HOW IT WORKS: So what, exactly, is dermarolling? This is a treatment that can be done at home, by an aesthetician, or in your dermatologist’s office. It gets its name from the tool used, a dermaroller, which looks a bit like a miniature paint roller, except it’s covered with tiny needles.
Before you freak out, know that the needles on the at-home devices shouldn’t be painful, since they’re much smaller than those used in a derm’s office. (But more on that later.) Micro-needling has been around since the early 2000s, and works on a similar principle as laser treatments.
When rolled over the skin, the dermaroller does two things. First, it allows for better penetration of products, thanks to tiny pinpricks that work almost like canals, allowing your products — often serums, since they’re the most viscous — to reach deeper into the skin. Second, it creates micro-injuries, which tell your brain to kick into repair mode. This prompts your body to send collagen to the epidermis, which, as you probably already know, is an important building block of healthy, radiant skin. More collagen, better skin.
You may have read online that dermarolling can magically cure acne scars, fine lines, and brown spots — and even stretch marks and cellulite. There is some truth to this, however, it’s important to understand that the benefits you can realistically expect to achieve depend upon the size of the needles on your roller.
Dermarollers used at home or in an aesthetician office are normally between .2 and 1 mm. They help to even skin texture and pigmentation — but don’t expect much change in scars. “[Personally], I don’t think that home micro-needling will get rid of your acne scars or stretch marks.”
The biggest benefit of at-home rolling is simple: The deeper a product can get into the skin, the more effective it can be.
In fact, at-home dermarolling one of the “most powerful and effective ways to stop early signs of aging and prevent new fine lines and wrinkles from occurring,” thanks to the uptake in collagen production.
With the right corrective serums, micro-needling will brighten your skin to create a dewy, youthful glow that you just can’t get from products [alone]. If you are going to purchase serums, you should definitely micro-needle at home [to make them more effective].
Dermarollers used in a dermatologist’s office take results to the next level. Since the needles can be as long as 3mm, you can expect the above results, plus improvement in acne scars, stretch marks, and fine lines. To wit: In a 2009 study, nearly 100% of people studied saw marked improvement in their acne-scarring after several professional treatments using a 1.5-mm roller.
But cellulite? Don’t hold your breath. “I have people ask about [micro-needling] for cellulite, but cellulite is a much deeper issue than you’re going to be able to address [with this tool].”
Like with all things in life, there are risks. The first thing to know is that you should absolutely, positively, never use this tool on skin that is irritated, inflamed, has active eczema, or — and this is the big one — is broken out.
“Never roll over any active acne — ever!” “You can spread bacteria around your face and cause serious health issues. If you have a pimple, be sure to avoid that area completely, and if you have active acne or cystic acne, I don’t recommend micro-needling until your acne is 100% clear.” Rolling over acne also increases your risks of a major infection.
There are temporary annoyances, too. “Those with sensitive skin can become red or flushed. “And those who don’t tolerate products well need to be very careful, because you’re causing inflammation in the skin, you’re disrupting the barrier, and you’re increasing penetration of products.”
You may be asking yourself, Wait, I thought I wanted better product penetration? You do, but when active ingredients go deeper into skin, the risk of irritation goes up, which is why I insist on a patch test of all products you wish to apply after micro-needling. But we’ll explain that later.
And, while this seems like good common sense, never ever share your roller, even if it’s clean — or expect these risks to go way, way up.
The next question you may be asking yourself:How often should I micro-needle? The answer to this isn’t black and white; it has a bit to do with how your skin tolerates it, how long the needles are, and what other skin treatments you’re doing regularly. But in general, our experts recommend somewhere between once weekly and a few times a week.
“I tell patients that if you want to uptake their maintenance at home — and I have patients that like to be highly maintained — I would recommend doing it once a week,” noting that you can go up to a 1-mm needle size if you limit the treatment to once weekly. “Because again, what do the micro-needles do? At those levels, they make very small injuries in the skin, which certainly allows increased penetration of products. But you also need to be careful, because what goes along with the increased penetration of many products? Increased irritation and inflammation.”
When using a home roller with needles that are on the longer side of the at-home spectrum, I recommend alternating it with other treatments. You’ll have to pick between peels, dermarolling, and exfoliation — not all three!
On the other hand, if you prefer a shorter needle, use more frequently, and even done after other treatments, like peels. I recommend .2-mm rollers for home use. They are super-safe, yet still highly effective. Using this size roller, I recommend rolling three to five times a week to get the maximum benefit.
As a general note, the smaller the needle size, the better your skin can tolerate the treatment. However, again not to overdo it. Stick to one weekly treatment until you know how your skin reacts, and only dermaroll at night, to cut down on environmental (cold, heat, sun) and product (SPF, makeup) stressors that could unintentionally irritate your skin further.
HOW TO ROLL:
Before you begin, wash your hands and face, and dry both using a clean towel. Next, clean your roller with at least 91% isopropyl alcohol (standard drugstore rubbing alcohol) by submerging it in alcohol, then rinsing.
Using very light pressure, roll horizontally over your forehead going in even strokes and only going over the same section of skin two to three times at most.
Repeat on the same section, rolling vertically this time — and, again, remember to only go over the same section two to three times at most.
Apply serum before rolling, but be sure you do a patch test of any new serum you want to apply before diving in, whether before or after your treatment. I recommend looking for ingredients that are active, but not inherently irritating, like peptides, growth factors, antioxidants, AND hyaluronic acid.
Last but not least, you must always clean your roller before putting it away. Submerge it in alcohol, allow it to dry in its case with the top off, and then pack it away for next time.
HAPPY AND SAFE ROLLING!!