You may have recently heard the so-called magical powers of derma rollers from celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and youtubers across the internet. They preach the hand-held roller fixed with a plethora of tiny needles will boost collagen production and resurface the skin when incorporated into a nightly skincare routine. Seems too good to be true? Unfortunately it is, and I’m here to set the record straight on the dangers to your skin’s health from using these at-home techniques.
Before we talk about derma rollers, it’s necessary to discuss microneedling, it’s medical grade predecessor. Medical Microneedling with PRP (platelet rich plasma) is a treatment used to dull acne scars, blur fine lines and wrinkles, and reduce overall pore size, resulting in an improved skin texture and fresh glow. The treatment uses .5mm to 3mm long needles to to penetrate the skin and created tiny points of trauma, which triggers the body’s natural healing response and ultimately boost collagen production. Unique to microneedling, after the tiny needles have been applied, the patient’s own platelet rich plasma is applied to the surface of the skin, or injected into areas of extreme concerns, to further boost collagen and the healing process. According to Shonra Weiss, MSN, APRN, NP-C, CANS, and medical aesthetics professional, PRP is the vital component to the success of the treatment because of its healing properties. Due to the nature of this treatment, the necessity to be performed by not only a medical professional but also in a medical facility is essential to the patient’s skin health.
Now that we understand the process of microneedling, let’s breakdown it’s at-home version. Derma rollers resemble some type of portable medieval weapon (see image below), which promises to deliver the same results as microneedling at a significant discount. The roller is meant to be used after a serum of your choice is applied to the skin to increase product absorption and stimulate collagen production. Sounds reasonable right? Sure. Although, what’s happening on the skin’s surface is vastly different from what goes on at a medical office with a professional.
First of all, the needles from the derma roller are inserted in the skin at differing diagonals, compared to the needles of the microneedling pen, which penetrate the skin uniformly and perpendicularly. While this doesn’t seem like a huge difference, the issue with penetrating the skin from varying diagonals is it picks up differing areas of skin and creates a random pattern of trauma points. This randomized pattern on the skin makes the healing process less effective and even results in an undesired skin texture because the lack of uniformity.
Additionally, at home you are not going to get the benefits from the PRP as you would with a microneedling treatment. As I mentioned before PRP or platelet rich plasma is a part of the blood that aids in “tissue synthesis and collagen production” according to Weiss. Essentially, without it you will not see as much of the enhanced effects on the skin. You are probably envisioning now a picture of Kim K during her “vampire facial” a few years ago. (If not here it is anyways) Although, an actual microneedling treatment is less gorey. While the patients blood must still be drawn before the treatment begins, it is spun in a centrifuge until the blood separates into the different layers and the plasma (a.k.a “liquid gold” because of its color) can be collected.
One crucial difference of derma rollers is that they do not account for the different skin thicknesses on the face. I think we can all agree the skin on your cheek and chin is much thicker than skin around your eye or forehead. This can become an issue when you do not tailor the length of the needles to the corresponding area of the face. When a medical professional is performing a microneedling treatment on a patient, they tend to penetrate the skin deeper on areas of concern, such as acne scars, and go lighter on areas around the eyes, giving a custom treatment that will be most effective for the patient. Unfortunately, the at-home derma roller does not give the same customization as one would want in order to see positive results.
Another concern of at-home derma rollers is that there is no proper way to sterilize the device, which can result in infection. I can assume that if you’re even thinking about using a derma roller, you probably care about your skin’s health and appearance. Therefore risking infection and possible long-term damage for smaller pores is not worth it in my opinion. After all, this is your FACE we’re talking about.
Stay tuned for a step by step article about my microneedling experience coming soon!