Anti-Aging Q&A Part 1 ~ Dermarolling

There are certain questions that I get asked over and over again by readers. Some can be answered with a quick yes or no while others take more thought and explanation. In this 4 part series, I’ll answer the most asked, but most difficult to answer anti-aging questions!

Question 1: Have you tried at-home dermarolling (micro-needling) and if so did it work?

The short and simple answer is no, I haven’t tried it… but you’re not here for the short answer are you?

The longer and more thoughtful answer is no, I haven’t tried it yet and here’s why…

Microneedling or dermarolling began as an in-office procedure to help with acne scarring, but now it’s being done at home with inexpensive hand-held rollers to help with everything from scars to wrinkles to hair loss. The basic concept is to cause a controlled injury to skin that in turn causes skin to go into healing mode which produces new collagen among other things. The needles come in different lengths and widths which can provide either a relatively painless treatment or a painful, bloody experience.


It’s like a mini paint roller studded with tiny needles

I’m a pain-o-phobe and a germ-o-phobe so definitely the painful bloody option is not for me! Poking thousands of little holes in my face seems like it would hurt, and seems like a great way to introduce bacteria into the skin and cause an infection. In addition to infection, there’s the issue of product ingredients penetrating deeper into the skin than is normally intended. I know this is said to be one of the benefits of the device, but I’m not sure everything in a serum should go that deep.

The case people make for derma rolling seems pretty compelling and there are lots of convincing before & after photos that would suggest this works but what I don’t know about them is if the procedure was done at home, in a spa, or in a doctor’s office, and if it was combined with other therapies or topicals. The web is full of amazing looking wrinkle solutions, but it’s also full of false or misleading information so I tried to find real scientific proof that this works (or doesn’t).


I was able to find 3 studies specifically on microneedling for improving sun-damaged skin, but most of the research has been concentrated on improving scarring. From what I was able to understand from the abstracts there is something to this, but even the studies aren’t exactly sure why or how it works. What I do know from the studies is that results were achieved through closely supervised, carefully calibrated professional treatment. The more I read, the more I’m on the fence about it, so put me in the “never say never” category.

So for now, I’ll still decline the at-home variety, but who knows, all you derma rollers out there may be on to something…

Here are the links to the articles I found most interesting:

Efficacy of microneedling plus human stem cell conditioned medium for skin rejuvenation: a randomized, controlled, blinded split-face study.

This Korean study published in September 2014 was done to study the efficacy of human growth hormone (stem cells) for photo-aged skin, but because HGH isn’t easily absorbed, they used a derma roller to help with penetration. Twenty-five participants, ages 41-64 had stem cells applied using a derma roller on one side of their face, and derma roller alone on the other. They each had 5 treatments spaced 2 weeks apart. Results were scored from 1-4 (1 = no improvement, 4 = total improvement). Participants’ overall satisfaction with derma roller plus stem cell was in the 3 range (marked improvement) while derma roller alone was in the 2 (moderate improvement) range.  What’s interesting is that the doctor’s assessment was much lower with both methods receiving marks only in the 1-1.9 range (minimal to no improvement).

Facial allergic granulomatous reaction and systemic hypersensitivity associated with microneedle therapy for skin rejuvenation.

This study was published in JAMA in January of 2014. It demonstrates in a very small sampling (3 women) that derma rolling can cause skin hypersensitivity when certain topical actives are pushed too far into the skin. In this case it was a Vitamin C serum that “results in intradermal tattooing of the topical product.” The study goes on to say: “Despite rapid increase in the use of microneedles in dermatology, there are few data about their safety… Application of topical products prior to microneedling can introduce immunogenic particles into the dermis and potentiate local or systemic hypersensitivity reactions.”

Skin Cell Proliferation Stimulated by Microneedles

This study was published in 2012 in The Journal of the American College of Clinical Wound Specialists. There was so much interesting info. in this one it made my inner nerd dizzy! Not being a doctor or scientist, most of it was over my head, but the parts that stood out to me discuss ways in which micro needling can help heal injured skin without the creation of scar tissue… “Here we review the potential mechanisms by which microneedling of the skin facilitates skin repair without scarring after the treatment of superficial burns, acne, hyper pigmentation…” In the conclusion they say that micro needling seems to have potential but they’re just not sure why or how it works.


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