In this article you’ll learn how to use a dermaroller to stimulate new hair growth. This method can help with diffuse thinning hair, or the typical M-shaped (Widow’s peak style) receding hairline…
But you will need to know how to use this technique properly – or you risk damaging your hair further.
What is A Dermaroller?
A dermaroller is a simple device that is used to make tiny pin pricks in the skin. The pricks penetrate into the dermal layer, just deep enough to stimulate new cell production and boost circulation, but without causing damage and without causing pain. The process is also known as ‘microneedling’.
The derma roller has been used as a beauty device for decades to renew the youthfulness of skin but stimulating collagen, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
How Does the Dermaroller Help With Thinning Hair?
In a similar way that the derma roller is used to stimulate collagen production on the facial skin, it can also be used to increase cell production and increase blood circulation around the scalp, which in turn will help with new hair growth.
The Science Behind Its Use
Microneedling has been studied for decades and, as such, there are studies which back its claims. Some of these even prove that the dermaroller and other similar tools — such as the dermastamp and dermapen — can be beneficial for your scalp. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look!
Microneedles Can Stimulate Skin Cell Proliferation
In 2012, American researchers explored the role that microneedling had on skin cell proliferation. This is beneficial in the treatment of wounds, scars, hyperpigmentation, and even in hair growth.
In short, researchers determined that microneedling induces a three-step healing process. These steps are:
- Proliferation; and
- Remodeling (maturation).
These mimic the natural healing process that wounds undergo.
Typically, the remodeling phase can lead to scarring. So, why doesn’t microneedling cause the same?
According to a 2007 research study, scarring only occurs when the initial wound reaches a certain depth.
When using a designated microneedling tool, the needles do not penetrate this depth. They do, however, go just deep enough to initiate the healing process above which then triggers skin cell proliferation.
Are you still not convinced? Let’s look more closely at a 2014 study performed on patients with Alopecia Areata (AA).
This small trial consisted of two patients – one male, and one female – presenting with patchy hair loss on the frontal and vertex of the scalp. The male had experienced this loss of hair for one year, while the female had experienced it for six months.
Each patient had been through various treatments, including injections of triamcinolone acetonide, topical steroid creams, and even minoxidil (5%). None of these were effective.
The patients were treated with a 10mg/ml concentration of triamcinolone acetonide twice per microneedling session. It was first applied before the session, and the second was applied after.
The sessions were performed using a dermaroller, and they occurred three times at three-week intervals. At the end of the study (nine weeks), the results were significant hair growth in both patients:
While this particular study was small and focused on patients with Alopecia Areata, it can help us to better understand microneedling’s role in hair growth.
There are studies which show microneedling’s effectiveness in treatment Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA).
Microneedles Can Activate the Wnt/β-catenin Pathway
In recent years, scientists have linked the regulation of adult stem cells with hair follicle proliferation and maintenance. This is a process that’s largely regulated by the Wnt/β-catenin pathway.
This theory was put to the test in 2016, when researchers from South Korea studied the effects of repeated microneedle stimulation on mice.
The mice were split into groups of two, and various needle lengths were tested. These included 0.15mm, 0.25mm, 0.5mm, and 1.0mm. There were also two different cycle periods: 10 cycles (for the 0.15mm, 0.25mm, 0.5mm and 1.0mm groups), or 13 cycles (for an additional 0.5mm group).
The hair was shaved from the backs of all mice in the study, and magnified photographs (50x) were taken at days 7 and 14 after the first microneedling session. Regular photographs were also taken at 13 days and 17 days after the first microneedling session:
The researchers hypothesized that the hair growth was a result of the upregulation of various proteins, including Wnt3a, VEGF, and Wnt10b. This was proven when samples were taken from the mice.
And which groups had the best results?
Wnt3a, β-catenin, Wnt10b, and VEGF mRNA expression were all increased in the 5.0mm/10 cycles group when compared with control.
Microneedles Can Treat Thinning Hair Caused by Androgenetic Alopecia
AGA is the most common type of alopecia in men, though it also effects women. The most common recommended treatments include minoxidil (for men and women) and finasteride (for men), but the desire for natural treatment options is growing.
Fortunately, there have been studies which show microneedling’s effects on patients with AGA.
The first study was performed in 2013, and it consisted of 100 patients with mild-to-moderate AGA. The participants were split into two groups. The first group received weekly microneedling treatment with twice daily application of minoxidil (5%), while the second group was given only minoxidil (5%).
Photographs were taken at baseline, and then all scalps were shaved to ensure equal length of hair shaft.
There were three parameters which researchers used to track efficacy:
- Change from baseline hair count at 12 weeks;
- Patient assessment of hair growth at 12 weeks; and
- Investigator assessment of hair growth at 12 weeks.
The results of this 12-week study were as such:
The mean hair count of patients in both groups improved. However, the improvement was more significant in the minoxidil + dermarolling group.
The investigator and patient self-assessment (which can be a lacking measurement technique) also showed a marked difference over the minoxidil-only group:
And while the above study is promising, this isn’t the only study that was performed on patients with AGA.
In 2015, researchers from Mumbai studied the effects of microneedling on men with AGA who didn’t respond to conventional treatments (such as Rogaine and Propecia). This study was small – only four patients – but it helps to shed further light on microneedling’s use in the treatment of pattern baldness.
All four patients were on finasteride and minoxidil 5% for anywhere from two to five years. There was no further loss of hair during this period, but there also wasn’t any growth.
Alongside their ongoing treatment, the patients were also subjected to microneedling sessions for six months.
The results were tracked using a standardized 7-point evaluation scale, along with patient evaluation. While these aren’t the most accurate way to gauge efficacy, they do offer a general look at progress.
At the end of the 6-month period, three of the patients expressed more than 75% satisfaction with the results, while the fourth patient expressed more than 50% satisfaction. In addition, all patients showed a +2 or +3 response on the 7-point evaluation scale.
While further studies need to be carried out, one thing is for sure – microneedling can play a role in boosting hair growth via various mechanisms.
How To Use The Dermaroller
The first thing you’ll want to do when using a dermaroller for your hair is clean your scalp thoroughly. This doesn’t just mean washing your hair (and I recommend you use a homemade shampoo when you do). It also means completing a peel of the scalp where you want to use the derma roller. Typically this will take place along the thinning hair line.
Salicylic acid can be used to gently peel and clean the scalp before using the dermaroller, however since most salicylic acid products contain alcohol as the solvent (just like most minoxidil products that contain alcohol) I usually recommend making your own homemade exfoliant for the scalp.
This achieves a few things:
- It cleans the scalp and therefore reduces the chances of infection when using the dermaroller
- It removes the layer of dermal plaque that contains DHT, oils and dead cells that generally reduce the health of the hair.
- It boosts circulation
- It unclogs and unblocks the hair follicles allowing for more growth.
- it allows the scalp mixture to penetrate deeper into the scalp making it more effective.
After You’ve Used the Dermaroller
After you’ve rolled the derma roller over your scalp you’ll want to increase the effectiveness of this method dramatically by rubbing in a mixture to the scalp.
The mixture has been specifically formulated to be used 5 minutes after using the derma roller and it is a very powerful hair tonic.
Inside Hair Equilibrium I go into much more detail about this mixture, but I’m going to outline the ingredients and preparation quickly here:
- Emu oil
- Magnesium Oil
- Saw Palmetto
- Hyaluronic acid
- Apple polyphenol
Mix the ingredients together in the right ratios in a small plastic bottle and make sure they are thoroughly mixed.
After you’ve used the derma roller on the right area of your scalp you can carefully apply the mixture and use a finger to gently rub in the mixture until your get an even and generous covering.
I recommend that you do this 1 hour before bedtime. This will give it enough time to dry onto the scalp. over night the derma roller and the mixture will begin to work on your scalp, stimulating and feeding new hair growth directly.
This adds even more power to the technique by reducing DHT directly, providing nutrients and minerals and reducing any (very small) chance of bacterial infection with the antibacterial properties of the Tea Tree Oil.
Dermaroller vs. Dermastamp: Which Is Best?
The dermaroller is perhaps the most well-known microneedling tool, but it’s not the only one that exists. So, what other options do you have?
The dermastamp is one option. It’s a rectangular block on the end of a handle, and the block contains needles. Just as with the dermaroller, the stamp can also be used on the scalp and face.
What’s the difference?
Aside from the obvious structural differences, the dermastamp has a few benefits over the roller.
In particular, the stamp is much easier to manipulate when using it yourself. This is especially true for hard-to-reach areas, such as the sides and back of the scalp.
There is also less risk of damaging the surrounding hair follicles and removing healthy hair strands, which can occur if hair gets stuck in the roller.
Even better, you can purchase adjustable dermastamps (whereas such rollers do not exist). This means you can decrease and increase the needle length as necessary for best results.
Which do I recommend?
I’ve previously used (and recommended) the roller. And while I did have an overall positive experience, I found the dermastamp much easier to navigate and target particular areas of my scalp.
I’ve also found that it’s much easier to control pressure and needle length with the dermastamp, which is essential if you want to avoid permanent damage to the follicles.
Which dermaroller should I choose?
There are lots of different styles, shapes and sizes of dermaroller, but they essentially all do the same thing. Get one with a round roller and high quality metal pins.
Whats is the best size of dermaroller?
The best size dermaroller I’ve found to be around 0.5mm, smaller than 0.25mm will have a reduced affect and larger than 1mm could cause too much damage. 0.5mm is the most common size so I would recommend that.
Can the skin get infected from the dermaroller?
It’s very important to properly wash the dermaroller before you use it again. If the pins aren’t washed properly then you increase the chances of infection.
Pour boiling water over the roller before using it, but make sure it cools before applying to your scalp.
Infection is very rare, but irritation can occur. Use your own judgment about whether the irritation is too bad to continue.
If you have a scalp infection before using the dermaroller then wait until this clears up before continuing.
Will the dermaroller pull any hairs out?
The tiny pins of the dermaroller are not long enough to damage any exsisting hair follicles, however you should keep an eye out that it isn’t causing any undue damage to the scalp.
Typically you’ll be using the dermaroller on an area of scalp that is already bald, or along the hairline where there are less hairs.
If you’re using the dermaroller for diffuse hair loss than its important to make sure hair doesn’t get caught in the roller. You may have to do shorter strokes.
How do I clean the dermaroller?
It’s important that you clean the dermaroller each time you use it. If the pins are dirty then you will increase your chances of getting an infection or irritating the skin.
Take an antibacterial wash and mix with water in a mug. Place the dermaroller inside the mug and leave for 1 minute and swish around.
Remove the dermaroller from the mug and rinse with boiling water.
Dry it, and place it back in its case, or a clean container.
How firmly do I press the derma roller into my scalp?
You should press it into your scalp firmly enough so that it penetrates the skin down to the depth of the pin. This equates to a light pressure, similar to applying a roll-on deodorant. it shouldn’t feel uncomfortable but it may sting/tingle slightly.
You shouldn’t draw blood, and it shouldn’t leave any visible sign when looked at from 30cm away in my experience. I would recommend going lightly on the first round and gradually applying more pressure as you get more comfortable with using it.
What motion, direction and how many times should I apply the derma roller to my scalp?
You will want to get a good even covering of pin pricks which means using the roller in multiple directions across the scalp.
Can this method be used for Alopecia Areata?
Yes, this method has been successfully used by researchers to improve hair growth in male and female patients with alopecia areata.
Inside Hair Equilibrium I explain this method in full detail with some added steps as well, such as the homemade mixture you should use to wash away the ‘scalp elixir.’ If you found this method useful and interesting I would recommend finding out more inside Hair Equilibrium.