By now, we're well-versed in the art of microneedling for our skin's sake. No matter if we're talking about the professional or the at-home kind, we've graduated from microneedling 101 to earn a symbolic degree in the collagen-boosting skin treatment. We know it's an effective way to diminish acne scars, disguise dark circles, and plump up lips. We even know the best serums to pair it with. What we didn't know, however, was that the potential perks of microneedling extend past our skin to include our hair.
Allegedly, microneedling can boost scalp health in such a way as to treat and prevent hair loss, keeping hair full and healthy for longer. To find out more, we tapped experts Veronica Joseph and Morgan Rabach to let us in on everything there is to know about microneedling for hair growth.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling to learn how microneedling can boost collagen (and hair growth) in your scalp.
What Is Microneedling?
Microneedling is a dermatological procedure that involves piercing the skin with tiny needles to stimulate elastin and collagen production, thereby treating various skin concerns (e.g. reducing the appearance of scars, fine lines, wrinkles, etc.)—and even hair loss.
Benefits of Microneedling
To fully grasp the benefits of microneedling for the hair and scalp, we first need to understand the science behind microneedling. "Microneedling works by mechanical controlled injury into the dermis," Rabach tells us. (The word injury has a negative connotation. In this case, each "injury" is minuscule, nowhere near large enough to cause pain or scarring. In most cases, the only physical change in the skin you should see after using a derma roller is a little redness). "Specifically, we use tiny needles that get pushed perpendicularly into the dermis which causes a healing reaction in the skin. Growth factors that promote healing are released and these same growth factors may promote hair growth. The trauma of the microneedling may also stimulate stem cells to grow which are helpful to grow new hair," she continues.
This helps to explain why microneedling has emerged as a buzzy new treatment for alopecia (hair loss), comments Joseph. "Studies currently indicate that there are positive results when microneedling is used alongside oral or topical medications when treating alopecia. When microneedling is utilized as an adjunct therapy for alopecia, results present an increase in hair density, thickness, and the quality of hair regrowth." However, "Further research and studies are required to determine if microneedling is as effective as a standalone therapy for alopecia," she notes.
How to Prepare for Microneedling
If you're considering microneedling to treat or prevent hair loss, you'll want to start out with a clean and healthy scalp. This will ensure that you reap the most benefits from the procedure. And while the ideal candidate for microneedling would have no open wounds or acne, it is really open to all people and skin types, notes Rabach.
Before beginning any microneedling session, it's important to first consult a licensed expert who can customize the treatment to meet your needs. "Preparation for hair loss and microneedling treatment should be through consultation with a licensed professional dermatologist or trichologist. At that point bespoke pre-procedure precautions and requirements should be determined," explains Joseph.
What to Expect During a Microneedling Treatment
A typical microneedling session may last 45 minutes to an hour—give or take. First, your derm or trichologist will cleanse your scalp or the exact area where you would like to stimulate hair growth. Then, using a topical serum they will numb said area so that the treatment is not painful. Finally, they will begin microneedling by puncturing the skin using an electric skin needling pen. Following the procedure, you can expect to see new hair growth in three to six months, confirms Rabach.
Microneedling vs. Microinfusion
In the world of microneedling treatments, dermarolling isn't the only player. Microinfusion is another popular cosmetic procedure that gently stamps tiny needles over the skin in order to achieve a healthy and radiant complexion. However, unlike microneedling which uses hundreds of non-channeled needles to treat the skin—followed up with a separate application of serum—microinfusion involves about 20 to 30 hollow needles that deliver nutrients directly into the dermis. This may lead to more immediate results and less downtime than microneedling. And when it comes to preventing hair loss, a study shows that both microneedling alone and microinfusion with minoxidil have been shown to be effective in treating alopecia.
At-Home vs. In Office/By a Professional
Although microneedling can be done at home, both experts recommend scheduling an in-office treatment with a licensed professional. Why? "So that microneedling can support adjunct therapies, outcomes can be tracked and documented, and for the safe administration of therapies," explains Joseph. Rabach adds, "There are microneedling pens that you can buy for home but they are usually less than 1 millimeter. This at-home length is too short to effect change where the hair follicles are, which is usually 2.5 to 3 millimeters deep."
Potential Side Effects
Since microneedling is a non-invasive cosmetic treatment, side effects are generally minimal. These include localized swelling and bleeding, soreness a week after treatment, and increased sun sensitivity for up to two weeks post-treatment, notes Rabach. Skin irritations, bruising, and peeling are also common, yet mild, side effects following microneedling, adds Joseph. Still, no matter the tool used in your treatment—stamps or rollers—microneedling is thought to be relatively safe, Joseph tells us.
As with any cosmetic procedure, cost will vary depending on a number of details: where you live, your provider, treatment goals, the number of sessions required, the area being treated, etc. For this reason, a single microneedling session can range anywhere from $200 to $800. "[Cost] and the expectations from microneedling as it relates to hair loss will be determined by factors that are specific to each individual client. A curated and tailored treatment plan can be established at consultation with the licensed practitioner," says Joseph.
Most facial derma rollers are studded with minuscule needles so as to not irritate the gentle skin. However, larger derma rollers are widely accepted for scalp use, since they're able to better infiltrate through the hair—not to mention any scalp build-up that might be present.
Post-treatment, "There may be slight bruising or redness in the treatment area of the scalp," notes Joseph. So to calm and soothe the scalp, apply a serum like Oribe's Serene Scalp Leave-On Treatment ($48). It is meant to help mitigate any minor irritation or redness that could result from the practice. Plus, it's just luxurious.
The Final Takeaway
Originally lauded by skincare enthusiasts for improving your overall complexion, microneedling has now forayed into the area of treating and preventing hair loss. It has become a multipurpose cosmetic procedure that can benefit skin health—no matter if it concerns the face or scalp. Regarding the latter, microneedling has shown promising results for those seeking to promote hair growth, but more information is still needed to fully understand its scope and effectiveness. "Studies that use microneedling alongside traditional therapies have presented favorable results in the short term. Because microneedling for the treatment of alopecia is a novel therapy additional research is required to define standardized protocols," concludes Joseph.
Singh A, Yadav S. Microneedling: advances and widening horizons. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2016;7(4):244-254. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185468