With skincare devices launching as often as Kylie Jenner drops a new product, it's a) hard to keep up and b) know what's actually worth it. On this week's made-up episode of Does it work? Should I buy it?: Dermarollers. What is dermarolling? Is it the same as microneedling? Should you try it? Will it completely destroy your skin? Hey, I hear you—I had the same questions. So let's start with the basics:
What is dermarolling?
Dermarolling is the act of using a dermaroller—a handled roller covered in small, fixed needles (usually 0.3 mm or smaller) that you manually roll over your clean skin—to create micro-punctures on your face. The purpose of these ultra-tiny wounds is to help the skincare you use after you dermaroll penetrate deeper into your skin, making them even more effective.
What’s the difference between dermarolling and microneedling?
- Dermarollers use fixed needles on a roller head (again, 0.3 mm or smaller) to create ultra-tiny pricks in the skin, while microneedling uses vibration (this helps distract from the pain) and a needle width that ranges from 0.25 mm to 3 mm.
- Dermarolling is typically done at-home, while microneedling is done in-office.
- Both devices only puncture the skin's outer layer (the epidermis), but dermarolling typically only pricks the skin, promoting increased product absorption, while microneedling goes a little deeper, gently wounding it, triggering the natural production of collagen and elastin. "You could probably find the depth that a professional uses on eBay, but I don't recommend that since you can scar yourself if you don't know what you're doing," says Lisa Goodman, licensed PA and co-founder of Goodskin Clinic.
"Scarring is interesting because you can both create a scar with trauma [through microneedling], but you can also heal a scar with trauma," says Goodman. "It's all about knowing how deep to push the needles on different parts of your face that will determine how you heal." Which, heads up, is why microneedling and dermarolling will always be safest when performed by a professional.
How do you use a dermaroller?
You'll want to use back and forth motions using a medium amount of pressure over your face, except on any bony areas, like your cheekbones, nose, forehead, etc. These areas call for super-light pressure to avoid creating prick marks on your skin from the needles.
Also good to note: The skin under your eyes is very similar to the skin on your neck. There aren't any oil glands, and it's much thinner, so you'd treat those two areas the same: Be gentle and do one roller pass to see how your skin reacts. If your skin falls on the sensitive side (aka it becomes pink or red right after you do a single pass), stick to dermarolling once or twice (at most!) a week.
Most important: "If you have active acne, stay away from rolling over any pustules, since doing so can spread the bacteria to different areas of your face," adds Mashell Tabe, a medical aesthetician and intuitive energy worker. Basically, if you're in the middle of a massive breakout, keep the needles away—they can make things worse.
Can I wash my face after dermarolling?
"You'll definitely want to cleanse your face first at home since you don't want to be pushing any dirt or bacteria into the skin as you pass the tiny needles over it," says Tabe. "Plus, the cleaner your skin is, the better the penetration will be when it comes to your product's ingredients since there won't be any build-up blocking it from being absorbed." So cleanse first with a creamy, sulfate-free, gentle face wash.
What should I put on my face after dermarolling?
"Start off with the thinnest and most active formulas first," explains Tabe. "Think runny liquids (like serums) first, and then move toward the thickest viscosity (a face cream). If your skin is primed to handle retinol (aka you're not using it for the first time ever in life after dermarolling for the first time), mix it with hyaluronic acid and apply it after you've cleansed, before sealing it in with a thicker cream.
Is dermarolling really effective?
"You're obviously not going to get the same results you'd get if you opted for microneedling at a doctor's office, but doing it a couple of times a week is helpful for product infusion if you're using good ingredients after," explains Goodman. She recommends using a high-dose antioxidant or vitamin C serum.
Overall, though, Goodman says you should see brighter skin quickly (possibly even the next day) since your products will be penetrating better. But skincare takes about a month to make a noticeable difference in your skin, Goodman adds. With microneedling, it takes about two to three months to see an actual visible difference when it comes to wrinkles, acne scars, and stretch-mark rejuvenation.
Who is dermarolling best for?
"If someone is going to do it at home and use a needle size of, say, 0.25mm, then it'll be good for product delivery," says Goodman. "If you're going to go up to 0.5 or a 1mm, then you'll start to target wrinkles, acne scars, and stretch marks." So pick your roller based on the effects you're looking for.
Does dermarolling hurt?
It depends on the depth, says Goodman. If you're talking about 0.25 mm, it's going to just feel a little annoying; if you're opting for microneedling (in-office), it's definitely going to hurt more, but we would also use a numbing cream first," she says.
How often should I switch out my dermaroller?
It's smart to change your roller head out every three to six months since the points on the roller will inevitably dull. As far as taking care of your tool after each use: Tabe suggests rinsing your product off with hot water at the end of each roller sesh before dipping it in 75 percent isopropyl alcohol (for five minutes) to ultimately sterilize it. Also, try using a gold-plated dermaroller, which is naturally antibacterial and can also help with cleanliness. But, Goodman still recommends cleaning it with alcohol before and after each use to avoid introducing outside bacteria into your skin.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.