I've previously explained here the horrific tale of how patches of acne appeared on each of my cheeks and overnight turned into pockmark scars, and I wrote about my first cosmetic surgery consultation at Transform here, and the microdermabrasion treatment I had here. Happy with the results I'd had thus far from dipping my toes into the waters of acne-scar treatment I went to meet Dr. Kent and was left feeling confident that Dermaroller was the best non-surgical cosmetic treatment to improve my scarring. It didn't stop me being nervous as heck on the day though, luckily everyone at Transform is absolutely lovely, and as soon as I arrived I was being offered tea and a comfy seat. I had to go in to Dr. Kent's treatment room to have numbing cream applied to my face half an hour before the actual procedure, and I wondered why Dr. Kent then offered me a seat in a private room. As soon as I caught sight of myself in the mirror I could see why; I looked like someone who had very badly applied a thick, white face mask. It was definitely nice to be spared the ladyshame of sitting in the waiting room.
When it was time for the Dermaroller Dr. Kent got me to lie down and prodded my face to check the cream had fully numbed it. There was a lot of "Does this hurt? What about this?" I could feel the pressure of objects poking in to my skin, but not their sharpness. The Dermaroller is a small wheel of spikes on a handle (above) that is wheeled into the skin. The teensy spikes enter and exit the skin, leaving behind a trail of microscopic punctures. The aim is to induce collagen production to repair the skin in response to this micro-damage, which will not only improve the general texture and tone of the facial skin, but it will also reduce the appearance of scars and fine lines.
Dr. Kent starts on my forehead, telling me this will be the most painful area of the face, and it's better to get it over with. She is not lying. Any numbing powers that the cream had minutes before seem to fly out the window and the pain of the spike-wheel being rubbed over this boney area is intense. I nearly got up and left. "You did great!" I'm told (as my eyes water from both pain and emotion), and then Dr. Kent surprises me by reaching for a syringe and injecting my cheeks several times. "Er... what's that?" I ask. She tells me it's 'extra local anaesthetic' because she really wants to work hard on the scarred areas on my cheeks. Oh god. I'm thinking that it's good I'm not scared of needles (the syringe type, not the Dermaroller type, though those were obviously not my favourite at this point) as I'd had no warning I'd be injected. Dr. Kent's method is to go fast and furious and get it over with quickly. At one point I ask for a break and I'm told no, which makes me laugh now, but looking back, I'm thankful that the process wasn't drawn out. I was also glad for the extra numbing on the cheeks because I could feel Dr. Kent pushing down on them with some force and wheeling ferociously. I think if anyone walked in it at this point it would look like I was having some kind of medieval torture. When the wheel goes over my under-eye area it smarts, as does my chin, and I actually refuse to have my upper lip done because I don't think I can take the pain.
A mere fifteen minutes later Dr. Kent is wiping the tiny spots of blood on my face where the puncture marks are, then rubs a cooling gel on to my face before adding sunscreen. When I look in the mirror I'm taken aback to see someone with bleeding bruises on their cheeks, and a bruised line under one eye that looks like I'd been hit there. My cheeks look like the grazed knees of a child that's fallen off their bike. I sat back in the waiting room for half an hour, waiting for the adrenalin to wear off and the slight bleeding to stop before heading off out on to the streets. I should have taken a cab straight home because during the journey by foot and tube people were looking at me and then quickly looking away, like they felt rude for staring in horror at such a messed up face.
The staff at Transform were great before and after my treatment, checking up on me at each stage, and offering me drinks and magazines to make me comfortable. They didn't bat an eyelid at my grazed/bruised face, so I was relieved that I must look like your average Dermaroller patient. I was told that the next day everything would have died down a lot, and by the end of the week my face would be back to normal, and this turned out to be totally correct. I'd definitely recommend having the next day off work, or trying to get the treatment done on a Friday, because the day of the treatment, and the day after, my skin was red, puffy, and very bruised, and you're not allowed to wear makeup for a few days.
You have to wait around six weeks for the treatment to take full effect because that's how long it takes the deeper cells to migrate to the surface and renew the skin, but I definitely saw a vast improvement within the first week. Once my face had calmed down I could see how fresh and vibrant the skin looked, and it felt incredibly soft. Unfortunately I had a side-effect of Dermaroller - I broke out in spots. This can happen if you have acne prone skin as the Dermaroller could possibly bring everything to the surface. It wasn't too bad, except for one huge cystic spot on one of my cheeks, which I could tell, with a sinking feeling of certainty, was going to just turn into a scar. It was like a dual happiness I felt I had for my new skin, and a dismay for my new scar. I've sadly been proved right, and within days the spot had shrunk right down, leaving a fresh pockmark which is still red, but will turn into an acne scar like the others did. The cruel irony of getting my scars treated and getting a new one! But please don't think this is something that would happen to you if you're having acne scars treated with Dermaroller, the chances of it happening are incredibly slim, and I was just unlucky - it's not the treatment itself that causes either acne or scarring.
Six weeks on and I am so happy with the results. I have even forgotten (kind of) the shock of the actual treatment, and the agony I felt as the numbing cream and local anaesthetic injections wore off later in the day. At my consultation a member of Transform's staff who'd had the Dermaroller treatment had told me that that Dr. Kent is the best, tough but brilliant, and this woman was a grandmother but looked about forty! Her skin was amazing, like a teenager's - the results of three Dermaroller treatments and some light botox. I'd been advised that a course of three Dermarollers was required to get the best results, and having seen how great one session makes the skin look I really want to go back and complete the course. I will have to prepare myself with some meditation or vodka, and make sure I book an Uber for the way home. It's not for the fainthearted, but it's over quickly, and the healing time is brief. My acne scars will never totally go, but they are so much smoother - I can wear foundation, cream blusher, even highlighter on them for the first time in years without them looking uneven and bumpy. Any acne scar sufferers who wear makeup will understand how amazing this feels - to get back some semblance of your old skin that you took for granted and previously wore makeup on problem-free. It's also great to get smoother, more vibrant, and younger looking skin on the non-scarred areas too, the abundance of collagen the treatment generates is a winner.
I really recommend a consultation with Dr. Kent, she is tough with her Dermarolling (and to be fair, she did warn me about this at the initial consultation), but she's a lovely person, and a brilliant dermatologist who will tell you whats what with your skin. Dermaroller has been an amazing non-surgical cosmetic solution to my acne scarring, if you have the same skin issue take a deep breath and try it.
A consultation is free at Transform, and each Dermaroller treatment is £250. A course of three is recommended for the best results. I was offered a free treatment in return for this post, plus my two previous posts about Transform, and my initial post on acne scarring that features an interview with Transform. All these posts are linked within this post.