Is microneedling the best alternative to filler and botox? The Skin Bar’s Samantha Appel says yes

Double Bay has a new beauty salon, and everyone is talking about it. The Skin Bar‘s forest green interiors and serpetine curves have been popping up on the social media accounts of beauty VIPs and influencers since the business recetly launched.

It’s easy to see why. Arriving for a chat and round of microneedling with owner Samantha Appel, I feel like I’ve ducked off the cobbled streets of Florence rather than the hectic bustle of New South Head road.

Founder and manager Samantha Appel tells me that she wanted the salon to feel far removed from the clinics that populate Double Bay and that the Romantic, European vibe is very intentional. “It’s a Turkish Bathhouse feel, with Morrocan curved walls, and then the chequered tiles have a bit of a Wes Anderson feel.”

Sydney's new microneedling destination The Skin Bar, Double Bay
The instantly recognisable chequered tiles have been popping up on the social media profiles of those “in the know” since The Skin Bar’s launch.

Danielle Dean from The Make Haus was the “weapon” behind the distinctive look and feel of the space. Dean says that creating the distinctive (and social media-friendly) salon aesthetic meant searching for inspiration in unexpected places – like a piece of stationery. “We drew inspiration from a piece of Gucci stationary. We had had a conversation about layering green in every way across palette and texture. We wanted this design to be bold, confident, yet playful. Sam allowed us to explore brave design options with the painted checkerboard floor, velvet drapery, glass bricks and mosaic titles. The green extends to every inch of the space excluding the entry, which was a subtle, scalloped detail.”

Gucci stationary, inspiration behind The Skin Bar
From tiles to the serpentine green seen throughout the space, inspiration came from unexpected quarters. Image courtesy Gucci.

While The Skin Bar’s aesthetic is whimsical, the brains behind the operation and services are all business. Samantha was drawn from a career in advertising by her passion for transformative skincare. Skincare’s magnetic pull had its origins in her early personal struggles with acne. “My interest in skin came from a place of having severe acne in my teens and twenties. I was on Roaccutane three times – it was the transformation of having no self-confidence, hiding behind my hair, being bullied at school and hating myself and my skin to going on Roaccutane and seeing the transformation in my skin. I became obsessed with the idea of being able to help somebody else achieve that. I’m not a doctor or a dermatologist so I looked at whatever I could do to contribute.”

Sam found confidence in herself once she cleared her skin
Samantha Appel found confidence in herself when Roaccutane cleared her acne.

“I completed my beauty therapy diploma and am now undertaking my diploma of dermal therapy.” Sam left the corporate world and completed her beauty therapy diploma, worked in skin clinics for four years before branching out into her own business. Initially, she started as a mobile service in Bondi. She then moved to an at-home business in the Southerland Shire and eventually opened her first stand-alone space in Caringbah as her client list kept growing.

She has now opened her Double Bay salon, along with pop-ups in Brookvale and Byron Bay. Samantha is passionate about providing results-driven service that works with the skin rather than against it. Despite her four years of clinical experience, Sam is sceptical about the benefits of hyper-invasive procedures. “Even ‘noninvasives’ like laser can result in the overprocessing and the destruction of cells. There’s increasing evidence that lasers performed at a very regular cycle and at such extreme heat can damage your telegens and your DNA, so it’s counterproductive to collagen production.”

The Skin Bar interiors
The little details.

Filler and botox, something the denizens of Double Bay are no stranger to, is also something Samantha sees over-used. For example, micro-needling is an excellent treatment for the fragile skin around the under-eye area – something she doesn’t feel should be treated with filler. “I’m not a fan of under-eye filler because the skin is so crepey – once you put the filler in, it stretches the area out, and once the filler dissolves, you’re back to crepier skin than what you started with.”

Samantha feels that this aggressive approach to skin health goes beyond clinics’ doors and is happening in the homes of patients. Overuse of actives is a huge problem. She tells me: “I see it all the time, clients come here, and they tell me ‘I cleanse with a salicylic cleanser every day, then I exfoliate and then I put retinol on. TheTheirin is invariably purging and broken and they’re like ‘I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!” With clients shopping retail for solutions to chronic skin conditions, she feels it’s easy for treatment regimes to go wrong. “Ultimately, if someone has a serious skin condition, they should be seeing a dermal therapist or dermatologist.”

The treatment:

After a relaxing facial using the newly launched Vela Days range (read our story about the brand here) I’m brought back to earth by the roar of the microneedling device. I’ve never had a microneedling before – just a few abandoned experiments with at-home dermal rollers and was perhaps foolishly expecting something similar. The professional experience is entirely different and surprising for a novice, I startle as the sound of the needling device ramps up! Sam assures me it sounds worse than it feels, and she’s right. The discomfort level is a two out of ten. Sam’s tool of choice is the Mesopen Fusion from Professional Beauty Solutions. In the Mesopen Fusion’s favour are reliability and availability. She switched over from the Dermapen when she had issues with breakdowns on Dermapen4 and cartridge availability on the Dermapen3. The most significant drawcard for her, however, is distributor PBS. With two salons and three pop-ups currently operating, Sam has an ever-growing team she needs to keep across training. She says the development support provided by PBS over zoom and in person is “second to none – the knowledge they impart is incredible.”

Ruby Feneley post microneedling treatment
Post-treatment glow: my complexion felt denser and looked “lit from within” within just a few days of the treatment (severe bed-head optional!)

For me, despite my fair, dry complexion, there is very little downtime for the treatment. Residual redness is covered with some Babor tinted moisturiser and I’m out to dinner with friends that evening with no telltale flaking. Sam sends me home with a six-piece Dr Spiller facial kit (their Jojoba Bead Facial Exfoliant makes for a delightful new discovery) Meanwhile, the treatment leaves my skin zinging, firm and refreshed. I can see how this could become seriously addictive and have already booked my second appointment!

Visit The Skin Bar (virtually) here.

Want to find out more about the Mesopen Pro? Read our overview here.

Want more treatment reviews? Check out my experience with HIFU here!

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