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Derma Roller Microneedling: A Painful but Effective Hair Loss Treatment

Derma Roller for Hair Loss

It may look like a medieval torture device, but many people – including celebrities – are fans of the derma roller. Commonly used to improve the appearance of skin, this tool shows promise as a hair loss treatment too. In fact, a 2013 study showed excellent hair regrowth in those treated. So does it work? Read on to find out whether using a derma roller for hair loss is a good idea or whether it’s just a painful fad.


What is a derma roller?

derma roller for hair lossA derma roller is a handheld device with many small surgical needles. These needles are attached to a wheel which when rolled over the skin cause microscopic wounds.

These wounds activate the body’s healing response (hemostasis-inflammation-proliferation-tissue remodeling). The idea is that the various growth factors involved in this process mean the newly healed skin is better than before.

Practitioners take advantage of this wound healing response and use derma rollers to treat stretch marks, wrinkles, scars, and similar conditions. Apparently, Kim Kardashian is a fan.

Derma rollers come in various shapes and sizes. Needles range from 0.25mm – 3mm in length, with different size needles recommended for different skin conditions:

derma roller usage guidelines

In general, it seems the more damage you do, the better the results – up to a point. It is reported that improper use of needles greater than 1.5mm can result in collagen breakdown.

But as well as treating skin conditions, new research suggests that derma rolling could reverse hair loss too.

Derma roller for hair loss study

As mentioned, derma rolling activates the body’s wound healing response. The theory goes that this response could be utilised to reverse androgenetic alopecia (male pattern hair loss).

A 2013 medical study, A Randomized Evaluator Blinded Study of Effect of Microneedling in Androgenetic Alopecia: A Pilot Study, put this theory to the test. 100 participants were randomly divided into two test groups: one group received 1ml of 5% minoxidil solution twice daily, the other group received the same minoxidil dosage plus a weekly microneedling (derma roller) procedure.

A derma roller with 1.5mm length needles was used in this study. Both groups had their hair shaved so changes in hair style could not influence the results.

After 12 weeks, three methods were used to determine how effective of each treatment was:

  • Change in baseline hair count (the tested area was tattooed to ensure consistent measurement)
  • Patient self-assessment of hair growth
  • Blinded investigator assessment

The study found:

“Hair counts – The mean change in hair count at week 12 was significantly greater for the Microneedling group compared to the Minoxidil group (91.4 vs 22.2 respectively). […] Dermaroller along with Minoxidil treated group was statistically superior to Minoxidil treated group in promoting hair growth in men with AGA for all 3 primary efficacy measures of hair growth.”

derma roller for hair loss results (with minoxidil)

In short, the microneedling procedure led to significantly greater hair regrowth than minoxidil alone. This was confirmed through all three methods of assessment.

Patient photographs also show cosmetically significant hair regrowth in those treated with derma roller and minoxidil:Hair regrowth examples from derma rolling and minoxidil group

For comparison, representative results from the minoxidil only group can be seen here.

So how does it work?

Three mechanisms of action through which microneedling leads to improved hair growth are proposed in the study:

  • Release of platelet derived growth factor, epidermal growth factors are increased through platelet activation and skin wound regeneration mechanism
  • Activation of stem cells in the hair bulge area under wound healing conditions which is caused by a dermaroller
  • Overexpression of hair growth related genes vascular endothelial growth factor, B catenin, Wnt3a, and Wnt10 b.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)

Hair loss is caused by a broad range of molecular signals. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) – the main hormone believed to be responsible for androgenetic alopecia – is believed to interfere with these signals, causing hair to miniaturise and eventually fall out.

DHT is believed to inhibit many growth-stimulating pathways in the hair follicle. The writers of the study suggest that these pathways are activated in response to microneedling. Growth factor activation and stem cell stimulation are also proposed to play a role in improved hair growth by the writers.

DIY derma rolling for hair loss

With such promising results, you may be tempted to order a derma roller for yourself.

And various members of hair loss forums, encouraged by this study, have done exactly that. Their attempts to replicate the results of this trial can be found here.

If you do decide to try out derma rolling for yourself, here are the basic steps to replicate the study above:

  • Use the derma roller once per week – do not use again until the treated area has fully healed
  • Use a derma roller with 1.5mm needles
  • Properly disinfect the derma roller after each use
  • Focus on one section of the scalp at a time, rolling horizontally, vertically, and diagonally 3-4 times
  • Replace your derma roller after 20 uses to avoid blunt needles
  • Apply 1ml of 5% minoxidil to the scalp twice daily

Finasafe DHT blocker advert

Derma roller side effects

The results of the derma rolling hair loss trial described above are indeed impressive.

But that doesn’t mean using a derma roller for hair loss is without its drawbacks.

Minoxidil
Minoxidil can cause serious health problems if absorbed systemically

If you plan on using a derma roller in conjunction with minoxidil like the study above, be careful! Applying minoxidil straight after using a derma roller can cause systemic minoxidil absorption. From my own experience, this is not a good thing! On at least two occasions it caused me to wake up in the middle of the night with tachycardia (increased heart rate) – not fun!

In fact, my advice would be to do without the minoxidil altogether.

Derma rolling without minoxidil will still have the desired effects – increased growth factors, stem cell activation, etc. – but with much less risk. And if you’re looking to add a topical solution into the mix, consider rosemary oila recent study found it to be just as effective as 2% minoxidil.

One final word of warning: if you’re significantly bald (Norwood 3+, for example), you’re likely to have a visibly red scalp the day after treatment. Perhaps consider investing in a decent hat?!

Is microneedling worth it?

Drawbacks aside, derma rolling is one of the most promising solutions around for actually regrowing lost hair. We know that prescription treatments like finasteride can be effective at maintaining existing hair. However, they’re much less successful at causing regrowth.

But recent findings lend strong support to the regenerative effects of microneedling.

For example, the wound healing response to hair plucking was found to regenerate dormant surrounding hair follicles in mice.
And researchers from the University of Pennsylvania (the same team working on Setipiprant and PGD2-based hair loss treatments) found that wound healing opened an “embryonic window of opportunity” within which dormant molecular pathways were awakened:

We showed that wound healing triggered an embryonic state in the skin which made it receptive to receiving instructions from wnt proteins… Increased wnt signaling doubled the number of new hair follicles.

Best of all, though, derma rolling increases levels of the same growth factors said to make platelet-rich plasma an effective hair loss treatmentbut at a fraction of the cost!

I admit, derma rolling isn’t the most enjoyable of experiences. However, it does appear to be an effective tool for hair regrowth. And though the science behind microneedling is not fully understood yet, it is compelling.

So, if you’re looking to regrow your hair, it looks like the old saying is true: pain is beauty!

Click here to buy your own 1.5mm derma roller – the same one used to regrow hair in the 2013 study!

56 thoughts on “Derma Roller Microneedling: A Painful but Effective Hair Loss Treatment

  1. Is there any research about the result of derma-roller alone?

    1. As far as we are aware, there are no clinical trials of derma roller use by itself – at least for alopecia.
      However, this 2015 study demonstrates that the addition of microneedling therapy can grow new hair in individuals who have already been using conventional treatments for some time. However, the regrowth could be the result of a synergistic (rather than additive) effect of minoxidil and microneedling.
      That said, the mechanisms of action attributed to microneedling – increased growth factors, stem cell activation, etc. – should, in theory, lead to some improvement in hair by itself. It is reasonable to expect that the combination of these two treatments would be more effective than microneedling alone, though.

  2. I just want to know about using darma roller of 1.5mm for how many times to use in a month? And also another question should i apply minoxidle imediately after rolling over the skin of darma roller?

    1. From the study described above:
      “In the Microneedling group, patients received a weekly Microneedling procedure on the scalp […] All patients were instructed not to apply Minoxidil on the day of procedure and to resume its application only 24 h after the Microneedling procedure.”
      So the results above were a result of using a derma roller once per week. However, if your scalp is sore or irritated, it’s best to wait until it is fully healed.
      As for minoxidil application, definitely don’t apply it immediately after! Wait at least 24 hours before applying minoxidil to avoid systemic absorption.

    2. do not put minoxidle on for 24 hours after microneedling. Especially this strong 10 mg one, but if you must only use 2 percent. It penitrates deeper after microneedling and usually causes some strange side effects if you put it on too soon and if it is 5 percent or higher strength.

  3. As a shaved haired man, if I dermaroll on a Friday will I be good for work at the office on a monday? Don’t fancy turning up with a head of tiny dots on my head 😀

  4. Hello Stephen,
    You need not worry about the fancy tiny dots, if you dermaroll on a Friday evening by Saturday evening you will have a normal shiny Skin. Provided you do it gently, don’t apply much pressure else the wound will be clearly visible, it helps the best when we proceed gently.
    I have been using it and quite satisfied with the results.

  5. Has anyone tried the derma roller + rosemary oil combination suggested above? Does it have any side effete?
    Does a 1.5mm derma roller cause bleeding? Will 1.0mm derma roller have the same effect?

    1. i used size 1.0 and 1.5 of dermaroller for acne scars and pigmentation and yes it’s bleeding and painful but its deserve , it’s normal don’t be afraid , i have seen a very satisfaited results. (sorry for my english but i love to help ^^ )

      1. Thank you for your reply Sihame. You are absolutely right, its the help and not the English that counts 🙂
        I was actually enquiring about using derma rollers for hair loss. I have come across articles suggesting not to use derma rollers greater than 0.5mm without expert help. But then I was also wondering if 0.5mm derma rollers will be effective for hair growth at all. Thinking about which one to buy (0.5, 0.75 or 1mm) Any suggestions?

        1. I have been using a 1.0mm derma roller ( I am a woman) and I am losing hair for whatever reason- I will suggest if you are bald or have extreme hair loss go for the 0.75mm max., as the 1.0 needle could be too big and you could get more tiny red dots than you may want. In my case since I have hair the 1.0 works better because since the needle is longer it can reach down my scalp through the existing hair.

          1. Hi how long did u shedd and does it help to stop hair fall… I mean i was on topical solution and suddenly i stoped using it and after month my scalp was visible i am not sure wht would be the best treatment dotor promise to delivr best by using the same topical solution but i dont think so its temporary and when stop it will lead to fall hair very badly.. Since how long u have been and does it showing any good result.. Kindly please ping…thanks

          2. Hi
            Do you use it alone or with a topical product?
            And how frequently do you use it ?
            Thanx !

          3. Hello, I’m also a woman and have a hormone pellet which I think is the reason for the hair loss, DHT. Please tell me more as I haven’t found a woman whose used this method to regrow hair. Do you use rosemary oil? I don’t want to use the minoxidil since I have heard not to use it, some things I’ve read said it could cause more hair loss. Please give me your experience with the derma roller. I have Med length blond hair and I’m seeing my scalp in places due to the hair loss. Thanks for your help!

          4. Hy vanessa befor using dermaroller i suggest u to go fir ferritin test because iron loss is a major and common problem with female due to blood loss during menstruation and this results in hairloss. So 1st u need to go to a dermatologist and for ferritin test. By using iron supplements ur problem may cure if it is due to iron deficiency. But don’t intake iron without ferritin test because it may show many side effects. Doctor will provide u the exact dose. ☺️

  6. I also use low laser therapy as well. Would this be doing to much, as to over stimulate the follicles? Just curious. Thank you

  7. I had three fue surgery done on frontal area of the head that was succeeded 50% if i want to use darma roller with minoxidil then how many chances to grow new hairs on the same area?
    Please also let me know how long hair root bulb can be alive in lifetime?

  8. As a clinical aesthetician , I administer professional microneedling treatments to many of my patients. While the needling procedure by itself may help stimulate the hair follicles a small amount it is more likely that the combination of the minoxidil with it is what is yielding the fantastic results observed in the study. It is a widely known fact among microneedling practitioners that one of the benefits of such treatment is improved product absorption. Therefore, if you have a topical product that works, receiving microneedling in addition to that will most certainly yield better results. Basically it helps your skin absorb more of the product deeper into the layers of the skin where it needs to be in order to work.
    That being said I don’t recommend at home rollers, especially for the head where it is difficult to treat yourself. Professional treatment will be a lot more thorough and a lot more sanitary. I recommend finding a reputable practice offering Skin Pen or Rejuvapen treatments.
    FYI – Please never microneedle your head and then put a hat on, give your skin a minimum of 48 hours uncovered to avoid unwanted infection.

    1. in the study you mentioned that the patients were all shaved but in the picture both patients have long hair. how can we believe in this study which is that much doubtful?

  9. Can I use 0.75 roller 2 times on weekly basis. Now also can I use Pumpkin seed oil immediately after the roller treatment or I can use Rosemary oil.

    1. I think twice a week is too much. You need to give your scalp some time to heal. Also I did some research and seems like Castor Oil is good for hair loss. I am not currently using it because I would have to wash my hair every day which I am avoiding but suggested use is: apply it, massage it and leave it on your scalp overnight for better absorption. This oil is pretty thick, some people mix it with other oils to make it more liquidous. The times I used it I didn’t mix it because I thought it would give me fast and better results if I used it alone.

  10. I recently started using my facial derma-roller after a long hiatus. After a couple of weeks, I noticed that hair was starting to grow at the top middle of my forehead at the hairline. My hairdresser noticed it was all across the hairline, not just in the one spot I’d noticed.
    I also have a roller with 1.5 mm needles, so I decided to try it on the rest of my head. I’ve only been doing this for a few weeks a couple of times a week and haven’t seen results yet, but I’m very hopeful.
    For having accidentally stumbled upon my discovery by using my facial roller (as I go up to the hairline), without using Minoxodil or anything else, this might just be the best solution I’ve ever tried. And all it cost was a few dollars.

    1. How have the results been since the time you last posted ?

  11. Hello. Can the dermaroller work for traction alopecia especially areas where there is supposed blocked follicles which im told have caused little scar tissues. Im also told if you stop minoxidil the hair grown falls off. Is it true.Thanks

  12. Can I have some help! Going to be using two products and an oil after I use the roller.
    From these products do they look like it could have problems if I use them right after?
    Nourish Beaute Hair Loss Treatment!
    Ultrax Labs Hair Plush!
    Molivera Organics Castor Oil

    1. Forget the Ultrax Plush. This is the biggest rip off – I got some – the tube it comes in is only HALF full and it lasted less than a week. The label says to put a GENEROUS amount twice or three times a day and rub it in the scalp. I used it twice a day and not the “generous” amount they suggested because there just isn’t that much product in the tube. The tube is about 6 inches including cap, but the actual product starts half way up the tube so its a vacuum space below. At $60 a pop or thereabouts, I consider this a major rip off – you’d have to spend $200 a month at least to make this product last. Don’t waste your money. Look for other products that have caffeine and saw palmetto in them for a fraction of the cost.

  13. I am surprised that you missed the point in the study which states that you should NOT apply minoxidil right after using the dermaroller! You should wait 24 hours! Very strange that you missed this as this is the methodology used in the study?

    1. The article does say: “Applying minoxidil straight after using a derma roller can cause systemic minoxidil absorption.” Also, see the comment from November 29, 2016 above: “As for minoxidil application, definitely don’t apply it immediately after! Wait at least 24 hours before applying minoxidil to avoid systemic absorption.”

      1. How long should you do the dermarolling with each?? 30 seconds, 5 minutes, etc..

  14. Is it said to wash my hair after i use a 0.75 microneedle? Or should I just oil it with my Rosemary and castor oil straight afterwards. I’m wondering if the shampoo will be harmful to my scalp, or should I just use plain water?

  15. I baught a Dermaroller stainless steel some people Saïd that its not a good quality and its less effective tban titanium this is true ? Sorry for my english

  16. Hello ! very one
    i am using Derma roller from last 2 month and result are visible . i am happy to see that . now days i am using once in a day with 5% minoxidil ( morr F 5%)
    wish to understand shall i continue to use once in a day since hair regrowth started .
    or this will damage my new hair which grown newly ?
    or i need to change in use once in week or dally and minoxidil % ?
    please revert on mail with you comments and guidance for better result

  17. How much do you pressure the roller? And, is there supposed to be blood coming out of the area or just to become redish?

  18. I’m using one for acne scars and now I’m worried I’ll grow more hair on my face! Has anyone experienced this??

  19. Does a topical anesthetic need to be used for pain?

  20. I too would like to know how much pressure to apply thank you to my scalp.

  21. shall we use use coconut oil after using the derma roller for hair regrowth, does it show any result. ? and which mm needle is good?

  22. My hair is gone very much thin….I have stared using derma roller with foligain hair lotion…I have used it on 3 times…After how much time will I see the results

  23. I have long hair but it’s going very thin on me :/. I plan to purchase this Dermaroller. Will it be ok with me having long hair ??

    1. It cut my hair, think pizza roller……

  24. For how long do you use the dermaroller with each use

  25. Do NOT use anything on the scalp for 24hours after micro needling. There have been some Dermatology articles published of granulomas resulting after a Vitamin C Serum was applied immediately following Professional microneedling treatments. These were on the face, but it stands to reason you run a risk with your scalp as well. I am a female with long hair and purchased the Derminator microneedling device. I found the rollers actually cut my hair. The Derminator cartridge (9 needles) rapidly injects the needles and can be set to the speed you desire. I find I need numbing cream for the temple area which I bought it over the counter, 4% lidocaine.

  26. Can anyone please tell me how to use derma roller like how much pressure i have to use.. or I just stop after little bleeding.. and how to fix dandruff bcz i think that is the only reason of my hair fall.. please suggest something.

  27. My hairline is receding and hair on back is also falling and thinning, is there any problem if I shave my head and use derma roller on full scalp ?

  28. Can we use Rosemary essential oil instead of Minoxidil after microneedling with dermaroller on temples area? Is it helpful in regrowing the hair? I have very small tiny hairs at the temples area. If do this can I make those hairs into thicker? Please suggest me regarding this

  29. I know a guy who is almost completely bald on top, he has very thin hairs on top and his crown is bald. He is 32 years old. What size of roller should he use and would rosemary or lavender oils do him good?

  30. I tried a derma roller before and I found that it worked well for my skin and I liked that.

    1. Melvin, it looks like you’ve got some good growth going on there if that’s you in the photo (I haven’t got my spectacles on). Keep up the good work!

  31. It says that participants had their heads shaved and tattooed is spots so the length of hair wouldn’t compromise the study but in the pictures they have long hair before and longer hair after. Worth a try but don’t expect amazing results.

    1. From the abstract of the paper: “After baseline global photographs, the scalp were shaved off to ensure equal length of hair shaft in all.”

  32. hi,
    whats ur opinion about using derma roller after hair transplant?
    if yes,after how many months we can start using derma roller?
    thanks

  33. I have advanced level of hair loss. Is it worth to use 0.5mm dermoroller(sorry for my english)

  34. can I use demaroller on my frontal hair to grow more cus I have a big forehead,and also is 0.5mm good for me to use and when will I start seeing result.

  35. I use the derma roller once a week…just apply slight pressure when using it, go in all directions with about five strokes in a line, then move onto the next and repeat. Be sure to place the roller in alcohol or pour peroxide on it when done. After this treatment, I use a mixture of coconut oil, rosemary, lavendar and cedar oils to rub into the scalp. I wash my hair approximately every other day and apply the above topical solution after washing. Do not derma roll more than once a week. It seems overall this is helping and preventing more hair loss. I do use a concealer when out and about ( Coboki ).

    1. Hi Adams, thanks for your comment. I have several questions on your tips.

      1. Do you also use 1.5mm derma roller yourself?
      2. As for the pressure, you said it’s ok to make a slight pressure when using it, does this mean that you don’t press it until you see even small bleeding?
      3. Do you have your hair regrown since you started dermarolling?

      Much appreciated if I can hear from you soon!

  36. I have alopecia secondary to Lupus.. I have lost 2 to 3 inches my entire hairline and several large areas on the top. After years of injections and monixidil, I was told the follicles are dead and the hair loss is permanent. I was not aware of this study but I was getting a needling facial a year ago and decided to try it on my hairline. Some of the hair grew back so I have started to do needling facials every 3 weeks for 6 treatments at a salon. I’ve had one so far with noticeable growth at the hairline. I’m also using products from Monat and hair is growing very slowly at hairline and also on the top of my head. I’m thrilled with skinny girls that I get!

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