filler, this one includes snail mucin—another substance rich in hyaluronic acid—and glycolic acid. So even though this version won’t impact oiliness in the exact same way as the in-office treatment, the glycolic acid could help keep breakouts at bay. If that’s the case, I think I can overcome my needle aversion for good.
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