Derma Rolling - All You Need to Know
Find out everything you need to know about derma rolling, a microneedling technique that can improve a number of skin issues.
Derma rolling is a simple yet effective treatment that can be used to improve a whole range of skin issues. It can be used to diminish the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles, scars of different origins (including acne scars and stretch marks), hyperpigmentation, to stimulate hair growth on the scalp or facial hair, and to improve the overall appearance and tightness of the skin.
It’s a form of microneedling, but done with a specific tool – a dermaroller.
Let’s go through all aspects of the procedure.
Table of contents - Skip to a specific paragraph
What Is Derma Rolling?
A form of microneedling done with microneedling rollers rather than derma pens. It’s a treatment for the skin which can tackle particular skin issues, or just improve the overall state and look of the skin.
It’s considered non-invasive and it can be done by dermatologists or estheticians, or you can even do it yourself. It’s relatively safe, if done properly and using high-quality products.
While it truly can give exceptional results and some improvement after only 1 treatment, it’s important to understand that maximum results can’t happen overnight. Derma rolling is done in a series of treatments and the results emerge slowly but surely.
Image source: Instagram @ginamberbeauty
What Areas Can Be Treated?
Dermaroller microneedling can be used to treat a wide range of areas: facial skin, skin in many parts of the body, and even the scalp.
What Skin Issues Can Be Targeted?
Derma rolling is very versatile, and it can be used to treat a number of skin issues, like:
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Sagging skin
- Dull skin
- Acne scars
- Other forms of scarring on the face and body
- Stretch marks
- Enlarged pores
- Sun damage
- Hair thinning
While some improvement can be visible after just 1 session, none of these issues can be abolished without multiple dermarolling sessions.
What Skin Issues Can’t Be Targeted?
There are certain conditions where derma rolling is not safe, can’t do much, or can worsen the situation:
- Active Rosacea (might help a little, but it can also make it worse)
- Perioral dermatitis
- Acne breakouts
- Inflamed skin
- Discolored lips (lips can’t be treated with a dermaroller)
Who Is a Suitable Candidate for Derma Rolling?
Anyone dealing with conditions derma rolling can improve and is safe for, and who doesn’t fall in the category of any of the contraindications listed below.
Who Isn’t a Suitable Candidate for Derma Rolling?
Contraindications for the treatment are:
- Active acne
- Lip herpes or other local skin infection
- Moderate to severe chronic skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis
- Blood clotting or bleeding disorders
- Ongoing blood-thinning medication therapy
- Proneness to keloid scarring
- Ongoing cancer therapy
This list is not final. Consult your esthetician and GP if you have any conditions and let them assess whether you’re a candidate.
Image source: Instagram @robbie_beauty_tricks_
How Is Dermarolling Done?
As a form of microneedling, derma rolling is done by puncturing the skin in countless tiny channels with tiny titanium or stainless steel needles placed on a drum which freely rotates when pressed against the skin.
This creates controlled trauma to the skin, which triggers its natural recovery process. It’s often called collagen induction therapy, since it triggers a mechanism of production of collagen and elastin and their integration into the structure of new skin. With repeated treatments, the production of collagen can be boosted by up to 400%.
Collagen is a protein often called the building block of our skin. As we age, the amount of collagen the body produces drops significantly, and skin loses firmness. Elastin provides the skin with elasticity, and without it, the skin loses volume and starts sagging. The stimulation of the production of these 2 components results in an overall improvement.
The controlled trauma also works away scars. The needles repeatedly pierce the scar tissue, loosening it up and softening it, until it blends into healthy skin.
To achieve significant skin cell turnover, the needles of the microneedling rollers should reach the dermis layer of the skin, but how deep within it they need to go depends on the issue targeted.
Image source: Freepik
What’s the Treatment Like?
Let’s go through the treatment step by step.
The process is very similar in all skin areas.
Step 1 – Consults and Assessment
Your esthetician inspects the area to assess the skin condition and tell you what results you can expect and how many treatments you’ll need. They will ask you some questions related to your medical history to make sure the treatment is safe for you.
Step 2 – Cleaning
The area is cleaned with a gentle cleanser. The area needs to be clean of any dirt, makeup or product residues, and sebum, to prevent infection.
Step 3 – Numbing
An anesthetic in the form of a gel or cream is applied onto the area. It numbs the skin and eliminates pain during the derma rolling. It’s left to sit for a certain time, depending on the thickness and sensitivity of the skin in the area treated:
- Face – 15-20 minutes
- Body – 20-30 minutes
- Scalp – 30-40 minutes
Some estheticians like to use plastic wrap to lock in the numbing and maximize the effect.
Step 4 – Derma Rolling
When the skin is numb, it’s time for the actual derma rolling.
The tech will apply either a hyaluronic acid serum or another similar formula onto the area. They will go back and forth over it with a dermaroller. The micro-injuries will cause the skin to turn red, and there might be some pinpoint bleeding – this is totally normal.
The rolling takes 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the area treated. It might take longer for the scalp if there’s hair on it.
Step 5 – Cleaning
The treated area is cleaned of the serum residues and blood.
Step 6 – Mask or Serum
Finally, the tech applies a soothing mask or some sort of serum onto the area, to calm it down, nourish it, or for some other specific effect.
If the area treated is the face, they will also apply an SPF, since the area needs to be protected from sun radiation for the rest of the day, at least.
If you’re doing derma rolling at home, the process is more or less the same, only there’s no numbing, since the rollers sold for at-home use don’t penetrate the skin as deep and therefore there’s no pain.
Does the Treatment Hurt?
It shouldn’t. It may be a bit uncomfortable, but the skin should be sufficiently numb before the rolling starts to eliminate pain. If it’s painful, tell your artist. The numbing may not have been left on for long enough.
How Many Sessions of Derma Rolling Will I Need?
This depends on the severity of the skin condition you want improved and the results you’re expecting to get. It’s all individual, and your esthetician will determine the optimal number of sessions.
Most clients get a significant improvement within 3 sessions booked at least 3 weeks apart (ideally 4-6 weeks apart, to let the skin heal completely).
Image source: Instagram @maroc__dermaroller
How Long Does a Session Take?
A derma rolling session takes up to 30 minutes on average, but if the area treated is very large, it may take longer. Also, the numbing may prolong your treatment.
How Do I Prepare for the Derma Rolling Treatment?
You need to avoid certain things before the treatment and between sessions to make sure your skin isn’t compromised:
- Avoid Accutane for 6 months before the treatment.
- Avoid laser/IPL treatments for at least 2 weeks before the treatment.
- Don’t expose the area to sunlight at least 2 weeks before the treatment.
- Don’t take blood-thinning meds like ibuprofen or aspirin at least 1 week before the treatment – there will be more bleeding and you might bruise.
- Don’t wax the area or use hair removal creams for 5-7 days before the treatment.
- Don’t use retinol, acids, mechanical and chemical exfoliation, topical antibiotics, and similar harsh products on the area for 5-7 days before the treatment – these thin out the skin and make it more sensitive.
- Don’t shave the area on the day of the treatment.
- Don’t take anti-inflammatory meds at least 3 days before the treatment – these can interfere with your natural inflammatory process as a response to the needling.
*If you’re prone to cold sores, consult your GP and have them prescribe an antiviral med before the treatment to prevent a flare-up.
Any Derma Roller Aftercare I’ll Need to Follow?
Yes, but it’s nothing complicated. To make sure your skin heals properly and to prevent infection:
- Don’t put ice or any cold compress onto the area.
- Don’t pick at, scratch, or rub the area.
- Don’t touch the area with unclean fingers or any other unsterile surface for as long as possible to prevent infection.
- For at least 48 hours, don’t put any makeup on your face. After that, try not to use makeup brushes, or at least wash them before each use.
- For at least 48 hours, try to avoid sweating, so no working out, no hot showers, jacuzzis, saunas or steam baths.
- For 3 days, wash your face with a mild cleanser (your esthetician will prescribe one) and warm water. Dry gently by tapping.
- Use the hydrating products your esthetician prescribes according to the schedule they determine. These will soothe the skin and aid healing, but also maximize the results of the treatment.
- Wear SPF in the days and weeks after the procedure for as long as possible.
It’s crucial you only use products that your esthetician approves. Harsh products could irritate the skin or affect its natural response.
What Can I Expect During Healing?
Healing after a derma rolling session isn’t that intense. It will be at its worst on the day of the treatment.
Here are the symptoms you can expect – all these are normal and no cause for concern.
Redness and Tenderness
These can be intense on the day of the procedure, but should subside significantly within 12-ish hours. The redness may stay present for longer, though, depending on the area treated.
The skin on the body can stay reddish up to 7 days after the procedure.
Sensations of Heat, Dryness and Tightness
Your skin may feel like a sunburn for a few days after the procedure. The prescribed moisturizer can relieve these sensations.
The area might swell up a bit. Remember, no cold compresses!
The controlled trauma might cause some bruising.
Is Derma Rolling Safe?
Yes, if done right and with high-quality products.
However, there’s still a chance of infection if the treatment isn’t performed in sterile conditions and with sterile equipment, or if your skin gets contaminated before it’s had the time to heal. There’s also the risk of allergies to the serums used, but this can be prevented with a patch test before the treatment.
There’s one more thing we should mention, and that’s the risk of permanent scarring. In the case of a professional dermaroller with longer needles, using the same needle length on all areas of the skin, even where skin is very thin, can lead to scar formation.
How Soon Can I Expect Results?
You can expect some improvement right after the first session. Your skin will look radiant as soon as a few days after the treatment, and it might look firmer and tighter. But it takes a couple of months and a couple of sessions for maximum results to emerge.
With each session, the skin condition targeted will be improved further.
Scars can take longer, especially if they’re older and tough.
Be patient! Results will come, but collagen induction takes time, especially if you’re doing your derma rolling at home (at-home rollers aren’t as effective as professional ones).
And How Long Will They Last?
That depends on what condition you’re working on. Anti-aging effects should be refreshed about once a year, but the minimization of scars can be permanent.
Image source: Instagram @cigdemeylulatesi
Is Dermaroller Microneedling Better than Derma Pen Microneedling?
There’s been a lot of discussion lately on which tool is better for microneedling – derma rollers or derma pens. We’ve already explained how a derma roller works, but let’s quickly explain what a derma pen is.
A derma pen is a professional microneedling machine that stamps the skin, so to say, rather than rolling over it. It’s an electrical device that features a number of needles which penetrate the skin at a 90° angle. It goes straight in and straight out.
While both tools create tiny channels, estheticians claim that a derma pen is safer and gentler on the skin. The derma roller is rolled over the skin, so the needles don’t really go in at a 90° angle. When they leave the skin, they’re in a slant position, so the channel is widened into a crater-like wound, which takes longer to heal. Unless they’re super careful, the tech may put too much pressure on the roller.
This means more trauma to the skin.
The derma pen is smaller, and thus more precise and easier to manipulate around the bones and creases. The needle length can be readjusted for different areas of the skin. It also allows the tech to combine microneedling with other treatments, like RF or PRP.
In all respects, estheticians and dermatologists agree that the derma pen is a much more advanced tool.
How Much Does Derma Rolling Cost?
The average cost of a session is around $200, but it can range from $100 to as much as $350. Most salons offer package deals, since you’ll probably need multiple sessions.
Image source: Instagram @mediskinclinic
Dermarolling at Home
While a professional service is always the safest and most effective option, you can also do dermarolling at home at a much lower cost. There are now many derma rollers available for over-the-counter purchase, but those have shorter needles which don’t penetrate that deep into the skin.
The process of dermarolling at home is more or less the same as the one described above, in the section What’s the Treatment Like, only it excludes the numbing. If you’re DIY-ing it, always make sure your skin, hands and the roller are clean.
Be aware that the results you can achieve at home are limited and will take much longer to emerge.
Derma Rolling – Main Takeaways
Derma rolling is a form of microneedling, or collagen induction therapy. It’s done with a dermaroller covered with thin needles. When rolled over the skin, tiny punctures are made. The controlled trauma triggers the skin’s recovery process and collagen production, and the result is healthy new skin and a gradual improvement in a number of conditions.