Microneedling is a type of esthetic procedure that addresses a number of aging effects. You might find people calling this procedure skin needling, which is in reference to its effects on collagen production.
During this procedure, the practitioner will use a skin roller with small needles, causing minor skin lesions. Despite its reputation as an anti-aging treatment, microneedling can be very useful in the treatment of hair loss. In fact, there is some evidence that supports its efficacy in the management of androgenetic alopecia.
You see, the process of creating tiny wounds in the skin will also regenerate your hair follicles. Eventually, this might lead to new hair growth. At the very least, experts believe that microneedling for hair loss might help, which is a common issue in people with pattern hair loss (also known as pattern baldness).
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about microneedling and how it helps with the treatment of various hair loss conditions. The evidence presented in this article will rely on high-quality clinical studies and peer-reviewed papers.
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The benefits of microneedling for hair loss
During the 1990s, microneedling gained a lot of traction as a potential treatment therapy for androgenic alopecia and alopecia areata.
We covered these two conditions in great detail in our other posts.
Researchers believed that microneedling could be useful as an alternative treatment or as an adjuvant treatment to medications.
The primary mechanism that allows microneedling to treat androgenetic alopecia is the collagen production that occurs underneath the skin. Research shows that this mechanism is why microneedling helps with acne treatment too.
The second potential mechanism that explains the benefits of microneedling is the ability to induce stem cell regeneration. As a result, hair growth in follicles can be seen again.
Finally, microneedling could be very beneficial to absorb different hair loss treatment options, including:
- Topical steroid
- Platelet-rich plasma
More specifically, researchers found that microneedling is especially potent for the absorption of corticosteroids, which are often used to treat hair loss.
How does microneedling work?
During a microneedling session, a healthcare worker will use a roller with the needles. The needles are generally very tiny (i.e., around 1 millimeter in length). Moreover, they are contained in a handheld device called a roller.
According to some resources, microneedling provokes the release of factors that promote hair growth. The substances released by the skin injuries are able to induce hair cell growth and proliferation. Others believe that the direct injury to hair follicles is responsible for their regrowth.
Note that you will receive a local anesthetic applied to your scalp around 30-45 minutes before the procedure. While microneedling is rarely painful, this anesthetic prevents any pain you might feel.
Depending on how large the surface area is, the duration of microneedling drastically varies. As a general rule of thumb, the procedure lasts for 10 minutes or less. Once the microneedling is complete, the practitioner may apply a topical balm or inject a medication (e.g., minoxidil, corticosteroids).
Why should you consider microneedling for hair loss at home?
Microneedling sessions are quite expensive, ranging from $200 to $700 per session. The larger the surface area, the more expensive these sessions will be.
Unfortunately, microneedling is not covered by medical insurance as it's considered a cosmetic procedure. One exception is undergoing microneedling for medical purposes. For instance, if you have a documented case of AA that's negatively affecting your quality of life or a debilitating case of acne, you may consider opting for insurance to pay for the procedure.
With that said, the chances of getting your insurance company to cover the costs are really slim. Therefore, it is better to get microneedling at home, as you will save thousands of dollars.
Derma roller at-home treatment
To limit your costs and have more freedom (time-wise), some people opt for derma roller to perform microneedling at home. The company, Dermapen, can limit the costs of microneedling to a third compared to receiving this service from professional clinics.
However, you should know that performing microneedling at home carries some downsides, including:
- The inability to see certain parts of the scalp (e.g., the back of the head)
- Choosing the wrong size for the needles
- Poor targeting of some bald areas
- The inability to use the roller properly
- Poor application of the pressure due to inexperience
- The unavailability of adjuvant therapies, such as a platelet-rich plasma or stem cell therapy
If these factors stand in your way, the results of the procedure may be suboptimal compared to professional services.
Furthermore, a licensed microneedling practitioner will be able to limit the risk of side effects by following all the right practices. You see, assessing the risks and complications on your own is very challenging. In fact, some people end up visiting a healthcare professional after doing microneedling at home. For instance, if an infection develops in the wounds you created, you will most likely need to visit a doctor to receive antibiotics. However, if you follow proper hygiene steps, the risk of infection is minimal.
For fairness' safe, we should mention that dermatologists discourage performing microneedling at home, especially when you have no experience in the field.
Clinical studies that support microneedling for hair loss
In a recent study in China, researchers reported that injuries induce hair regeneration. The proposed theory is the stimulation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway.
Another study found that microneedling increased total hair count more than minoxidil. Evidently, combining the two treatment options produces even more effective results.
In February 2021, a journal in Korea published its findings on the role of microneedling in enhancing the absorption of minoxidil. Analyzing patient satisfaction showed that minoxidil plus microneedling showed the best outcomes.
Researchers showed that using Follica's microwounding device to treat female pattern hair loss produced very positive results.
When it comes to the length of the needles, a study from Iran showed that a depth of 0.6 millimeters generated more effective results than 1.2 mm. These findings were surprising to many healthcare providers since it was believed that the deeper the injections are, the better the results. In fact, doctors working with derma rolling recommended microneedling at a depth of 1-1.5 mm in a 2020 video on their website.
All of these studies have a consensus on the benefits of microneedling at home. Even more, adding minoxidil to the mix can lead to impressive results.
Note that the effectiveness of minoxidil on hair loss depends on the type of disorder you have.
What about microneedling for hair loss at home?
Over the past few years, there has been an ongoing discussion about the use of microneedling at home. This DIY procedure using dermarolling can help with androgenetic alopecia and induce hair regrowth. For years, scientists have known that inflicting micro-injuries to the scalp induces follicular neogenesis by stimulating the natural healing processes of the skin.
Microneedling at home helps with a myriad of skin conditions, including hair loss, skin rejuvenation, wrinkles, acne, stretch marks, and scars. It can also help with pigmentation issues, such as melasma and enlarged pore size.
These effects are primarily the result of collagen and elastin deposition after certain metabolic pathways get stimulated. Note that a team of Japanese researchers found that hair thinning can be the result of collagen depletion, which is very common with aging.
Ideally, you would combine microneedling at home with drug administration (e.g., corticosteroids, minoxidil 5%). However, this is impractical if you're doing the procedure alone.
Doctors around the world use microneedling when applying hair regrowth medications and serums (e.g., minoxidil, platelet-rich plasma, exosomes). Therefore, to get similar results to professional clinics, try to ask a family member or a friend for help.
Microneedling for hair loss at home - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Attempting to perform microneedling for hair loss at home will undoubtedly trigger many questions.
This section will cover the most commonly asked questions and their respective answers:
What is the ideal depth of needles for microneedling at home?
As we mentioned above, finer depths seem to be more effective than profound depths. Therefore, opt for needles of 0.25 mm or 0.5 mm of depth if you're using the device on your face. Thicker scalp skin may require more depth (i.e., around 1.5 mm) to puncture the epidermis.
What is the best at-home microneedling device?
If you do a quick online search, you will find hundreds of dermarollers and dermapens for sale. Some of these devices have great customer reviews.
When it comes to scalp microneedling, however, people seem to prefer dermarollers over dermapens. We still don't know if that's due to the superior efficacy of the former or its relatively cheaper price.
The main difference between derma roller and Dermapen is their way of administration. The former penetrates the scalp skin at an angle, whereas the latter enters the skin vertically. This property and others give each device certain advantages and inconveniences.
What are the safety precautions that you need to take?
The most important safety precautions to take before performing microneedling are sterilizing the needles and cleaning the area of injections to avoid infections of your scalp. You should also avoid using too much force when rolling the device as this can lead to dermis or scalp damage.
If you notice any bleeding after microneedling, do not panic. It is a common thing that requires proper clean-up.
How often to use the derma roller or other microneedling device?
The frequency of using a microneedling device mainly depends on the sensitivity of your scalp. For instance, some people may bleed easily or develop sensitive reactions to the needles. This means that frequent microneedling is impractical.
Individuals with concurrent dermatological conditions, such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, will need to consult with a dermatologist before starting the treatment.
If you are not sure of how many times to do microneedling, try starting with 1-2 sessions per week, then adjust accordingly to your scalp condition.
Side effects of microneedling on the head
The procedure of microneedling may carry some side effects, including:
Another rare side effect is the scarring of the wounds.
After a few days of the procedure, the area may get inflamed and swollen. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) states that most of these side effects will subside within 5 days of the procedure.
With that said, make sure to speak with your dermatologist if you have any of these conditions before receiving micro needling:
- A medical history of acne or eczema
- Diabetes - it slows down wound healing
- Taking blood thinners or other medications
It is important to note that pregnant women should not receive microneedling.
One common plan that exacerbates the side effects of microneedling is the immediate use of minoxidil after the procedure. This will cause itching, burning, and irritation of the scalp. Make sure to speak with your doctor about when to apply minoxidil after microneedling. Or, you have another option that's more natural and safer - our Hair Growth Serum that's 100% vegan, naturally-derived AND guaranteed for growth (or money back!)
Some patients report their scalps being more sensitive to the sun after microneedling. Ideally, you would wear a hat and put on sunscreen every day, especially after the procedure.
Perhaps the most fearsome side effect of microneedling is the possible infection that develops within the wounds. This risk is relatively low because of how small the wounds are.
If you decide to get microneedling for hair loss at home, it would be crucial to pay close attention to hygiene and apply a local antibiotic to prevent infections.
Microneedling for hair loss at home can be a very powerful procedure that restores your hair without having to spend thousands of dollars.
We hope that this comprehensive guide helped you appreciate the potential role of microneedling at home and how it helps with alopecia areata and androgenic alopecia. Optimally, you would speak with your primary care physician or dermatologist before embarking on this journey.
If you want to boost your microneedling effectiveness, why not try out our guaranteed hair growth solution?
If you have any questions about microneedling, its costs, procedure, or hair loss disorders, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.