Does Derma Rolling Have Side Effects? Safety Considerations for Microneedling the Scalp and Hair

WrittenbyLuat Duong
Last updated

Derma rolling, also known as skin needling or microneedling, has gained popularity as a natural, at-home alternative to procedures like laser resurfacing or chemical peels. By using a handheld tool covered in tiny needles to create controlled skin punctures, derma rolling provides benefits like reducing acne scars, smoothing fine lines and stimulating collagen. However, as with any technique that disrupts the skin barrier, derma rolling does pose some potential side effects as well.

Does derma roller have side effects?

Yes, derma rolling can cause minor side effects like redness, irritation and swelling in some cases. However, these issues are usually short-lived when proper sterilization and application techniques are followed. With the right precautions, most healthy individuals can derma roll safely and experience only mild transient side effects or none at all.

Common derma roller side effects

Some of the more frequent mild side effects or complications associated with derma rolling include:

  • Redness - Rolling may cause superficial reddening of the skin due to minor bleeding or inflammation.
  • Irritation/itching - Scratchy or sore sensations are common as skin repairs itself after needling.
  • Pimples - Blocked pores from debris/oils could result in small breakouts that usually disappear quickly.
  • Swelling - Minor puffiness around the treatment area often subsides within a day.
  • Crusting - As wounds close, a scab-like formation may develop and flake away without scarring.

In the majority of cases, these transient responses confirm skin self-renewal is taking place as intended and aren't cause for concern on their own.

Potential derma roller complications

On rare occasions with excessive pressure application or preexisting conditions, some other potential risks include:

  • Infection - Not sterilizing equipment properly between uses allows bacteria entry.
  • Scarring - Aggressive rolling with too many/large needles risks permanent scarring.
  • Herpes breakouts - Can trigger flare ups for individuals with oral/facial HSV.
  • Allergic reaction - Unlikely but possible to needle shaft materials like stainless steel.

Taking precautions and understanding individual risks helps minimize even these more serious potential derma roller side effects.

How to prevent or minimize side effects

To reduce chances of experiencing any negative reactions from derma rolling:

  • Always sterilize roller before and after use with rubbing alcohol.
  • Start with a smaller needle size (0.25mm) and light pressure for sensitive skin.
  • Consider numbing cream use for discomfort in problem areas.
  • Avoid broken/damaged skin and wait for wounds to fully heal prior to rolling.
  • Apply soothing gel/serum afterwards to calm skin and boost hydration.
  • Listen to body - Discontinue use if pain/irritation persists after 24 hours.

Taking post-treatment measures also alleviates potential side effects quicker:

  • Apply cooling compress for swelling/discomfort.
  • Take an oral antihistamine for itchiness.
  • Use hydrocortisone cream on inflamed blemishes.
  • Moisturize heavily until skin returns to normal.

With diligent precautions and responsiveness in reaction to side effects that do arise, most individuals can safely experience derma rolling's skin rejuvenating advantages long-term.

When to see a doctor

While minor redness, swelling or pimples typically resolve independently at home, it's advised consulting a doctor if side effects persist for more than 2-3 days or include:

  • Severe pain not helped by over-the-counter painkillers.
  • Fever or swollen lymph nodes indicating potential infection.
  • An increasingly inflamed, infected-looking reaction site.
  • The appearance of darkly discolored patches or scarring.
  • Any signs and symptoms of herpes simplex virus infection.

A medical professional can determine if additional treatment or cessation of the needling practice is necessary for healing in these scenarios.

The bottom line

In summary, while derma rolling may cause mild, temporary effects like redness or irritation normally as part of the skin's self-repair process, it carries low risk of serious adverse reactions when performed properly on healthy individuals. Following manufacturer and expert use guidelines while factoring individual variables minimizes even potential minor side effects.

For most, derma rolling delivers collagen-boosting benefits smoothly with minimal discomfort. But preventing contamination, applying light pressure with small needles and responding appropriately if issues do crop up ensures safer experiences and results long-term.

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Scalp Activation Derma Roller
A hand-held microneedling tool intended to stimulate the scalp and encourage fuller hair

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Luat Duong

Luat Duong is a Copenhagen-based writer and content strategist specializing in hair loss and health. His work has been featured in MyHealthGuide, The Right Hairstyles, and Woman's Era. He is a graduate of Vaasa University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.