The derma roller is the hottest, trendiest skincare tool in the cosmetic industry. It’s recently been made famous by celebrities and social media influencers. Derma rolling, also known as microneedling, refers to a skin treatment that uses tiny microneedles to create micro punctures in the skin. As the body repairs them, it produces more collagen, which rejuvenates the skin. This might sound a bit scary, but there is really no need to fear.
Microneedling is a well established procedure that’s been in use for almost three decades. It was first introduced by Orentreich and Orentreich back in 1995, when it was used for the treatment of atrophic scars and wrinkles.
Until recently, microneedling treatment required multiple expensive visits to a cosmetology clinic. It would typically take 6-8 visits to achieve the desired rejuvenating effect. But thanks to the latest advancements in skin care technology, high-quality microneedling devices are now available for home use. This makes it possible to perform microneedling treatment in the comfort of your own home, saving you a lot of money and time!
While microneedling is simple and safe to perform at home, you’ll need to learn how to do it correctly. So let’s talk about how to use a derma roller for home microneedling treatment.
In this article, we’ll discuss
- The types of derma roller devices available, and which one to choose based on your goals and experience
- Benefits of microneedling
- How to check your roller before first use
- How to perform derma roller treatment at home
- What skin care products to use in combination with microneedling
- Potential side effects and how to avoid them
- How long will it take to see results
What is a Derma Roller?
Two general types of microneedling devices are available for home use: power-operated devices and mechanical rollers. This article is focused on the latter type since these are the most straightforward to use. Mechanical rollers with tiny microneedles sticking out of the roller head are known as derma rollers. They are affordable, effective, and safe for home use. An example of a derma roller is shown to the right.
Types of Derma Rollers
Derma rollers come in two main varieties, based on the size of the roller head: a small roller head is designed for use on the face, and a large head is used for the body.
Face derma roller head: This roller uses a small head that is ideal for small skin areas such as the face, including around the eyes and nose.
Body derma roller head: This roller utilizes a wide head to cover large skin areas quickly. It is very popular for microneedling on the legs and stomach in order to reduce stretchmarks and cellulite.
Derma Roller Microneedles
Microneedles can be made out of stainless steel or titanium. Both materials are effective and each type comes with its own pros and cons.
- Stainless steel microneedles: These have a familiar silver tint, typical for stainless steel. They are sharp and easy to clean. Unfortunately, stainless steel needles get dull quickly and can bend easily. You need to handle them with a lot of care and replace them often (after 3-4 uses they are noticeably less sharp). Despite their shortcomings, they’re still quite popular.
- Titanium microneedles: You can recognize these by their yellowish color. Titanium needles are by far the most popular, for good reason. Titanium microneedles are sharp, strong and durable. They can be used for a few months before you need to replace them, as long as they’re well cared for. The only negative about them is that they are harder to clean. If you don’t clean titanium microneedles properly, the yellow color becomes darker, which may make the needles appear rusty (of course they aren’t, since titanium does not rust). The good news is that if you clean the needles properly, you won’t have the discoloration problem.
What are the Benefits of Derma Rolling?
The benefits of derma roller treatment for skin have been investigated in hundreds of scientific publications, and the treatment has been praised by many users, youtubers, bloggers and celebrities. Here is a brief summary of the benefits.
- Reduction of the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and acne scars
- Reduction of the appearance of stretchmarks and cellulite
- Enhanced absorption of skincare products
- Improvement of skin tone and reduction of hyperpigmentation
- Promotion of hair growth
Choosing a Derma Roller Needle Size
The microneedles in derma rollers can range in length from 0.2mm to 3.0mm. When choosing a needle length, it’s important to take into account prior user experience and what result you’re trying to achieve.
- The shortest needle length is perfect if you are new to derma rolling, but it’s not just for beginners. These microneedles enhance absorption of skincare products, exfoliate the skin, reduce texture, smooth fine lines and decrease hyperpigmentation. Derma rolling treatment with these very short needles is not painful and can be done quite frequently, even up to every other day. Many users report excellent long-term results.
- This needle length is ideal for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and acne scarring. However, most people will find these needles a bit uncomfortable (though tolerable), and they may be painful for some people. Therefore, this size is recommended for experienced users only. The treatment frequency is once a week.
- This size is used for treating deep wrinkles and deep scars. It is best to consult a licensed professional if you want to use this needle length. They are not recommended for home use. The treatment frequency is once every 3-4 weeks.
Longer than 1.5mm microneedles
- This size is only for licensed professionals. Do not use these at home.
How to Use a Derma Roller
- The roller is for personal use only and should not be shared with anyone.
- The roller should be sanitized BEFORE and AFTER each use for 20-30 minutes in a disinfecting solution, such as 70% isopropyl alcohol.
- Do not use the roller on lips or eyelids
- Do not use the roller on areas with an active skin condition such as open wounds, acne, eczema, or cold sores
- Do not use the roller on sensitive, irritated, or damaged skin such as cut, burned, or scratched
- Do not use the roller if there is an unknown skin condition. If in doubt, consult a dermatologist before use.
- If you take any medication, consult your doctor to determine if microneedling is safe for you.
Examine Your Derma Roller for Common Problems
Before you start using your new roller, you need to check it for any problems. Defects are quite rare with high-quality derma rollers, but they still happen sometimes. First, look carefully at the needles. If you see any bent needles, do not use this roller. Using a roller with a bent needle can scratch your face. Next, ensure that the roller head rotates smoothly. If there’s any sign of uneven rotation, do not use it, since this can also result in a scratch.
Using Your Derma Roller
Before using your roller, make sure that it is clean. You can read more about proper cleaning of a derma roller here.
Step 1. Disinfect the roller
- The roller should be disinfected BEFORE and AFTER each use for 20-30 minutes in an alcohol solution. We recommend isopropyl alcohol, which you can buy in any pharmacy store. Gently place the roller in a glass or a plastic container (with the roller head down) and add enough disinfecting solution to completely cover the roller head. Do NOT drop the roller into the container, as this can damage the needles. The microneedles are thin and can be easily bent and/or blunted if you drop the roller on any hard surface. After the roller has been disinfected, place it on a CLEAN towel.
Step 2. Cleanse Your Skin
- Wash the treatment area (such as your face, for example) thoroughly and pat it dry. This will prevent any dirt and oil on the surface of your skin from being pushed into your skin by the needles.
Step 3. Apply a Numbing Cream (Optional)
- If you are using 0.2-0.3mm microneedles, you can omit this step unless you are super sensitive. For longer needles you may need to use a suitable cream containing lidocaine. Let the cream absorb for a few minutes after application.
Step 4. Perform Derma Rolling
- Using only gentle pressure, roll back and forth 4-8 times in 3 different directions (horizontally, vertically and diagonally) in the chosen skin area with a controlled motion. Do not roll forcefully and do not drag across the skin. Some areas are hard to reach and the skin is very delicate, (under eyes, between eyes, nose) so be very careful when rolling there.
Step 5. Apply a Skin Care Product (Optional)
- When rolling is finished, apply a moisturizer or another skin care product. Applying a skin care product is optional, but is highly recommended since microneedling significantly improves absorption of a topical product, making it much more effective.
Step 6. Do not apply makeup or other products for 24 hours
- Do not apply makeup, sunscreen or any other product that is not supposed to be absorbed into the skin during the first 24 hours after derma rolling. This is to prevent the absorption of products that are not supposed to be absorbed. Additionally, avoid any activity that causes you to sweat a lot immediately after microneedling.
Watch a Video on How to Use a Derma Roller
What Skincare Products to Use in Combination with Microneedling
Microneedling enhances the absorption of skincare products, but not all skin products are supposed to be absorbed (makeup, for example) and sometimes enhanced absorption is not desirable (for example, skin-irritating products such as chemical peels).
- Recommended skincare products: Hyaluronic acid serum ‒ Hyaluronic acid is a natural component of skin, and its production declines with age. Hyaluronic acid is renowned for its hydrating and anti-aging properties. Hyaluronic acid penetrates poorly through the skin, so any enhancement of its absorption is highly beneficial.
- Vitamin C serum (if pH balanced) ‒ Many Vitamin C serums have a low pH, and these are not suitable for microneedling, since the acidity will cause skin irritation. Look for Vitamin C serum with a neutral or just slightly acidic pH (pH range of 6-7). Vitamin C is highly beneficial for skin as it boosts collagen synthesis. Normally, its absorption through the skin is quite poor, so any enhancement of its absorption is very beneficial.
- Moisturizing serums without irritating active ingredients ‒ As a rule, moisturizing serums are safe to apply after microneedling, assuming they don’t contain any irritating ingredients. One of the popular active ingredients that should be avoided is retinol. Retinol can be highly irritating for some people, and while it is an excellent ingredient for skin care, it should not be applied in combination with microneedling.
Skincare products that are not recommended with microneedling:
- Any skin irritating product such as chemical peels (glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, kojic acid, etc), retinoids, or acidic products.
- Any skincare product that is not supposed to be absorbed (makeup, sunscreens, etc).
Potential Side Effects and How to Avoid Them
As with any cosmetic product, some people experience unwanted side effects. Some of these side effects are normal and some are caused by an individual sensitivity, but sometimes they are due to to user error and can be avoided. The good news is that side effects are quite rare, and most people experience no problems.
There can be multiple causes for skin reactions, and it can be difficult to determine the specific cause in every instance. If a person experiences a breakout after microneedling, there are several typical causes.
- First, insufficient sanitation of the roller or insufficient cleansing of the face before treatment can both lead to a breakout. Dirt, oil, or bacteria left on the skin or the roller can get pushed into the skin by the needles, and this causes a reaction.
- Second, a preexisting skin infection, such as acne or eczema, will be spread by the microneedling, leading to an expanded breakout. This is why it’s important to only use a derma roller on clean, clear skin.
- The third reason is an allergy to the material used for the needles. In this case, changing the needle material may help (switching to stainless steel from titanium, or the other way around).
- Finally, the fourth cause of a breakout is a reaction to a serum or other product. Even if the same serum or moisturizer usually doesn’t cause any reaction, in combination with microneedling there may be a problem if there is an irritating ingredient present and its absorption is increased by microneedling.
If you experience a skin reaction after microneedling, our recommendation is to stop any further treatments until the reaction disappears. Once your skin is fully healed, try another microneedling treatment but make sure that you
- do not use any serum
- sanitize the roller properly and cleanse skin very carefully and 3
- do not have any underlying skin condition (acne, eczema, etc).
Do a short microneedling treatment for 2-3 minutes max. Observe how your skin reacts. If there are no problems, gradually increase the treatment time and introduce serums. If the problem still persists, your best option would be to switch to a different needle material. If you used stainless steel, switch to titanium, or the other way around.
- No bleeding is expected with rollers with 0.3mm needles or shorter. But mild bleeding is quite common for rollers with longer needles. The longer the needles, the more bleeding you get. Microneedles of 0.5mm may produce a few drops of blood, and you’ll get even more bleeding with needles of 1.0-1.5mm. Longer needles should not be used at home. Pay the utmost attention to roller disinfection and face cleansing when using longer needles, as the risk for infection increases as you increase needle length.
- Needle marks are a result of aggressive rolling, which results in dragging the roller across skin, leaving scratchs. These marks will disappear after a few days. However, aggressive rolling should be avoided as it does not provide any benefit and can be harmful.
Redness and Swelling
- Slight reddening of the skin is expected for rollers up to 0.3mm, but swelling is not typical. When using longer needles, both reddening and swelling will occur. This is normal and will disappear after 24-72 hours.
- You may hear a popping noise as needles penetrate the skin in some areas, but not in others. This is normal, and it’s not an indicator of effectiveness (as some think). Whether you hear a popping noise or not, the needles are doing their job.
- Your skin will be slightly irritated, and you may experience a sensation like a sunburn. This is normal and will disappear after a few hours when using rollers with up to 0.3mm length. If using longer needles, it will take several days to disappear.
- Microneedling slightly exfoliates the top surface of your skin and opens pores, which leads to a loss of moisture. You will experience slight skin tightness and dryness. This is normal. Use your moisturizer to counteract this drying effect.
How Long It Takes to See Results
Normally it takes 2-3 months of consistent use before you’ll see permanent improvements in your skin. Sometimes, users do report immediate results after just one treatment. This is due the exfoliation effect of microneedling, which makes skin smoother. However, to see the real results, such as a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and acne scars, you’ll need to commit to consistent microneedling over a period of several months. Keep it up and be patient — the results are worth waiting for!