What is dermarolling?
What you need to know about this trendy new treatment and how it can help with your skincare woes.
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Dermarolling is one of the hottest trends in the beauty world right now. As a multi-tasking skin treatment that can help with everything from dull skin to acne scarring, it isn't hard to see why people are obsessed. But for many, the thought of rolling tiny needles across the surface of their skin is a hard pass. We delve into what the process of dermarolling actually involves, the results you can expect to see and why it may not be as scary as you think.
In this guide
What is dermarolling?
Dermarolling, also known as microneedling or collagen induction therapy, is a cosmetic procedure that sees a roller head covered in tiny needles pushed across the skin. The process has been around since the 90s but is just gaining traction now thanks to YouTube tutorials and technological advancements that have made the treatment both accessible and affordable to do at home.
So what exactly is the point of dermarolling? The treatment activates your skin's healing process, speeding up cell turnover and the production of collagen and elastin. This makes dermarolling effective in treating a range of skin concerns, from dehydration, sagging and scarring to hyperpigmentation.
After the treatment, a serum is applied. The rate at which your skin can absorb products is amplified after dermarolling, meaning you'll get even better results from applying a serum than usual.
Can dermarolling help with wrinkles and acne scarring?
The action of rolling the needles across your skin causes little tears called "micro-traumas". This sends a message to your skin telling it that it needs to go into repair mode. It also stimulates collagen and elastin production, which naturally slows down as we age, resulting in wrinkles and fine lines. The result of this is a reduction in wrinkles as well as smoother, plumper skin and a more even complexion.
In the case of acne scarring, dermarolling can help there too. Depressed scars are the most common form of acne scarring and occur due to a lack of collagen. The brand new skin cells that are formed as a result of dermarolling will help fill out any scars or indentations in the skin. The scar tissue is also tricked into dividing and is gradually broken down, while the healthy skin thickens. This means that some shallow scars can be removed entirely, while deeper scarring can be smoothed out and made much less noticeable.
What is a derma roller?
As you might have guessed, a derma roller is the tool used to perform the dermarolling treatment. The small handheld device comprises of a long handle and a roller head covered in thin microneedles. The needles come in varying sizes and thicknesses to cater for different skincare problems.
Things you should be looking for in a derma roller include:
- Quality. Safety and hygiene are extremely important in the dermarolling process. Find a reputable brand and don't purchase anything that seems a little too cheap.
- Material. Ensure the microneedles are made of surgical-grade steel or titanium.
- Needle thickness. The thickness of the microneedles that you need will depend on the problem areas you're trying to treat. It's advised to start with needles 0.5mm in length, as this is the minimum length needed to stimulate collagen synthesis. Longer needles are recommended for treating scarring, though you should consider purchasing a numbing treatment to go with anything over 1.5mm.
NOTE: Anything over 2.0mm is not advisable to use at home as it may cause severe effects. If you think you may need a deeper treatment, it's best to visit a professional.
Who should use a derma roller?
Dermarolling is suitable for most skin types, however, there are some people who should avoid it.
As derma rollers are able to reach into the skin's layers, they are extremely helpful in fading acne scars. But those with active acne should avoid dermarolling treatment. Dermarolling can spread bacteria all over the face, triggering cystic breakouts, which are both painful and hard to get rid of.
Those with highly sensitive skin should also be cautious. While some may be able to get away with using a numbing cream pre-treatment, others may find the process quite painful or have adverse reactions.
If you are someone with sensitive skin that really wants to try dermarolling, the best option is to get it done by a professional. They will be able to apply a topical anaesthetic and can supply you with steroid medications if necessary to prevent skin reactions. They will also be available for you to consult should you have any side effects post-treatment.
How should you prepare for dermarolling?
The most important thing to be aware of in the dermarolling process is hygiene. Start by using a gentle foaming cleanser and toner to completely clean your skin and keep it free of oils before beginning the treatment. As dermarolling can draw a small amount of blood, it is also highly advisable to use an antiseptic cleanser before you start the microneedling process.
The derma roller itself should also be completely clean. See the how to take care of your derma roller section for more on this.
How do you use a derma roller?
You've purchased your derma roller, cleaned your face and steeled yourself to give dermarolling a go. But how exactly should you proceed?
The best technique is to always roll outwards, moving away from the centre of your face. When rolling your nose, work downwards. Roll with moderate pressure over your face and neck using about 5-10 passes per area of skin. For best results, separate the face into sections (forehead, right cheek, left cheek, nose, chin and neck) and work through each of these sections before moving on to the next.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that the harder you roll, the more effective the treatment will be. As long as the microneedles penetrate the skin, collagen growth will occur. Forcible rolling will only result in increased redness and skin irritation.
After you've finished rolling, it's time to apply a serum. See below to find out which serums best accompany a dermarolling treatment.
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Which serums should you use with a derma roller?
As dermarolling increases product absorption by up to 90%, using a serum directly after your treatment is an important step in getting your skin looking it's best. Using a derma roller helps the products to bypass the epidermis so that you can really reap the benefits of your skincare products. So, does this mean you can just slap on your favourite serums post-treatment? Not exactly.
Some serums are not made to be absorbed as deeply into the skin as they will be after a dermarolling treatment. Products containing retinol or Vitamin C, for instance, are too potent for fragile skin. Any serums that promise to peel dead skin, or which tend to leave your skin feeling a little raw, are also best left for days when your skin hasn't just been prodded with needles.
The best serums to compliment your spiky skincare tool are those containing hyaluronic acid. This acid base will help grab onto moisture molecules and lock them into the skin, which is especially great for those with dry or ageing skin. Serums aimed at sensitive skin are also recommended and will help soothe your skin and reduce redness after your session.
Does dermarolling hurt?
While those with highly sensitive skin may find dermarolling painful, for most people, it isn't as bad as it sounds. Dermarolling should be performed with a light hand and it shouldn't feel too uncomfortable. While it will feel like more than a tickle, it shouldn't be a painful process.
While it may be tempting to just pop some aspirin before or after a dermarolling session, the point of the treatment is to create an inflammation response, as this is what will promote your skin's healing process. As aspirin is an anti-inflammatory drug, it will lessen the results of the treatment. Opt instead for a numbing cream pre-treatment if you're worried your face will be a little fragile.
How often should you use a derma roller?
According to the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, a four-to-six week interval is recommended between treatments, as this is the time it takes for new collagen to form. If you are uncertain of how long you should wait between sessions, it's best to consult a dermatologist to ensure you are getting the best possible results without aggravating your skin.
If your skin still feels a little on the raw side, this is a good indication that you should wait a while longer before your next session.
How long until you see results?
This will ultimately depend on how frequently you are using your derma roller and which skin conditions you are using it for. For example, three to four treatments may be needed to treat moderate acne scarring, while deeper scars will require additional sessions. As collagen production takes around two months, it might be a little while before you really start to reap the benefits of the process.
Again, if you have specific skin problems that you would like to target with dermarolling, it can be helpful to speak to a dermatologist before commencing an at-home treatment. They will be able to help you decide which needle size is right for your skin needs and how often you should be dermarolling. They should also be able to give you an idea of how long it will take to see results.
Is dermarolling safe?
As long as good hygiene is practised, dermarolling is a safe treatment. It is generally considered fine for pregnant and breastfeeding women, although it is still best to consult your doctor before undergoing any new treatments. It is also worth noting that hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause your skin to be extra sensitive, so it still may be best to avoid a dermarolling treatment, even if your doctor has said it is safe.
How to take care of your derma roller
As good hygiene is essential when it comes to dermarolling, you need to ensure that you're disinfecting your roller correctly. After use, submerge your derma roller head in a solution that is 75% isopropyl alcohol and let it soak for a while. After taking it out of the solution, rinse it with warm water and then leave it to air dry on some paper towels. Each derma roller should come with a storage container, which is the best way to keep it clean between uses.
Be sure to replace your derma roller often. Depending on the quality of your roller and how often you're using it, it should last you around 3-6 months. If you notice that the needles seem to be losing their sharpness, it's a good indicator that it's time for a replacement.
If you break or bend any of the needles on your derma roller head, it should be thrown out and replaced immediately.
Dermarolling vs microdermabrasion
Microdermabrasion is a treatment which uses crystals to remove layers of dead skin, leaving the skin looking "polished". While it is one of the most popular skin treatments currently available, it is not effective in treating bigger skincare issues. For instance, it may soften the appearance of wrinkles slightly but it won't help minimise them.
When it comes to acne scarring, microdermabrasion can help to lessen the appearance of scars by removing the dead layers of skin and encouraging skin turnover. Similar to dermarolling, it will also allow products and serums to work more effectively, which may also help to fade scarring. However, it doesn't wear away the deeper layers of skin to help treat deep scarring in the way that dermarolling does.
Essentially, if you have skin problems that are more difficult to treat, dermarolling is the treatment for you. If, however, you are just looking to improve the condition and appearance of your skin, try microdermabrasion.
- Wait for your skin to heal. Skin renewal and collagen production take time and starting a new treatment before your skin has had a chance to heal is going to hurt more than it will help. Wait at least four to six weeks between dermarolling treatments or consult a professional if you're unsure.
- Avoid direct sun exposure. As dermarolling helps to remove the top layer of the epidermis, your skin will be more susceptible to sunburn post-treatment. It is extremely important to avoid direct sunlight exposure where possible. After 24 hours, you can apply a high SPF sunscreen if being in the sun cannot be avoided.
- Don't apply makeup straight after. Wait at least 24 hours to apply makeup, sunscreen or fake tan. As products are deeply absorbed into the skin after dermarolling, applying these products can result in breakouts, inflammation and other adverse side effects.
Where to shop for derma rollers
Top derma roller picks
Skinstitut Skin-Inject DNC Derma Roller 0.25mm
Mukti Microneedle Dermal Roller
Lonvitalite Microneedle Derma Roller 0.3mm
Flora & Fauna
Lonvitalite Dermal Roller
ECOOKING Derma Roller
Lonvitalité Microneedle Derma Roller 0.30mm
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