Everything About Derma Rollers: How To Use Dermarollers Safely

Dermarollers Guide: What Is Dermarolling

If I told you the secret to having great skin includes injuring it first, would you believe me? Well, you should, because it is true. The next question, however, is whether doing so at home with derma rollers would work. Whether you write it as dermarollers, derma rollers, derma needling, or micro needling, these are the new big thing in the skincare world, and everyone is talking about them.

Dermarollers Guide: What Is Dermarolling

Personally, I find the idea intriguing. These needled apparati are touted as the solution to everything from acne to wrinkles to stretch marks and even hair loss. In this post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about derma rollers: what they are, how they work, how to use derma rollers safely, and which ones are the best on the market.

What Are Derma Rollers?

Derma rollers are small cylinders, covered in tiny needles. Imagine one of those lint-remover rollers, but shorter and with spikes, and you’ve got the right idea. The needles normally range in length from 0.2 to 2.0 millimeters in length. One cylinder head will normally have 192 micro needles on it. The cylinders themselves are meant to be replaced regularly.

Derma rollers are rolled over affected skin, so that the micro needles can penetrate and lightly damage it. This is done with some regularity (between a few times a week to every few weeks), and over time the condition of the skin is supposed to improve.

What Is the Science Behind Derma Rollers?

Our skin is able to naturally heal itself from all kinds of trauma. When damage occurs, our nerves stimulate cell reproduction (especially collagen and elastin) that repair the hurt skin. The idea behind derma rolling is that by traumatizing the skin in a very gentle and targeted way, we can trigger those same healing mechanisms of collagen and elastin, and thus repair pre-existing skin problems.

Simultaneously, derma rolling can also increase cell-turnover rate, and even the smallest needles will greatly improve the penetration of different topical creams and ointments. While the efficacy of microneedling hasn’t been conclusively proven through scientific research, many people (as well as before and after pictures) attest to their efficacy in treating various skin problems.

How to Use Derma Rollers Safely

• Never use a derma roller on the following: active acne, sores of any sort, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, moles, or infected skin. Also avoid it on areas that heal oddly or irregularly, like the nose, or areas that are extra sensitive, like the eyelids.

• Always clean your skin and derma roller thoroughly before using.

• For derma rollers with needles over 0.3mm in length, make sure to thoroughly sanitize the derma roller by soaking it in alcohol for ten minutes before using.

• Wipe down your skin with alcohol to sanitize, before using derma rollers with needles 0.3mm or greater in length.

• Keep your derma roller in a dry and clean place, in a container and away from any potential contamination sources.

• Avoid the temptation to use the derma roller too often, or you risk damaging your skin.

• Avoiding sun exposure, and using sunscreen religiously becomes critically important while using micro needles, although this should actually be a regular habit.

• If using needles 1mm or greater, avoid wearing makeup the following day.

• Do not use a derma roller while taking skin resurfacing oral medication, like accutane.

• Replace your derma roller at least every 6 months, for derma rollers that you don’t use more than once or twice a month. For shorter needles that are used more frequently, it is important to pay attention and replace them the moment the needles become dull stop penetrating the skin easily.

• Before you start derma rolling for the first time, do a patch test on a small part of your body, to make sure your body will not have a negative reaction to it.

Everything About Derma Rollers: How To Use Dermarollers Safely

Step by Step Instructions on How to Use Derma Rollers

• Sanitize both instrument, and your skin.

• If you are using longer needles, or are very sensitive to pain, apply a numbing cream and allow it 30 minutes to take effect.

• Stretch the area of skin you will be derma rolling over taut.

• Begin rolling the microneedles over the skin in gentle motions. Do not apply too much pressure. The needles should penetrate easily.

Warning: Many sources will recommend derma rolling over the same area over and over again in a star pattern, but this can actually be quite harmful to the skin.

• Only roll the derma roller over the skin horizontally, and then vertically.

• Lift the derma roller and move it over a millimeter after each pass ” do so 2-4 times per horizontal pass. Repeat for the vertical passes.

• When you are finished, cleanse your skin with a mild cleanser to remove any bit of blood.

• Finish off with a gentle yet nourishing serum or moisturizer, and then top with an occlusive layer of Vaseline or an antibiotic cream like polysporin.

• Wash and sanitize your derma roller one more time, before putting it away in a clean, airtight container.

• Wait a few days before using active creams or serums with ingredients like retinol or vitamin C.

What to Expect from Derma Rolling

Your skin will respond to derma rolling differently, depending on which part of the body you treat, and how long the needles you use are.

• If you are using needles longer than 1 mm, you may experience some bleeding.

• You can expect your skin to appear slightly red for the few days following a microneedling session, but swelling and extreme soreness should not occur!

• Your skin might peel a little bit, a day or two after derma rolling.

• It takes at least 6 months to start seeing visible improvement in the skin.

• To see major improvement in the skin, use a derma roller regularly for at least a year and a half.

What Kind of Skin Issues Is Derma Needling Recommended For, and How Effective Is It for Each Issue?

• For acne scars, derma rolling is considered quite effective when the scars are shallow, and less effective when the scars are very deep or pitted. Choose the length of your needles based on the severity of the scarring ” for shallower scars, opt for 1mm needles and derma roll twice a month, and for deeper scars use 1.5mm and do it only once a month, instead.

• For large pores, most of the time derma needling will not help. Assuming the skin is otherwise healthy, pore size cannot change because its size is genetically determined. In such a case, consider using a pore-minimizing primer, instead. If the pores appear large due to thin skin or loss of tone, see upcoming bullet points.

• There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that derma rolling can thicken thin skin or improve the feel of uneven skin texture. Both of these skin conditions require regular micro needling (between 1 to 3 times a week), with 0.5mm needles.

• While derma rolling is unlikely to completely remove most (especially larger) scars, it can certainly improve their appearance and reduce their size somewhat. However, because scar damage often happens deeper in the skin, longer needles around 1.5mm are required. If your skin is quite thick and hearty, you can even go up to 2mm. Dermarolling for scarring should be done no more than once a month.

Wrinkles are actually one of the things dermarolling treats most effectively. It is still important to remember that even while we treat fine lines and wrinkles, the aging process still continues to occur, so expecting to totally reverse the signs of aging is unrealistic.

You can use derma rollers with needles between 0.5mm to 1.5mm, with a frequency of between once a week to once a month (the longer the needles, the less often you should be dermarolling). Derma rollers are usually most effective for fine lines, and eyebrow lines, and least effective for treating the naso-labial fold.

• Combatting loss of tone and sagging in the skin with micro needles requires a dual-needled approach. Bi-weekly microneedling with 0.5mm needles will help increase cell turnover rate, while monthly microneedling with 1.5mm needles will help to drastically increase collagen production in the skin, thus helping to overall firm up the skin.

Hyperpigmentation is not the most predictable of skin problems, and it can have many causes. Derma rollers are most effective for the dark spots that might stay on the skin after acne has healed away, as well as for age related sun-spots that are not too deep in the skin.

To treat pigmentation it is best to use derma rollers with 0.5mm to 1mm needles, between once to three times a week (once again, the shorter the needles, the more often you can roll). Combining the derma rolling with a skin lightening cream with ingredients like hydroquinone, liquorice root extract, or vitamin C will greatly increase the chance of the pigmentation totally fading.

Stretch marks can be reduced quite effectively with a mixture of regular derma rolling, and vitamin C or retinol creams. Because stretch marks are scars that sit in the dermis, a monthly dermarolling session with longer needles between 1.5mm to 2mm will be the most effective.

• While microneedling won’t treat hair loss on its own, it can greatly improve the product penetration of a topical hair loss treatment like Rogaine, and will increase blood flow to the hair follicles. It is best to use 0.22mm needles, a few times a week.

• Dermarolling is only very slightly effective for cellulite treatment. A combination of 0.5mm needles once a week and 1.5mm-2mm needles once a month will help to increase cellulite cream penetration, and slightly thicken the skin and improve its texture, thereby reducing the appearance of cellulite.

Types of Derma Rollers: Buying Guide

Derma Roller Buying Guide

The choices for different derma rollers and microneedling tools are nearly endless, and it can be difficult to decide what to buy. I have some guidelines and suggestions to make things a little easier for you.

• Decide what length needles you will need. I go into some detail above, but generally, if the root issue you are dealing with is deeper in the skin, you will want longer needles. If the issue is closer to the surface of the skin, shorter needles will likely suffice.

• Do not buy a no-name derma roller, and make sure to read product reviews so you can tell the product you are buying is legitimate.

• Do not overspend, either. You can find excellent derma rollers for under $25 a set.

• Some safe brands include The New Spa Derma Roller, Dr. Roller, Koi, and OwnDoc (who also have an excellent microneedling forum).

So what do you say? Do you have the guts to roll a spiky cylinder across your skin, or would you avoid this torture tool like the plague? Let us know in the comments!

Photos courtesy of @susannebarnekow, @hairfreegardncity, @christinakaufi

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Written by Maya Adivi
Maya is a makeup artist and skincare expert based in Yerevan, Armenia. She eschews buzz words, in favour of giving accurate and science-based advice. A citizen of the world, she was born in Israel, and has also lived in the US, Canada, and, of course, Armenia. Aside from beauty, she is also passionate about literature, beer, politics, and playing the ukulele.