Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/13/2021
If you’ve searched online for information about improving hair growth, you’ve probably heard of dermarolling, as well as the medication minoxidil.
Dermarollers and minoxidil are two of the most popular products on the market for treating hair loss and stimulating hair growth.
Dermarollers work by creating tiny holes, or punctures, in your skin. They’re usually promoted for their skin benefits, but some research suggests that they may offer benefits for slowing hair loss and stimulating hair growth.
Minoxidil, on the other hand, is a topical medication that’s approved by the FDA as a treatment for male pattern baldness.
Dermarolling and minoxidil both have a place in treating hair loss. In fact, some research shows that the two treatments may be more effective at preventing hair loss and promoting hair growth when they’re used together.
Below, we’ve explained how dermarolling and minoxidil work, as well as the safety of using both methods to treat hair loss. We’ve also dug into the research behind combining dermarolling and minoxidil if you’re starting to lose your hair.
Dermarolling is a form of microneedling — a procedure that involves using small needles to rejuvenate your skin.
Research has found that dermarollers and minoxidil are both effective at stimulating hair growth and treating hair loss in men.
Some research has found that using a dermaroller and minoxidil at the same time may enhance hair growth. However, only a limited amount of scientific research is available on this topic right now.
It’s important not to overuse dermarollers. While minoxidil is designed for use up to two times per day, most studies of microneedling for hair growth involve using a dermaroller only one time per week.
Although both treatments appear to be effective at promoting hair growth, neither block dihydrotestosterone (DHT) — the hormone that causes male pattern baldness.
If you’re beginning to lose your hair, it’s important to act quickly to stop further hair loss and protect the hair that you still have.
Dermarolling is a form of microneedling — a skin care procedure that involves creating tiny holes in the stratum corneum (the outer layer of your skin) to stimulate the creation of collagen, elastin and other important structural proteins for your skin’s health and appearance.
The theory behind microneedling is simple. By causing a small injury to your skin, microneedling triggers your body’s natural healing process. This repairs damaged skin and improves the skin’s texture, quality and appearance.
Because the skin injury caused by microneedling isn’t deep, this process takes place without the typical scarring that develops when you injure your skin.
Microneedling with a dermaroller is typically used to treat wrinkles, pigmentation issues, scarring and other common signs of skin aging.
Some scientific research has also found that dermarolling and microneedling may treat hair loss by improving blood flow to the hair follicles and triggering certain hair-related growth factors.
For example, one small-scale study published in 2015 looked at the effects of microneedling on hair growth in four men who failed to respond to conventional hair loss treatments like finasteride or minoxidil.
Over a period of six months, the men completed 15 microneedling sessions using a dermaroller with 1.5mm needles. At the end of the study, the men showed a grade +2 to +3 improvement on a standardized 7-point evaluation scale for hair growth.
While the findings of this study are certainly promising, it’s important to note that relatively little research has been done on dermarolling and hair loss overall.
Minoxidil is a topical medication for treating hair loss. It’s available as a liquid or foam and needs to be applied directly to the scalp in areas affected by male pattern baldness.
Although researchers aren’t aware of exactly how minoxidil works, data suggests that it helps to stimulate blood circulation to your hair follicles. This may prolong the growth period of your hair and improve hair growth.
Numerous studies have found that minoxidil is effective at stimulating hair growth. For example one study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, which featured more than 900 men with hair loss, found that minoxidil seemed to work.
Of the men that took part in the study, 84.3 percent rated minoxidil as “very effective,” “effective” or “moderately effective” at treating hair loss.
Another study from 2002 found that both low-strength (2%) and high-strength (5%) topical minoxidil increased hair growth in men with male pattern baldness over the course of 48 weeks.
Dermarolling and minoxidil can be used together to treat hair loss and stimulate the growth of your hair.
In fact, research shows that dermarolling and minoxidil are actually more effective at reducing hair loss and improving hair growth when used together.
In a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery in 2018, researchers looked at the effects of microneedling using a dermaroller and minoxidil as treatments for hair loss in men.
A total of 60 men with moderate hair loss were divided into two groups. One group underwent treatment with minoxidil alone, while the other underwent treatment with minoxidil and weekly microneedling.
The minoxidil and dermarolling group, experienced a much more significant increase in hair count than the minoxidil only group.
The men in the minoxidil and microneedling group were also significantly more likely to give a positive self-assessment of their results.
However, it’s worth noting that the researchers did conclude that they could not establish microneedling combined with minoxidil as an effective therapy for androgenetic alopecia — possibly due to the small sample size — and said that more research is needed.
A different study, published in the International Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research, also found that a combination of microneedling with a dermaroller and topical minoxidil helped to stimulate hair growth in men with hair loss due to male pattern baldness.
This study also concluded that more studies with larger sample sizes must be conducted before any definitive conclusion could be drawn.
Finally, a recent study of 60 men with chronic hair loss published in the International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences also found that microneedling and minoxidil together produced a larger improvement in hair growth than minoxidil by itself.
In short, not only can you use a dermaroller and topical minoxidil at the same time, but research shows that doing so is likely to improve your results.
There are two ways to use a dermaroller with minoxidil. The first is to go to a clinic and have the process performed by a professional. This is a good option if you have never used a dermaroller before and want the process to be as simple as possible for you.
A major advantage of having dermarolling performed clinically is that the device used is typically able to penetrate deeper into your skin. This may be more effective at stimulating hair growth in areas affected by male pattern baldness or other forms of hair loss.
For example, many studies of microneedling as a treatment for hair loss use a 1.5mm device — a length that’s limited to clinical, physician-operated devices.
In comparison, most dermarollers designed for home use can only penetrate 0.25 or 0.5mm into your skin.
One downside of having microneedling performed by a professional is the cost. A microneedling session can cost anywhere from under $100 to several hundred dollars based on the area to be treated and your location. Over time, this can add up to a significant amount of money.
The second is to use a dermaroller at home. Dermarollers are available online and from a range of retailers. Most dermarollers come with a variety of heads with needles of different lengths and are priced from as little as $15 to $30 or more.
To use a dermaroller for microneedling, follow the instructions that came with your device. Most dermarollers are designed for light, slow use on the affected areas. While using the dermaroller, you may feel a mild tingling or pricking sensation in the targeted area of your scalp.
Make sure to keep your skin safe and protected while dermarolling by:
Applying numbing cream. If you find the feeling of using a dermaroller uncomfortable, it may help to numb the area by applying a mild lidocaine numbing cream. Make sure that you fully wash away the cream before using the dermaroller.
Disinfecting both your dermaroller and the targeted area of skin. You can do this using 70% isopropyl alcohol. This is especially important if your dermaroller has needles that are 0.5mm or longer.
Rolling vertically, then horizontally. Most dermaroller products recommend rolling over the target area vertically, then horizontally. Apply the dermaroller from top to bottom a total of six times, then repeat the process horizontally over the same area.
After you’ve finished using the dermaroller, it’s important to rinse the target areas of your scalp using warm water.
Make sure that you also follow the instructions provided with your dermaroller to keep it clean and free of bacteria after you’ve used it on your skin.
After you’ve completed this process, you can apply minoxidil to the areas of your scalp affected by hair loss. Our guide to applying minoxidil provides step-by-step instructions for the liquid and foam versions of minoxidil.
Although minoxidil can be used twice per day, dermarolling isn’t something that you should do overly often. This is because excessive dermarolling may irritate your scalp and increase your risk of experiencing side effects.
Most studies of microneedling for hair loss involve using a dermaroller one time per week, with minoxidil used two times per day.
At first, try to use your dermaroller a maximum of one time per week. Avoid using it if your skin feels irritated, swollen or as if it’s not fully recovered from the last session.
Microneedling using a dermaroller can cause side effects, whether it’s performed by yourself at home or by a professional in a clinic or other setting.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, microneedling may cause some degree of swelling and bruising to your skin. This may persist for several days after you treat your scalp using a dermaroller.
Other potential side effects of microneedling include skin flaking, oozing and an increase in your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Finally, your scalp might be more at risk of infection due to bacteria or the herpes simplex virus after you treat the area using a dermaroller. As such, it’s important to practice good hygiene if you use a dermaroller as part of your hair loss prevention routine.
Minoxidil is a safe and effective medication for most people. However, like other medications, it can cause side effects. Potential side effects of topical minoxidil include:
Applying minoxidil after microneedling with a dermaroller may make some of the side effects of minoxidil more severe. If you experience any side effects after using minoxidil, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
While using a dermaroller and minoxidil will generally help to slow down hair loss and improve your hair growth, other treatments may also be effective.
If you’re losing your hair due to male pattern baldness, you may want to take finasteride at the same time as you use a dermaroller and minoxidil.
Finasteride is a prescription medication for hair loss. Unlike dermarolling and minoxidil, which aim to stimulate hair growth at the scalp level, finasteride works by blocking a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes follicular damage and baldness.
Our complete guide to DHT and male hair loss goes into more detail about the effect that DHT can have on your hair if you’re genetically prone to male pattern baldness.
Like minoxidil, finasteride is backed up by a large amount of scientific research showing that it can slow down, stop and even reverse hair loss.
We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a physician who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. You can also learn more about how finasteride works in our full guide to using finasteride for hair loss.
Dermarolling and minoxidil both have their place in treating hair loss, with studies showing that both treatments work fairly well at stimulating hair growth and improving hair density.
Some research also shows that dermarolling and minoxidil are more effective at improving hair growth when used together.
If you’d like to add dermarolling to your hair loss prevention routine, make sure to closely follow the instructions provided with your dermaroller. For best results, you may also want to consider using an FDA-approved medication such as finasteride to block DHT.
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