Aesthetics explores the use of a new needle system that aims to biostimulate the skin
Invented by Italian Professor Giorgio Fippi in 2012, Needle Shaping is a non-invasive technique that aims to create new tissue in the skin, increase collagen and elastin fibres and provide a lifting effect. With the use of acupuncture needles and an electrical current, this technique is different to other skin-stimulating aesthetic treatments currently available.
“Needle Shaping describes the technique of inserting acupuncture needles into the skin and then applying a mixed galvanic current to the needles,”1 explains aesthetic practitioner Dr Dev Patel, who offers this treatment in his clinic.
“Once the current is applied, it shifts the water in the skin away from the needle tip, which effectively dehydrates the tissue. This then allows each needle (which you turn with your hand once placed) to pick up elastin and collagen fibres and form a natural ‘thread’. In actual fact, I refer to the treatment on my website as the ‘natural thread lift’ as effectively, that is what it is.”
“Needle Shaping describes the technique of inserting acupuncture needles into the skin and then applying a mixed galvanic current to the needles”
Once the ‘thread’ is formed, traction is then applied to the needle, which results in an autologous microtransplantation of tissue, in other words, a transplantation of the patient’s own tissue. Ultimately, this aims to result in a lifting and volumising effect in the treatment area.2
“It’s not as aggressive as actual threads,” claims Dr Patel, adding, “and although you do need multiple treatments, four on average, the cost of a course of this treatment is less than one thread treatment.” As well as the autologous microtransplantation of tissue, the process is said by Fusion GT – the distributors of the treatment – to trigger a production of collagen and elastin, which will happen over a couple of weeks post treatment.2
Dr Patel explains that the treatment can be used on any area of skin that has wrinkles, laxity and lack of volume, and you can even use it to treat concave scars. “The most common areas I treat are the neck and lower face, although I have also used it to give patients a brow lift; with patients I have seen with asymmetric brows, I have worked on the lower brow and within one to two treatments the brow is back to where it originally was. Advanced users can also use this treatment for lip volumising and in combination with other devices.”
In addition, Dr Patel says that the treatment can be used anywhere on the body, including lifting the breasts and buttocks,3 although he does not have experience in this area. “I have seen one buttock lift where the practitioner only used a radiofrequency treatment and then Needle Shaping; you do need to put in a lot of needles when treating a larger area such as this, which is very time intensive, and the same can be said for the breast lift – it does give a good result but it needs four to six treatments. Smaller areas, such as the face and neck, provide fantastic results in just three to four sessions.”
For the treatment, acupuncture needles are placed superficially in the dermis, with just the tip of the needle in the skin. The number of needles used will vary on the area being treated and the severity of the ageing skin. Once the needles are in place, a galvanic current, which is programmed with basic parameters (pulse width and pulse repetition rate), is passed through the needles.2
The treatment comes with recommended user settings and treatment protocols,2 but Dr Patel claims it is very user dependent. “Since I’ve been using this treatment the results get better and better as I have developed my own protocols. The way you place the needles, the way they point, where to strategically place your needles; it is very much something you get a feel for.”
“To date, all my patients have said they have noticed an improvement in the quality of their skin and by the end of the treatment, they all have that ‘glow’"
Dr Patel adds, “On some occasions, we have used just one acupuncture needle on the whole of the face, and in this circumstance you would put the current on a lower setting, as the energy is consistently carried along the whole needle.”
A minimum of four treatments, two weeks apart, is needed to get the best result in most areas, and if the patient has advanced ageing or skin laxity, then it may be worthwhile doing up to eight treatments to gain the most from it.
“A good time to sit down and have a review with the patient is after the fourth treatment. If they decide to stop there, then I always encourage them to come back for maintenance treatments, but it is very much budget-dependent for the patient. I always say to them that if they can come in twice a year, then that’s great, but if they can come in up to four times, even better!”
Dr Patel explains that by the second visit, half of the patients will say that they have felt a small amount of tightening and can see a slight result, and by the third visit, the majority of patients will report moderate skin tightening and a lifting effect.
He says, “To date, all my patients have said they have noticed an improvement in the quality of their skin and by the end of the treatment, they all have that ‘glow’.” Dr Patel adds, “The first patient I treated and took before and after photographs of, I only did four treatments of Needle Shaping, plus four fat dissolving treatments using a different piece of electro-current equipment. The patient said that she had seen a great improvement and that she didn’t need to see the before and after photos again because all her friends had told her how nice her skin was looking. So you do get skin rejuvenation as well as lifting and tightening.”
Complications and side effects are said to be minimal to none
Dr Patel has also noted that in some patients there has been an enhancement effect in the cheeks, “You can see some lifting and when placing the needles in the cheeks I have seen the equivalent of what could have been 1ml of filler in each cheek after four Needle Shaping treatments. You can’t guarantee it, but you can say to patients ‘between volumising, lifting and skin rejuvenation, you’re going to get a really nice improvement’.”
Dr Patel explains there are no stipulations for the treatment, but patients that present with severe skin laxity and ageing would be recommended to have an alternative treatment. “For severe ageing I would recommend something a bit more hard-hitting, such as a fractional laser skin resurfacing treatment, and then maybe discuss dermal fillers.
However, sometimes there are patients who don’t want the alternatives, so if they really want to go ahead with Needle Shaping then I let them know we might not get the same results and that results are cumulative over a period of time.” He adds, “This treatment is not for the patient with unrealistic, high expectations or one who wants quick results.”
Complications and side effects are said to be minimal to none, according to Dr Patel, “The only side effects I have personally witnessed are brusing and swelling from the needles. Due to the nature of the treatment, I don’t believe there are any other risks,” he says.
The non-invasive nature of this treatment and the subsequent positive results it has attained has made this a highly requested treatment at Dr Patel’s clinic, and he believes it is unique, “This is the only technique I am aware of that works in this way – the microtransplantation of the patient's own material with biostimulation.” He concludes, “Although there are, of course, lots of devices out there that result in biostimulation of the skin, this treatment is quick, relatively painless and as low risk as one could hope for with an aesthetic treatment.”