I Tried Derma Rolling: Here’s the Science Behind It

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I tried dermarolling, here is the science behind it. (1)
Beauty always comes at a price but would you be willing to let hundreds of tiny needles prick your skin? If you’re worried about derma rolling, then let me break the good news to you first: it’s not as scary as it sounds.

But of course, it’s easier said than done. Thus, I thought I would try derma rolling at home myself and share that experience with you!

I’ve also I put in some elbow grease to find out about the science behind it. Also, to make sure I know what I’m getting myself into. I hope I’m going to address all the doubts, myths, and worries related to derma rolling.

In case you don’t want to read the whole article (3,000 words can be a little bit too much for some!), just click on the links below to get to the parts you want.

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What Is Derma Rolling?

Derma rollers are hand-held devices covered with microneedles. Microneedles are fine and have the length ranging from 0.25 mm to 1.5 mm. Also, a diameter of 0.1 mm (source). A standard derma roller is drum-shaped and has 192 needles.

Also, it’s widely used for Collagen Induction Therapy or CIT (source). The reason why we use derma rollers in CIT is that they cause tiny punctures on the skin surface. These, in return, trigger the skin’s repair system. It produces a fresh layer of collagen under the epidermis. But, I’m going to talk a bit more about that later in the article.

The History of Dermarolling

dermaroller

It all begins with the German dermatologist, Ernst Kromayer. He is also known as the father of dermabrasion (source). In 1905, he applied for a patent of a ‘therapeutic apparatus’ (source). At first, this device contained circular knives. These were driven by a motor and responsible for removing dead skin layers.

He later developed it into a contraption with rotating burrs attached to a dental drill. The primary goal of the device was to get rid of the dead skin layers. That was the first recorded appearance of a derma roller. Kromayer also proposed a theory that it was possible to have a scar-free healing. That would only work if you didn’t touch the deeper reticular layers of the dermis (source).

'Manual of Cosmetics'

Later, a Hungarian physician Charles Lázár picked up this practice. Thus, he wrote a ‘Manual of Cosmetics’ that detailed the use of this ‘dental drilling machine’ (source). Unfortunately, it was 1937 and the British Medical Journal classified it as ‘cosmetic art’. Thus, his work didn’t gain any recognition in the medical field.

In the book, Lázár suggested that instead of having a motor-driven drill, the machine should be controlled by a foot. That was to ensure that you were drilling skin slowly. He also proposed to use variously sized burrs to treat many skin issues. The invention helped Lázár treat acne, freckles, pigmented nævi, and milia (source).

'Manual of Cosmetics'

In 1953, Abner Kurtin, changed Kromayer’s prototype by ditching the dental burrs. He replaced them with stainless wire brushes (source). His work got carried forward by the Nobel laureate, Alexis Carrell. The Frenchman moved to New York, which, at the time, was becoming the hub of dermatology. By 1995, Carrell’s protégés, David Orentreich and Norman Orentreich, formulated a new technique. It made use of hypodermic needles.

Later on, André Camirand and his associate Jocelyne Doucet found an interesting correlation. It turned out that needling was reducing in scar tissue formation. Initially, they treated their patients by camouflaging scars behind skin colored tattoos. They later realized that needles caused scar reduction (source). Finally, the derma roller as we know it was developed. Soon enough, micro needling, derma rolling became popular. That’s with the help of many contemporary dermatologists (source).

kurtin's dermaroller

1955 Drawings of Kurtin’s wire brushes (source)

How Does Derma Rolling Work?

It’s a good idea to understand what exactly takes place when you use a derma roller. The microneedles create micro punctures, also known as microchannels, on the outermost layer of the skin (source). Most importantly, these micro punctures don’t cause any damage to it (source) . Although, you might experience minimalistic bleeding. But, do know that it triggers a wound healing mechanism. Thus, different growth factors are released.

The fibroblasts start producing collagen. The needles also break down the scar tissues without ablating the epidermis. Finally, new collagen and elastin formations lead to skin tightening.

Is Derma Rolling Safe?

microneedling benefits

After reading all that, you’re probably wondering whether derma rolling is safe for you. Don’t feel intimidated! I know dermarollers might resemble mini torture devices. But, derma rolling is safe. Irrespective of your ethnicity, race, or skin tone, derma rolling is safe for everyone (source).

It is a no-fuss and simple technique to treat wrinkle, scars and other skin imperfections. Worried about the skin punctures and the microchannels? Remember that epidermis remains unharmed (source). The microneedles don’t create any real wounds. But, trick the body into believing that it’s been injured (source). Thus, you can repeat procedure regularly. Also, use derma rolling on areas where laser treatments and deep peels are no longer effective (source).

Micro-needling is free from chemicals and effective at triggering collagen production. You can use it all over the body or target specific areas such as face, neck, and chest. Perform it on all skin types too. Also, there’s no risk of burns unlike in the case of a laser treatment.

It may cause erythema (redness of the skin due to increased blood flow) right after the treatment. But, it’s normal and subsides the following day. All in all, derma rolling is safe if you follow the instructions and do it right. Keep on reading to learn how to do that.

Derma Rolling Benefits

derma rolling benefits

Increases Chemical Absorption

Science has already proved that derma rolling enhances skin’s absorption levels (source). When the skin gets punctured, the chemicals can bypass the stratum corneum easier. So, microchannels allow free transportation of hydrophilic macromolecules. You’ll find a lot of those in creams (source). Thus, it exposes the deeper layers of your skin to the goodness of all the beauty products you use.

Micro-needling is used for transdermal delivery of drugs. The needles can help with transmitting growth hormones, insulin, influenza vaccines, and aspirin. It also gets paired with different substances (source) for a deeper drug penetration. This whole process is actually called mesotherapy (source).

Induces Collagen Production and Tightens Skin

When your skin is slightly injured, your brain knows. So, it releases growth factors that help with healing and collagen production (source). In fact, a study that took place in 2014 concluded that derma rolling is a promising treatment that helps you to produce this protein (source). As you already know, the lack of collagen usually causes the appearance of wrinkles. Hence, this treatment helps to keep your skin tight.

Repairs Visible Scars

A study conducted in 2009 showed that more than 88.7% of the micro needling therapy participants noticed a reduction of their acne scars (source). That’s due to improved collagen production. Additionally, derma rolling is known for being able to break down scar tissues. That’s because it consists of the accumulation of collagen. It rejuvenates skin by equally distributing it.

Derma rollers can, in fact, help with fading out a variety of scars (source). But, it doesn’t work on keloid scars. Finally, micro-needling can also be an alternative treatment for post burns (source).

If the scar is severe, you should consult a professional and see what could be done. Usually, more prominent ones need to be treated with longer needles. For that, you most definitely need someone who knows what they’re doing.

Reduces Skin Discoloration

The sun can influence skin’s appearance and alter it. Since derma rolling helps with collagen production, it can reverse the damage caused by the harsh sun rays. Thus, it reduces discoloration.

That also includes hyperpigmentation that occurs with melasma (source). It does it by removing the top layer of the skin and reducing an abnormal melanin production. Thus, derma rolling is becoming the leading treatment for photoaged skin (source).

Reduces Stretch Marks

Reduces Stretch Marks microneedling

The cause of stretch mark formation is a rapid skin stretching. They’re tougher to treat than scars. But, derma rolling has been somewhat effective with that (source). You’ll want to seek professional help with this one.

Although, do note that it takes almost 3 to 12 sessions to observe your stretch marks going away. The biggest advantage of derma rolling is that you can use it anywhere on your body.

Tightens Pores

You might think that puncturing your skin would enlarge your pores. But, derma rolling does the opposite. When your body produces collagen, the region around the pores becomes plump. Thus, tightening them. Do note that derma rolling cannot completely eradicate enlarged pores. That’s mostly because that’s genetically inherited.

Treats Alopecia

Practice shows that micro-needling your scalp can help you fight hair loss. Alopecia (male patterned baldness) has been, in fact, responsive to derma rolling. That’s because micro needling stimulates the brain to extract endothelial growth factor. It then promotes hair growth and increases hair follicle size (source).

Dermarolling Misconceptions

Yes, you’ve heard me write! There are a few misconceptions that need to be cleared up. Seriously!

Micro Needling Doesn’t Reduce Cellulite

Unfortunately, cellulite is a thing and a lot of us, especially women, suffer from it. While derma rolling tackles many skin-related issues, it does have its limitations. One of them – you cannot get rid of cellulite using a derma roller. There are a few ways to get rid of cellulite. Switch to a healthier diet, exercise and consume more water (source). So far, there are no studies that can prove the relation between micro needling and cellulite reduction

Derma Rollers Cannot Be Reused

This may be confusing because a few derma roller sellers claim that you can reuse them. This, in fact, is in direct conflict with the guidelines established by the FDA. That’s mostly because dermarollers fall under the category of disposable medical devices (source).

Obviously, derma rollers penetrate the skin, and so, they have to undergo strict quality checks. But what happens when you make use of it? Once the derma roller loses its sterility, there is no way you can roll it back to where it was. Unless you have a gamma ray machine lying around your house, you cannot properly sterilize it! Additionally, the needles lose their sharpness after constant use. Thus, they aren’t that effective anymore.

What Needle Size Should You Use?

So far you must’ve figured out that you need to use different needle sizes. Especially if you want to target certain skin problems and body areas. So, you’re probably wondering what’s the size that would be best for your needs? Here’s the list of possible advantages you could get with each needle length.

microneedling benefits

0.25 mm Needles

0.25 mm dermarollers usually help with increasing your skin absorption. They’re not painful and don’t do much when it comes to increasing collagen production. Yet, your skin might as well enjoy absorbing a little bit more of vitamin C. It encourages collagen production anyway.

0.50 mm Needles

If you have a 0.5 mm derma roller, you can use it to treat shallow damage on skin and small discolorations. Additionally, they trigger collagen production. But, you will feel slight discomfort. Anyway, if you’d like to see results achieved with this needle size, continue reading. I’ve tried this one myself!

0.75-1.0 mm Needles

If you own a derma roller in the range of 0.75 to 1.0 mm, then you should probably target wrinkles and scars. These needles have a stronger impact and are more painful. So, it might be good to use an anesthetic to numb the pain a little bit. You might bleed a little bit too.

1.5-3.0 mm Needles

When it comes to 1.5 – 3.0 mm derma rollers, it’s best to use them only with professional help. These aren’t for any DIY activity and should be reserved for serious skin treatments. The needles will help with severe scarring and stretch marks. Although, do expect bleeding and infliction of pain.

Skin Issue Needle Length
Shallow acne scars
1.00 mm
Deep acne scars
1.50 mm
Enlarged pores
0.25 – 0.50 mm
Skin blemishes (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation)
0.25 – 0.50 mm
Skin discoloration scars
Start with the smallest size and then slowly increase it; 0.25 – 1.00 mm
Photoaged (sun damaged) or sagging skin
0.50 to 1.50 mm
Stretch marks
1.50 – 2.00 mm (seek professional help since the needle size exceeds 1 mm)
Surgical scars
1.50 mm
Uneven skin texture or tone
0.50 mm
Wrinkles and fine lines
0.50 to 1.50 mm

Suggestion

In a nutshell, if you’re a beginner and wish to use a derma roller at home, I’d suggest anything ranging from 0.25 mm to 1.00 mm. In a professional setting, you’ll get to see needles as long as 1.5 mm or more (3 mm being the longest permitted length). Note that these needles are used only after numbing the skin. Otherwise, it might be a bit too hard to bear the pain.

How to Use a Derma Roller

How to Use a Dermaroller tips

Now, the most important part of owning a derma roller is knowing how to use one. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use it.

Step 1: Prep your skin

Prep your face by first washing it with a gentle pH-balanced cleanser and then removing all the superficial grime.

Step 2: Exfoliate

While exfoliation isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s definitely recommended. Getting rid of dead skin cells is always helpful, especially before a treatment.

Step 3: Wash Your Face

Wash your face once again to ensure that there no leftovers on it. Feel free to use plain water.

Step 4: Apply an Anesthetic Cream (Optional)

anesthetic for dermarolling

This is an original picture. Feel free to use but give credits to this page. 🙂

There are people who have a low tolerance for pain or sensitive skin. Hence, it’s probably a good idea to apply anesthetic cream to numb the skin. When it comes to using it, just follow the instructions on the packaging. If you’re using needles longer than 1 mm, use the cream because it’s most likely going to get painful.

NOTE: Don’t leave the numbing cream on your skin for longer than 30 minutes. Also, make sure to remove all of it carefully.

Step 5: Begin Derma Rolling

When derma rolling, ensure that you’re not applying too much pressure. It should feel comfortable. Additionally, don’t press too hard on more delicate areas. Stay off the eye sockets (of course!). It’s often advised to divide your face into 4 sections and take on each one-by-one.

  • Roll the derma roller in both directions for 6 - 8 times. You can alter this number based on your skin sensitivity and tolerance. When your skin becomes red and tingly, you should stop.
  • If you have a few wrinkles here and there, stretch it before using the microneedles on the area.

Step 6: Wash Your Face

For intense derma rolling, it’s advisable to apply saline swabs to your skin for an hour or two. For a regular at-home derma rolling session, rinse your skin with cold water. Also, avoid taking hot baths. Also, don’t use very warm water in general since your skin will be extra sensitive just now.

Step 7: Finish off in style!

Now it’s time to apply a serum or a moisturizing cream to your skin. It’s best to use products that contain vitamins A and C to encourage collagen production. All that to boost healing. You could also apply a topical antibiotic cream to prevent infections. Other than that, just sit back and relax.

How Often Should You Use a Derma Roller?

Again, that depends on skin condition you’re trying to combat and the size of needles. Here’s a table for your reference:

Needle Length Frequency
0.25 mm
Every 2 weeks
0.5 mm
Every 3 weeks
1.0 mm
Once a month
1.5 mm
Once a month
2.0 mm
Once every two months

I Tried Derma Rolling Too. Before and After Pictures

I wanted to try derma rolling just for the sake of it. I don’t have acne scars or any other skin problems that would need micro-needling. But, the minute I’ve heard about it, I knew it was something I had to try. I bought a derma roller with 0.5 mm needles without doing too much research, because I wanted to play it ‘safe’. Anyway, here’s how it went.

Before Derma Rolling

The only part of my body that I wasn’t very happy about was my forehead. As you can see, at the time I had a few very small pimples as well as red patches. Overall, my forehead didn’t look clean. So, I wanted to see whether micro-needling would make it look better.

before dermarolling

And here’s my full face for later comparison.

before dermarolling

How Derma Rolling Felt

I wouldn’t say it’s a pleasant experience. Yet, nothing too uncomfortable. My goal was to cover all my skin and see what’s going to happen. It did feel tingly and itchy, and I slowly became red. But, I didn’t bleed because the needles were quite short. I also tried to be as soft as possible. Overall, I had a feeling that blood is rushing into my face and something is definitely happening!

dermarolling befor and after

1 Day After Derma Rolling

As you’ve probably noticed, after around 24 hours I still looked a bit red. However, I did receive a compliment from my boyfriend saying that my skin ‘looks very healthy’. Let me assure you, he’s not the type of guy who notices anything at all! Overall, my skin started feeling tighter, shinier and more alive.

1st day after dermarolling

2 Days After Derma Rolling

I’ll be honest, 2 days after I felt like my skin was tighter and more alive. It was glowing and I was feeling great!

derma rolling 2 days after

My forehead ”situation” improved quite a bit too. Obviously, you can still see a bit of redness, but overall – a significant improvement. The skin looks smoother and less patchy.

forehead

Conclusion

I’ll be honest, I loved micro-needling so much I wanted to do my own little research and share all the facts with you. Not because nobody knows about it, but because there are some misconceptions and not enough scientific facts shared with regular readers. I’m sure you want to know what’s happening to your skin when you’re ”stabbing” yourself with a bunch of needles! Haha! Anyway, I hope you’ve learned something new! If you have tried derma rolling yourself, feel free to share your own thoughts!

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