Hair loss in men may be common, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with. Whether your hairline is thinning or you have the beginnings of a bald spot, any hint that baldness is coming can send you into a panic.
A quick Google search would reveals all sorts of options; there seem to be “cures” for androgenic alopecia around every corner of the Internet.
However, many of these solutions are all hype — vitamins, oils, conditioners, lotions and shampoos, hair care products and companies that promise guaranteed hair regrowth or, at minimum, an immediate halt to the balding process.
If you’ve read about dermarollers and microneedling, you may be quick to lump them into the many other hair loss treatment products and fads. But there’s actually some evidence they could aid in hair regrowth.
While not a cure-all for hair loss — it won’t give you a full head of hair, and certainly not overnight — microneedling under the care of a dermatology practitioner could provide modest benefits.
Dermarollers are medical instruments that were initially used for acne scars. They are a drum-shaped roller on the end of a handle, with roughly 200 very small needles measuring up to 1.5mm. These “microneedles” are generally arranged in eight rows.
Microneedling with a dermaroller is an office-based procedure. While you may find dermarollers available through online sellers for home use, these are not the same as the medical-grade microneedling rollers used in office settings.
At-home dermarollers are instead used to deliver cosmetic skincare products into the skin, and the needle length is typically shorter than the in-office versions.
Microneedling with a dermaroller involves rolling the tool across the skin with firm pressure. This repeated, multidirectional rolling creates tiny bleeding pinpoints on the scalp, in the case of microneedling for hair loss.
The purpose of microneedling in the case of hair loss is to stimulate dermal papilla, or the stem cells in hair follicles, to encourage growth factors. The idea is that by creating tiny wounds, the body’s natural defenses will encourage the healing process and ultimately new hair growth to help reverse thinning hair.
Relatedly, in the case of dermarolling for acne scars, the premise is that wound healing encourages growth factors that stimulate the production of collagen. This new collagen reduces the appearance of scarring.
There have been several studies on the effectiveness of microneedling treatment of androgenetic alopecia, also known as pattern hair loss (in men and women) or male pattern baldness.
For instance, a 12-week 2013 randomized study of 100 men in Mumbai was the first to examine the hair growth results of microneedling in humans.
Previously, researchers had seen promising results in mice. In this study, half of the participants were given minoxidil (a topical FDA-approved hair loss solution) and the other half underwent microneedling procedures once per week, with the topical treatment minoxidil.
According to the researchers, participants who used microneedling in conjunction with minoxidil saw greater hair count changes and overall patient satisfaction. Eight months after the study, the participants still showed positive results.
A similar study several years later also showed promising results.
This 2018 study recruited 68 men and split them into two groups. The first group used minoxidil hair growth treatment twice daily, and the second used minoxidil twice daily and underwent weekly microneedling.
Study participants in the microneedling group experienced greater hair growth and satisfaction.
However, the researchers noted the results were “not cosmetically significant.”
In other words, the men didn’t walk away with a full head of healthy hair, or anything close to.
A very small study of four men in 2015 also showed promising results. What’s unique about this study is that the men involved had not positively responded to traditional therapy with finasteride and minoxidil (the gold-standards in FDA approved balding treatment). The results of their six month microneedling period were positive — three patients reported satisfaction greater than 75 percent, and the fourth greater than 50 percent.
Other research exists on this topic, but generally has similar results: microneedling may be a solution for men not responsive to conventional treatments, though the results aren’t significant enough to completely reverse balding or eliminate your receding hairline.
While the research out there for microneedling seems promising, it’s a long way off from proving anything substantive.
That said, if you’re noticing my hairs in the drain or on your pillow, the best thing to do is consult with your healthcare provider or a dermatology practitioner. Not only will they be able to answer your questions about dermaroller for hair loss, they’ll also be able recommend a suitable treatment for your individual needs.