We’re guessing you’re here because you heard that dermarolling (a.k.a. microneedling) could help you regrow lost hair, did some Googling, and started running into phrases like “skin needling” and “wound creation.”
It’s understandable if terms like that make you a little uneasy. Dermarolling may sound gory, but there’s some evidence that it can magnify the effectiveness of more traditional hair loss treatments—and it’s relatively safe, under the right conditions. Read on to get the facts about this trending treatment.
Dermarolling is another word for microneedling, a cosmetic treatment that involves using tiny needles to create a bunch of small nicks in the skin. The cuts aren’t big enough to cause real injury—instead, they’re meant to spark the skin’s natural healing process, which floods the target area with blood flow and collagen (a protein that keeps your skin, bones, muscles, and many other body parts healthy). These effects can make your skin look fuller and rosier, which is why microneedling is often used by dermatologists to treat scars and signs of aging.
But let’s skip to what you’re really here for—the connection between microneedling and hair loss. When used to treat male pattern baldness or other types of alopecia, dermarolling is performed on the scalp, where it theoretically stimulates the growth of stem cells in your hair follicles (a.k.a. dermal papilla). Ideally, those stem cells grow up to be full-grown hairs, replacing some of the hair you’ve lost, while the added collagen strengthens your follicles.
So what do clinical studies have to say about all this? Well, the evidence that dermarolling works for hair loss is far from overwhelming, but some studies suggest that it can be especially helpful for maximizing the effects of the FDA-approved topical hair loss treatment minoxidil.
If you’re still stuck on the bit about hundreds of tiny needles going into your scalp, we get it—needles are pretty scary. That said, microneedling itself is actually relatively safe. It can cause these minor side effects, which usually go away after a few days:
Dermarolling can also worsen some minor side effects of minoxidil, like itching and scalp irritation. But for many people, the only serious risk associated with dermarolling is the potential that the wounds will get infected or leave a scar. To avoid that, be sure to keep the treated area clean for at least a week, wear sunscreen on your scalp, and follow any aftercare instructions given to you by your doctor.
Some people should have a chat with their healthcare provider before pursuing any microneedling. If you have a skin condition (such as acne or eczema), a scalp condition (such as dandruff), a condition that impacts your ability to heal (such as diabetes), are taking any blood thinners, or are pregnant or breast-feeding, discuss your options with your doctor before going under the needle, so to speak.
When you head to a doctor’s office for a microneedling procedure, your provider uses a drum-shaped roller equipped with about 200 needles that are up two millimeters long (that’s called a dermaroller). After applying a topical anesthetic, they’ll roll the dermaroller across your scalp from every direction, just like your barber does during a haircut.
The whole procedure can be completed in less than 10 minutes. Once it’s done, your doctor might apply a topical balm to soothe any irritation. If you’re using microneedling to treat hair loss, they’ll let you know how soon you can use minoxidil again. Keeps Medical Advisor and hair loss expert Dr. Raman Madan recommends waiting at least 24 hours before applying minoxidil, but there’s no need to pause on any oral treatments.
We get it—doctor’s appointments are expensive and tough to come by, and why spend all that time and money for a 10-minute procedure? Well, dermarolling might sound simple, but there’s a reason why professionals get paid to do it.
That’s because tons of things can go wrong when a dermaroller falls into untrained hands. First of all, the dermarollers you see online aren’t usually the same as the medical-grade rollers doctors use. At-home dermarollers tend to have shorter needle lengths, which are less effective for treating hair loss. Your dermatologist also has access to more specialized tools, such as microneedling pens, which can penetrate even deeper than a medical-grade dermaroller.
Even if you did manage to get the right tool, you’d still be making a lot of guesses about how to use it, how much pressure to apply, and when to stop (not to mention that you probably won’t even be able to see your whole scalp).
“I never recommend at-home dermarolling because the needles are typically too short to make a noticeable difference,” Dr. Madan says. “Plus, re-using dermarollers can increase your chances of getting an infection.”
For those reasons, we’d have to advise you to stick to in-office microneedling—the extra cost and time is worth it to avoid hurting yourself, and if something did go wrong you’d just end up in a doctor’s office anyway.
We’ll be honest—doing things the safe way can be expensive. In-office microneedling treatments can run you anywhere from $200-$700 dollars, and insurance companies don’t typically cover them because they’re considered cosmetic.
To put this into perspective, that’s a lot cheaper than a hair transplant, which can cost as much as $20,000, but the results of a transplant are likely to be much more dramatic than what you can expect from dermarolling. On the other hand, you can get an FDA-approved hair loss treatment like minoxidil through Keeps for just $10 per month.
Now that you know a lot more about how dermarolling works, you’re in a much better position to decide if it’s right for you. In-office dermarolling might be the right choice for you if you have a dermatologist in your area with microneedling experience, can afford potentially high out-of-pocket costs, and are looking to boost the effects of a topical treatment like minoxidil.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that won’t require as much money, effort, or (pause here to shudder) needles, you should keep in mind that minoxidil is an effective hair loss treatment in its own right—and it’s not your only FDA-approved option. A Keeps physician can help you determine the best treatment for your needs. Get started here.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.