Cupping, Microneedling Might Improve the Look of Aging Skin

In an experimental rodent study, scientists discovered that microneedling combined with cupping might promote skin rejuvenation by increasing skin thickness and collagen levels.

Microneedling is a technique that creates tiny holes in the skin's surface to trigger collagen production. This increased collagen can help thicken and regenerate the skin, bringing back a more youthful appearance.

In contrast, cupping is the application of gentle negative pressure on the skin, which increases blood flow. Though practitioners mostly use this alternative medicine therapy for treating pain, some research suggests it may also benefit the skin.

Recently, scientists wanted to determine if adding cupping to microneedling could produce cellular skin changes and increase skin thickness and collagen levels.

The research, published in the June issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, concludes that these combined methods could be an easy and effective facial rejuvenation treatment.

To conduct the experiments, scientists separated rats into five groups. The first group received one microneedling session, and the second group had a single microneedling session plus 15 minutes of cupping.

In the third group of rats, scientists performed three microneedling sessions at three-week intervals, while the fourth rodent group had microneedling plus cupping at the same time and session schedule. The control group received no treatment.

After a four-week healing period, the researchers found that combining both procedures increased skin thickness. For example, the thickness of the epidermis, or outer layer of skin, increased from 24 micrometers (μm) after one session of microneedling to 42 μm after microneedling and cupping.

The combo treatment also increased the thickness of the dermis, the layer of skin under the epidermis.

Further examinations revealed that microneedling increased levels of type 1 collagen and the ratios of type 1 to type 3 collagen. The researchers say that as a person ages, the ratio of these two types decreases, and having a higher percentage of type 1 collagen is a feature of young skin.

Still, they found that adding cupping to microneedling did not impact collagen percentages.

According to the study authors, although the cupping therapy did not positively affect collagen levels, it did contribute to increased skin thickness. So, they suspect that adding it to microneedling might combat the fine lines, pigmentation, and loss of elasticity associated with aging skin.

Still, because it was a rodent study, it's unclear if these skin rejuvenating effects would be the same in humans. In addition, the study did not include long-term follow-up, so it's unknown how long the effects might last.

In a news release, lead author Burak Pasinlioğlu, M.D., of Kecioren Research and Training Hospital, Ankara, Turkey, says, "Cupping therapy can be added to microneedling therapy and used to increase certain desired effects on the skin. This combination might provide an easy and effective method to improve skin quality in plastic surgery practice."

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