At-Home Microneedling: Is It Safe?
Microneedling, also known as collagen induction therapy or dermarolling (I'll be using the terms interchangeably), is the act of using tiny needles to create uniform injury to the skin, causing an increase in the production of collagen. Microneedling encourages the healing process, jumpstarting skin rejuvenation, and can improve some skin concerns. But the question is highly debated: Can you safely incorporate microneedling into your at-home beauty routine?
*Disclaimer: As an esthetician, I DO NOT recommend doing this from home. There is a lot of risks involved. Infection, scarring, inflammation, microtears, and severe damage are all things you need to be aware of if considering microneedling from home. However, I understand that alone won’t persuade many. So, if you are planning on dermarolling from home, keep reading to learn how to do it as safely as possible.
Here are a few things that microneedling can treat.
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Acne scarring (as long as active acne is healed)
- Stretch marks
- Hyperpigmentation or dark spots
- Skin firmness/plumpness
- Skin texture
Mild concerns that can be treated from home.
Moderate to severe indications will benefit more from professional microneedling.
Who shouldn’t microneedle: If you have very deep wrinkles, active acne, eczema, rosacea, or open wounds/lesions, you should NOT use a dermaroller. Speak to a doctor first if you are diabetic, on blood thinners, acne medication (like Accutane), or topical antibiotics.
Professional microneedling will give you more drastic results than at home. The type of treatment you'll receive is much different than what you'll be able to do for yourself. In an office or clinic, there are numerous types of tools and machines that assist in providing you a safe and effective treatment. You can expect to book around 3-7 treatments depending on the results you want, with 4-5 weeks in between appointments to allow for the skin to heal (for deeper treatments). The cost of professional microneedling can range anywhere from $100-$700 per session. With an in-office service, you can trust that the tools used are properly sterilized, the technique they use is safe, the aftercare products, and you can safely receive a more in-depth service, allowing for greater results.
At-home microneedling is much more cost-effective but easier to mess up. With tools ranging from $8-$40, you will certainly save a large amount. By doing it yourself, you can control the areas you target, and incorporate it into your long-term skincare goals without having to visit a clinic. The downside is that many people aren’t properly sanitizing their tools or replacing them often enough. Tools bought online run the risk of being improperly made, with needles being bent or out of line, or with fake needles. This can cause more damage than you had before, and it’s very hard to identify bent or fake needles (because they're so small).
Tips On How To “Safely” Microneedle At Home
Choose The Right Size and Inspect Carefully
Examine your tool very critically and throw out or return if you see any bent needles. You can use a magnifying glass, or, if you have a good camera on your phone, take pictures all over under good lighting, then zoom in on the needles. There are a lot on the market, so be sure to read reviews and buy from a reputable source.
If your Dermaroller looks anything like these, even just one needle, don't use it.
Be careful of counterfiets, especially from third party sellers.
*Pro Tip: ALWAYS start with size .25mm for your face and NEVER go any bigger than .5mm. You will see noticeable results at these sizes, but anything longer is too dangerous for at home. For things like stretch marks or scars on the body, you should be able to start out with .5mm and increase to 1.0mm over time, since the skin on your body is naturally thicker than on your face. Just be sure to use separate tools for your face and body.
*Note: You definitely shouldn't experience any bleeding with .25mm or .5mm. If you do, you're applying too much pressure. Deep pressure and bleeding are common occurrences when professionals use longer needles at a clinic, but shouldn't be attempted at home.
*Pro Tip: Thin, small needles are very easy to bend on accident. If you drop your dermaroller, hit it on something by mistake, or even knick it on the case you set it in, make sure to check it thoroughly. I've had to throw out 2 dermarollers just out of sheer clumsiness (and fear of microtears!)
Preparation and Technique
Before beginning this treatment, swap out any actives for a simplified routine (think basic unscented cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF) for about a week before microneedling. You want your skin to be balanced and unexfoliated before microneedling. Stay consistent in sanitizing your dermaroller before using. Always cleanse your face thoroughly first. It’s up to you if you want to apply your serum before or after you dermaroll. I prefer to dermaroll on dry, clean skin, and pat on my serum/oil after.
How you use the tool can make or break your results, and there are a lot of instructional videos on YouTube demonstrating improper and damaging techniques. This video is very informative and is one of the few videos showing the correct technique. Please watch this before attempting on yourself, and skip to 8:45 to get right into the techniques. https://youtu.be/NIxkucJ68KA?t=525
*Pro Tip: When using your dermaroller, take care to never drag the roller to different areas across your skin. Always pick it up off your face before moving to the next section. It's crucial to maneuver it in straight lines, whether that be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. Even if you have to do more sections, you never want to curve the tool while rolling.
Clean Your Tools
A dermaroller has hundreds of micro-needles, which can vary from .15mm-3.0 mm in length. Regardless of the length, these needles are piercing your skin. If there is any kind of bacteria on them, they have a direct path into the delicate layers of your skin.
To clean, start by soaking your dermaroller in very hot water mixed with soap (prop it up so the needles don’t touch the container) for about 30 minutes. Rinse well. You’ll immediately clean AGAIN by soaking in isopropyl alcohol for 30 minutes, allowing it to air-dry. Make sure not to attempt soaking up the water or alcohol with a towel. Clean before you use it for the first time, and after every use.
*Note: One of the reasons you shouldn't microneedle over active acne: you can spread the acne bacteria to other areas of your face via the needles.
*Note: You cannot fully sterilize a dermaroller at home. The risk of infection will always be present, so be diligent and clean extensively every time. Here are photos of a staph infection on the face (they are pretty graphic). You can easily contract staph from microneedling at home since the tool can’t be cleaned properly without damaging it. Please proceed with caution.
You DO NOT want this on your face. Staph on the face can easily spread to other areas of the body.
Choose Carefully What You Apply After
The micro-injuries allow for deeper absorption of products, so what you put on after you dermaroll is critical. Since it will be absorbed deeply, I reach for serums or oils because they can have a smaller molecular weight, meaning the good ingredients in them are able to penetrate twice as well. Thick moisturizers or creams can potentially clog the tiny punctures you’ve created, causing breakouts. Choose a product rich in vitamins and antioxidants! I personally love a Vitamin C oil or a squalene-rich serum after I microneedle.
*Pro Tip: Don't apply any face makeup for at least 24 hours after microneedling. Your skin needs to heal unhindered and unblocked. Imagine makeup plugging into your pinprick-sized needle wounds… Just don’t.
*Pro Tip: Be very cautious when using AHA’s, BHA’s, retinol, enzymes, or other actives after microneedling. Your skin will be in a sensitized state after dermarolling, so applying actives or exfoliants can be way too much for your skin to handle. After your skin thickens from the increased collagen, you may be able to handle said ingredients after dermarolling. But, I still highly recommend consulting with a dermatologist or esthetician before you consider doing this.
*Pro Tip: Stay far, far away from fragrances, or ANYTHING that you have even a slight sensitivity to. Microneedling will make your reaction to the irritant much more intense.
Don’t Use Too Frequently
There’s a reason you’ve got to wait weeks between appointments in-office. Don’t get courageous at home! Your skin could be seriously compromised if you use a dermaroller too frequently. To start out, using the smallest size, use 1x per week. Give yourself a week in between treatments so you can adjust! As your skin grows used to the treatment, you can eventually increase usage, to 2-3x per week, cautiously. When/if you move up to .5mm, since it's a deeper penetration, I wouldn’t advise anything more than 1x per week.
This is the one I use, I've never had trouble with bent needles or anything of the sort.
Lolysenta .25mm Dermaroller ~$8.99
Reminder: I can't recommend doing this at home. But, If you’re still set on giving it a go, just proceed with caution. If you notice anything out of the ordinary with your skin (besides plump, glowy skin) then visit a doctor. It's always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your face. Other than that, happy rolling!!