How to Use a Derma roller: A Complete Guide to Micro-Needling

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how to use a derma roller

New to derma-rolling? Here’s what you need to know on how to use a derma roller and the benefits that come with it. Some of the meaning is hidden in the name of the concept. Derma means skin (as in epidermis) and the rolling, well, is self explanatory. But what happens, how it happens and what it does for you are more than just skin deep.

The Benefits of Micro-Needling

Derma-rolling consists of a device, a little like a miniature paint roller, but with hundreds of sharp points, being applied to areas of your face and body. In actuality, these hundreds of points are so sharp that they do actually penetrate the skin. While you’re rolling, these needles (actually known as micro needles, as they are far removed from the needles you may be familiar with that are used to administer injections and take blood at the hospital) create ‘micro punctures’ in the dermis which actually promote collagen production.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, found in bones, muscles, tendons and especially skin. The natural production of it slows as you age, and wrinkles are a by-product of this slowing of collagen making. As such, anything that actually promotes collagen production and micro puncture treatment has been medically proven to do this in studies dating back to 2006, 2008 and 2010.

The micro punctures promote the collagen to be produced and go to the areas that have been ‘damaged’ which has the effect of reducing wrinkles in a very short space of time. Acne can be reduced significantly, stretch marks and scars are also beneficiaries of this process as are hyperpigmentation and even plumping lips. When you combine this treatment with a serum, the boost ingredient absorption rate can go up to 90%!

For a more intense treatment, an in-office procedure using a dermapen, can have much better and dramatic results. But of course, these treatments are more expensive and painful. Fortunately, at-home dermarollers are still amazingly cheap and can still get great results with regular maintenance. Plus it has a lower pain threshold.

How to Choose a Derma Roller

First, make sure you buy one from a quality retailer. I’ve bought a few on Amazon, Own Doc but my favorite by far is from a company called Stacked Skincare. Their needle size is 0.2mm which is basically for enhancing the absorption of skincare products. I’ve tried it for several months and I did notice some plumping and firming around problematic areas especially when combined with a serum. It’s a greater starter tool that doesn’t cause pain to the skin.

Before you open up your wallet, there are plenty of options to consider. First amongst them is the micro needle size. The recommended depth (and therefore size) is between 0.5mm and 2.0mm. Anything that is smaller than 0.5mm won’t promote collagen production according to the research.

Anything larger runs the risk of damaging sensitive areas of your face; however this is not the case if used on the body. Also note that these needles will technically be puncturing your skin — they must be clean for every use or you run the risk of infection. Isopropyl alcohol is the favored way to clean these needles. Before and after use, dip the derma roller into the solution and this will make sure that your equipment is surgically clean!

It’s also important to be aware that they all have finite lives which are linked to the amount of use they get. The micro needles start sharp, but as with everything over time, become more blunted with use and eventually need to be replaced — exactly like razors.

Now that you know the number of derma roller options to choose from, the next step is learning how to use a derma roller.

derma roller

How to use a derma roller

First, cleanse your face. To really increase absorption rate, exfoliate with a chemical peel. Next, apply a serum to your face. Once applied, take your dermaroller and gently roll up and down 2-3 times vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.

It’s worthwhile easing into derma-rolling for the first few sessions. Be mindful of any discomfort and take breaks as may be needed. Remember: your face has different areas of skin that has different depths. As such, you are going to learn which areas are ‘deeper’ and which are lighter and it’s not going to be too difficult to work this out.

Remember: Clean the roller in a proven cleaning medium (Isopropyl alcohol is easy to obtain, cheap and easy to store) before AND after you have used it. This will mitigate any infection issues that may be present.

Be very careful around sensitive areas like eyes — it’s worth pulling the skin down from below your eyes to give it a rolling, instead of bringing the roller up and potentially getting a needle to close to your eye. Note: never roll over your eyelids.

What serum(s) should I use?

One of the main reasons why so many people, including myself, like to do a micro-needling treatment is to maximize the efficacy of face serums. So, it’s important to choose the right serum with ingredients that won’t cause an adverse reaction. Formulas that contain ingredients like peptides, stem cells, hyaluronic acid and other growth factors are best. Stay away from serums with retinol and vitamin C because they already cause sensitivity to begin with.

How often should I do it?

Here’s a general rule, I’ve learned after buying my derma rollers from OwnDoc:

  • .2mm-.3mm can be used daily
  • .5mm can be used 1-3 times a week on the same area
  • 1.0mm can be used every 10-14 days on the same area
  • 1.5mm can be used ever 3-4 weeks on the same area
  • 2.0mm can only be used once every five weeks on the same skin area (not on face), and only if you have the knowledge to judge which part of the skin is thick enough to safely use this needle length

Now you know how to use a derma roller. It’s up to you and your comfort level on how often you wish to do micro-needling. I have a .5mm at home and I use mine once a week which has helped me maintain my results. If you have a lot of discoloration or wrinkles, then it’s understandable to do yours more often.

With all of these hints and tips, you now have a pathway to begin your derma-rolling adventure. Good luck!

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  1. I didn’t realize that Vitamin C was bad for derma rolling. I was going to try The Ordinary’s Vitamin C with hyaluronic acid serum. If using for stretch marks you can also use it once per week? I saw a video on Youtube where the woman only did it once per month and had good results. I guess I’m asking if there is a way to guage how often to use it?

    1. Hi,

      Vitamin c is considered a “reactive ingredient” so it can be too harsh when paired with needles. If you still want to use it, I would do a patch test first. Also, make sure the vitamin c serum is a highly stabilized form. I don’t know much about The Ordinary’s Vitamin C serum so do your research first.

      Remember stretchmarks are very deep scars so you need a roller that will go deep enough which is a size usually between 1.5mm-2mm. Doing it every 4-6 weeks is best because it takes time for the skin to heal and build collagen. Dermarolling too often (i.e. once a week) with a 1.5mm or longer can worsen results.

      I hope this helps!

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