When you tell people you’re going to have your face poked all over with tiny needles, you get two responses: “Yech!” and then, “Why?”

I’ll tell you why. I want the smoothest, freshest-looking, glowiest skin—and to that end, many dermatologists suggest microneedling, a process in which a small device embedded with a cluster of sterile, retractable needles is pressed all over the face, causing “micro-injuries.” The skin rushes to heal those injuries with new collagen and elastin, which, if you’re my age (66), are literally face-saving; they help keep it from looking like all the stuffing’s been pulled out of it.

There are at-home kits, but doctors aren’t fond of them because they say the needling typically doesn’t go deep enough to get appreciable results—and because infection is possible. So I made an appointment with New York City dermatologist Cheryl Karcher, MD, who uses the EndyMed Intensif microneedle device. The Intensif also emits pulses of radio-frequency energy to further tighten skin and minimize pores. In the equivalent of a skincare trifecta, Karcher suggested I increase the benefits by rubbing into the “micro-injuries” 6 milliliters of my own platelet-rich plasma, which she extracted from a vial of my blood drawn just before the Intensif procedure. (If you’ve read about the “vampire facial,” you’ve probably seen photos of famous faces smeared with blood. On me, Karcher used only the yellowish plasma because it contains beneficial growth factors.) Numbing cream is applied pre-procedure; still, I have two words for you: staple gun. Karcher moved the device over my face in increments of about an inch as she released the needles. It really hurt, especially around my lips and eyes. The plasma, warm and sticky, is mostly absorbed during the minutes after the needling, and though Karcher said I could rinse it off, for good measure I left it on all day.

For about 24 hours, I was very pink, with one small red dot on my forehead, and for several days, my skin peeled a bit. By the end of the next week, my cheeks looked smoother. Over a month or so, as the collagen and elastin regeneration continues, I should see more glowiness and a little tightening, says Karcher. Which seems well worth the yech and ouch to me.

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