Korean skincare

Micro-Spicule Skincare: Microneedling in a Bottle?

20 March 2024



Making a splash in the skincare scene in 2024 is spicule skincare. Also known as micro-spicules or bio-spicules; spicules are derived from the skeletons of tiny marine animals. The thought of you using the dead remains of sea creatures might creep you out, but spicules are gaining popularity in skincare, especially with spicule-containing products such as the VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence going viral on TikTok. Microspicules are also regarded as an alternative to microneedling treatments; and have been studied as a form of transdermal drug delivery.


Here’s a deep dive into the science of spicules; and everything you need to know about spicule skincare; a trend that looks set to grow in 2024 and beyond.


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 Morphological diversity of selected marine sponge spiculeImage credit: Łukowiak.



Spicules are very tiny particles that are derived from marine sponges1,2. They form part of the exoskeletons in marine sponges, and contain calcium or silica1,2. Spicules can come in different shapes and sizes, but are typically pointed or spike like structures, hence the comparison to microneedling.



Spicules are not an active ingredient by themselves; however, microspicules or biospicules are thought to improve the absorption of skincare products. Hence the benefits of using spicule skincare will depend on the active ingredients that the product contains. On ingredient lists, you might find spicules listed as “sponge” or “hydrolysed sponge”.


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What are Active Ingredients in Skincare & How do They Work

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How do microspicules increase skincare uptake. Image credit:  Liang et al



Spicules in skincare are relatively new to the cosmetics scene, but microscopes are gaining attention as a new way of improving the uptake and efficacy of skincare and medications. Our skin barrier functions as a barrier against harmful toxins, infections and UV rays; but also is a physical barrier that impedes the uptake of skincare and drugs. Spicules applied to the skin have been found to create microchannels in the stratum corneum to improve the permeability of the skin3. Hence, spicule skincare has often been referred to as a DIY alternative to microneedling treatments.


Spicules also function as physical exfoliators due to their sharp edges. By rubbing spicules on the skin, the skin is mechanically exfoliated. The process of exfoliation facilitates skin renewal and rejuvenation to improve conditions such as dark spots and acne.




Some examples bio-spicule containing products of 2024 are:

• VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence which also contains cica and propolis

• Pestlo Spicule Reborn Peeling Mask which also contains green tea and mugwort extract

• 9wishes Pine Perfect Ampule Serum which also contains extracts from pine leaves, licorice roots and green tea


Some of these ingredients have been explained in:

• Cica in Cica in Skincare: Centella Asiatica Explained

• Propolis and mugwort in An Expert’s Guide to Trending Korean Skincare Ingredients

• Green tea in Benefits of Topical Green Tea



Spicules are relatively new to the field of dermatology; hence published studies and trials are few. Most of the studies on micro-spicules involve animal studies using spicules mostly from the Halicona species; and with different types of ingredients. These studies found that the microspicules from Halicona sponges improved the uptake of large molecules such as RNA and growth factors in animal skin through microchannels by puncturing the skin4-7.


Studies and trials of spicules in humans are very few; and I managed to locate one study in Korea that did so. This study assessed the outcomes of 20 participants with periocular wrinkles; and found that the wrinkles and dermal density increased in the participants who used growth factors with spicules; compared to users who applied growth factors alone8. This study did not mention how the lifestyle including skincare choices in the participants were controlled to allow for valid comparison. Transient redness and prickling sensations that resolved within a few minutes were some of the side effects experienced by subjects who used spicules8.



Although micro-spicules and bio-spicules are relatively new to the skincare scene with limited studies to assess its safety and efficacy; we can extrapolate some of the benefits and side effects of physical exfoliation for spicule skincare.


Exfoliation of the skin removes excess dead skin and stimulates cell turnover. This results in smoother and brighter looking skin along with improvements in hyperpigmentation and acne. Broadly speaking, exfoliation methods can be classified as physical exfoliation (using scrubs and mechanical tools that cause abrasions) and chemical exfoliation (using exfoliating acids e.g. AHAs, BHA).


Related blogposts:

A Complete Guide to Acids in Skincare & Chemical Exfoliation

Review of Face Exfoliating Acids in Skincare


Physical exfoliation including spicule skincare physically disrupts the skin barrier by desquamation4-7. This is akin to micro tears in the skin. A disrupted skin barrier is also at risk of increased water loss, inflammation and infections9-11. I recommend following the instructions of skincare product to avoid overexfoliation which increases your risks of these side effects.


Micro-channels in the skin can increase the permeability of the skin for increased skin care uptake. While this might sound good; increased uptake of skincare ingredients may not always be preferred. Increased uptake of active ingredients like retinoids and acids are associated with retinoid dermatitis and irritation.


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MY THOUGHTS ON THE VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence 

Based on requests on social media, here are my thoughts on VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence, which is currently trending on TikTok. I have not purchased the VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence, but here are my thoughts (not a review!) of this product. You know I love buying trending skincare to evaluate them; and I’ll share why VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence was not up my alley.


Ingredients in VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence:

• Hydrolysed sponge aka the micro-spicules

• Niacinamide: Has been covered in Niacinamide: A Versatile Skincare Ingredient

• Centella asiatica, Madecassoside, Madecassic Acid, Asiatic Acid: aka Cica; and its components. This active ingredient has been covered in Cica in Skincare: Centella Asiatica Explained

• Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil: extract from macadamia nut; contains essential lipids and softens skin.


Does the VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence work?

The VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence is another viral TikTok skincare product that has been hailed as microneedling in a bottle. The VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence’s promotional material has pretty bold claims- immediate reduction of “vertically enlarged pore (length)” and “pore count”. These claims come across as laudatory to me; as “pore count” which I presume to be the number of pores; cannot be reduced. It’s not physiologically possible. Pores are the opening of the pilosebaceous units of our skin; so it is not possible to reduce the number of these pores, which are genetically determined. It is possible however, to reduce the appearance of the size of pores through exfoliation or collagen building treatments such as fractional co2 lasers.


Related blogpost:

How to Get Rid of Large Pores: Myths and Truths



The brand also claims that the VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence improves rough skin and skin texture with a single use; with increased absorption of the essence. I’ve seen the reviews of VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence by various TikTok users; and a number of TikTok video creators also shared that their skin texture has become smoother and skincare absorption seems to be better with the VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence. The immediate improvement in the skin’s appearance can be explained by the physical exfoliation effect of the sponge spicules. By rubbing the VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence on the skin; the sponge spicules manually slough off dead and dull skin to unveil smoother and brighter skin quite quickly.


The VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence’s spicules consist of tiny needles which penetrate the skin to create microchannels to improve the skin’s permeability to skincare. Based on the ingredients in VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence, I would expect the benefits of the VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence to be moisturised, calmer skin. I would also expect that VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence would be prickly, or even painful when applied onto the skin.


With the VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence offering these benefits, why haven’t I purchased it? My concern with bio-spicule skincare and physical exfoliants in general; is the problem of overexfoliation and damage to the skin barrier. The effects (and side effects) of physical exfoliation are highly variable; with the amount of force exerted affecting the outcomes. As explained above, overexfoliation causes microtears in the skin; which damages the skin barrier and leaves the skin vulnerable to increased transepidermal water loss, inflammation and infections. Not to mention, poking the skin to create the microchannels also exposes the skin to infections. For these reasons, I’ve been apprehensive to try VT Reedle Shot 100 Essence.


I’ve shared before that chemical exfoliation is my preferred method of exfoliation personally and in the clinic. Chemical exfoliation with exfoliating acids can be a controlled and safe procedure; and I’ve shared about it in A Complete Guide to Acids in Skincare & Chemical Exfoliation. I’ve also shared my recommendations and duds in Review of Face Exfoliating Acids in Skincare.



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Propolis contains at least 300 active ingredients including phenolic acids, flavonoids, minerals, vitamins and enzymes18-22. Thanks to these components, propolis has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and wound healing benefits23. Propolis also has been found to protect against UV rays and are great pairings with sunscreens24. Some of the popular propolis containing K-beauty skincare include CNP Laboratory Propolis Energy Ampule, COSRX Full Fit Propolis Light Ampoule and Beauty of Joseon Glow Serum : Propolis + Niacinamide.


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3. Value of cosmetics exported from South Korea from 2014 to 2022. Statistica. https://www.statista.com/statistics/781147/south-korea-cosmetics-export-value/

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15. Effects of Red Ginseng extract on ultraviolet B-irradiated skin change in C57BL mice. Kim et al. Phytother Res. 2008 Nov;22(11):1423-7.

16. Enzyme-modified Panax ginseng inhibits UVB-induced skin aging through the regulation of procollagen type I and MMP-1 expression. Hwang et al. Food Funct. 2014 Feb;5(2):265-74.

17. Effects of Korean ginseng berry on skin antipigmentation and antiaging via FoxO3a activation. Kim et al. J Ginseng Res. 2017 Jul; 41(3): 277–283.

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