What Is Dermarolling And Does Derma Roller Hurt?

Everything You Need to Know Before Using an At-Home Derma Roller

You can never be certain how people are going to react when you declare to the world that you really enjoy rolling needles into your face. Fortunately, after telling the tale of how I permanently removed my under-eye bags by way of derma-rolling (or micro-needling, as it’s often called), the response has been amazing and overwhelmingly positive—and many readers want to get in on the derma-roller action themselves.

How to Use a Derma Roller

We’ve gotten requests for details on how to try out derma-rolling at home. After all, when you’re planning on trying something that hard-core, you probably want to know exactly what you’re doing. I get it! So we’re covering it all, with the help of celebrity esthetician and Stacked Skincare founder Kerry Benjamin. From the correct needle size to the serums you should be using, consider this your primer on all things micro-needling. Let’s get things rolling, shall we?

How Does derma roller Work?

A derma roller contains hundreds of tiny needles. When in use, these needles create micro-injuries on the skin, which in turn sends collagen and elastin production into overdrive to compensate as it heals—leaving your complexion tighter and plumper than it was beforehand.

This makes it an ideal method for filling in fine lines and wrinkles, thickening and plumping the skin under the eyes (thus diminishing the appearance of dark circles and bags), and even plumping up lips. Derma-rolling is also an effective treatment for acne scars and discoloration since it penetrates the skin so deeply. Plus, when used in conjunction with a serum (as it should be), it boosts ingredient absorption up to 90%.

For a more intense, in-office treatment, many dermatologists use a dermapen, an electronic micro-needling device that oscillates as it punctures the skin. These treatments often have immediate and dramatic results but also have side effects like pain and bleeding. They also tend to be very expensive. Fortunately, you can use a cheaper, at-home derma-roller and still gets great results with regular maintenance. It requires a much lower pain threshold, too.

How to Choose a Derma Roller?

First off, make sure you’re sourcing one from a quality retailer. I’ve purchased great (and cheap!) derma-rollers on DermaRollingSystem.com, but would definitely suggest making sure it’s well reviewed and from a verified seller before making your selection. That said, DermaRollingSystem’s derma-roller is high quality and still quite affordable.

The next thing you have to consider is needle size. DermaRollingSystem strongly advises only using 0.3 mm or lower, as anything thicker has a higher risk of damaging skin (especially on delicate areas around the eyes and lips). If you want to do a deeper micro-needling treatment with a larger needle size, I recommend going to a professional.

Choosing the Right Serums (And Avoiding Others)

One of the main points of micro-needling at home is to really maximize the efficacy of your serums. Still, it’s really important to buy the right serum with the right active ingredients to get the most benefit and also cause no adverse reaction. That means embracing some ingredients and steering clear of others.

DermaRollingSystem recommends choosing formulas that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, stem cells, peptides, and growth factors. These are the types of ingredients that will really maximize the effects of micro-needling to stimulate collagen, speed up cell turnover, lift hyperpigmentation, smooth out fine lines, firm, plump, and hydrate.

Prepping Your Skin Before Derma-Rolling

Prep your skin by cleansing and then exfoliating with a gentle chemical or fruit enzyme peel—this second step helps you really get the most out of the micro-needling by increasing ingredient absorption even more, though I’ve also skipped exfoliation with good results.

After applying the peel (if you’re using it), add one to two layers of your serum of choice to your face. Take your derma-roller and gently roll it over your skin vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, rolling twice over your cheeks, forehead, chin, lips, and neck. No need to press too hard or put yourself in pain—apply as much pressure as you can comfortably tolerate.

After finishing, add a second layer of serum. If you aren’t overly sensitive to retinols, you can use them after rolling (though only at night).

Repeating the DermaRolling Procedure

This is really up to you: You can safely use your micro-needle as often as a few times a week, but I simply use mine once a month and have really been able to maintain my results that way. It really depends on what you’re most comfortable with and what kinds of skin issues you’re treating. (If you have a lot of discoloration or fine lines, you may want to use yours more often.)

Cleaning Your DermaRoller

After using, cleanse your roller with rubbing alcohol and store it in its plastic case. Also be sure to replace your derma-roller often—once a month, if you’re using it several times a week, or after about 10 to 15 uses.

What is dermarolling?

Remember the Vampire Facial? In 2014, Kim Kardashian fascinated (and horrified) the world when she posted a selfie with her own blood slathered all over her face. A Dermapen, which contained nine acupuncture-sized needles, was used to inject her face with her own blood. It’s a method known as microneedling—the idea is to stimulate collagen and elastin fibers to make skin smoother. While the procedure is still done today, less extreme and less painful DIY-friendly variations of the process have since emerged.

Enter dermarollers. Dermarolling, a form of microneedling, involves using a mini wheel covered with hundreds of tiny needles to gently prick the face. They look like mini torture devices but, trust us, work miracles for clearing acne scars, fading fine lines, and evening out skin tone—when they are used properly, that is. We spoke to two estheticians—Maria Angelica of the Cane + Austin Medi Spa and Kristyn Smith of Smith & Brit Boutique and Spa—to break down everything you need to know about this tool, ahead.

“A dermaroller is an instrument that creates micro pathways in the skin for product to better penetrate,” Smith explained, referring to dermarollers with a 0.1 to 0.2mm needle size. Those tiny needles, she said, “wouldn’t necessarily be for collagen synthesis. It’s a great way to get your products to absorb and penetrate the skin.” Smith suggested the Environ Cosmetic Gold Roll-CIT.

When the needle is larger, like 0.5mm, that’s when you’re getting into “wound healing stimulation,” Angelica said, “A dermaroller creates tiny pricks around the skin and gives enough space in between so the wound healing response takes over. You grow new skin.” That, in turn, leads to a smoother, more even, and plumper complexion.

Who is dermarolling best for?

“Anyone could use it: Someone that has acne scarring, someone with larger pores, someone who just wants a skin-tightening boost,” she said, “It depends on the needle length.” For scarring, you’ll want a thicker and deeper needle. To refine pores, you’ll need thin, short needles.

Smith warned that there are some folks who should steer clear of dermarolling, including anyone with eczema, psoriasis, and warts (which are prone to spreading, so rolling all over your face isn’t ideal). For anyone with acne, you shouldn’t roll over cystic skin or an open wound from a zit because it’ll spread bacteria all over the face.

Another thing to be cautious of? Retinol. “You wouldn’t want to introduce that and dermarolling all at once because you’ll have a really intense reaction,” Smith said. Angelica warned that you should stop using retinol four to five days before rolling.

What kind of preparation do you need to do?

Since you may draw blood, cleanliness is key. The skin has to be completely clean of oils and dirt. “Cleanse preferably with a foaming cleanser, [and] use a toner to balance the PH,” Angelica suggested. Smith said to treat the skin with an antiseptic cleanser before pricking.

As for the dermaroller itself, it needs to be put down on a clean surface, so lay out a paper towel. If you’re going to reuse your tool, make sure to clean it with CaviCide or Barbicide, Angelica said. She’s also a fan of being extra cautious and tossing out the dermaroller

Smith added, “You want to make sure you’re soaking your roller in an alcohol-based soak and you should clean it once a week. I have a gold-plated roller that’s going to last you a long time versus the plastic handles that are going to last you about six months.”

How do you actually use the dermaroller?

“You want to go in a system where you’re going horizontally and you’re creating these little channels,” Smith said. Roll horizontally over the forehead, cheeks, chin back and forth. Then, go vertically on the forehead up and down up to three times. Finally, go diagonally across the face. Angelica’s suggested technique is to always move from the center outward through the face. On the nose, you work downward.

Once you’ve rolled, it’s time to continue with active skincare products. “It’s a great time to use your anti-aging products,” Smith said, “It’s a great time for collagen-stimulating products and brighteners. I tend to do all of those after.”

“If you have a nice, low vitamin C serum that’s going to stimulate the skin, that would be idea,” Angelica added. It’s also best to reserve dermarolling for your nighttime routine so you’re not exposed to the sun when you’re more susceptible to damage.

Does dermarolling hurt?

“The larger the needle you introduce, the more painful it’s going to be,” Smith said, “You don’t want to press into your skin. You want to have a light hand. You want to feel it but not to the point where it’s uncomfortable. It’s not the best thing you’ve ever felt but it shouldn’t hurt.”

Angelica was more blunt. “It does hurt. If you have a low pain tolerance it’s probably better for you to go to a professional,” she said. “You want to create an inflammation response because that’s what’s going to promote the healing. Don’t take any aspirin. Don’t take any blood thinners.”

When will you see results?

“With the roller, it’s subtle but I do feel like after using it, [I see results] pretty immediately,” Smith said. She suggested starting with dermarolling once a week to build tolerance up to twice or three times a week (the smaller the needle, the more frequently you can do it). “When you get to three nights a week you should definitely see a change in the skin. Lines that were more pronounced aren’t there anymore.”

Angelica agreed with starting dermarolling once a week. “Collagen takes a good two months to grow, so within a month you should start to see really nice results,” she said.

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