Microneedling is a type of cosmetic treatment that addresses various effects of aging. It’s also nicknamed skin needling because of its effects on increasing collagen production in the skin. This involves the use of a skin roller with small needles that cause minor skin injuries.
While used as one form of antiaging skin treatment, microneedling may also be a method of treatment for hair loss. There’s even evidence that it can help hereditary hair loss, also known as alopecia. The same process of creating wounds in the skin is also thought to regenerate the health of the hair follicles. It’s thought that this can result in new hair growth, or perhaps thicken thinning hair.
Microneedling first gained its reputation as a scar treatment during the 1990s. Since then, it’s been studied as a potential alternative for thinning hair and hereditary hair loss. Aside from collagen production in the skin, it’s thought that microneedling can also help induce stem cells in the scalp that lead to hair growth.
Microneedling may also promote the absorption of hair growth products, such as minoxidil (Rogaine). Another study explores the potential benefits of microneedling when used with corticosteroids to reduce hair follicle inflammation from alopecia areata.
During microneedling, your doctor uses several needles, ranging between 0.25 and 3 millimeters long. They’re all contained in a handheld device. Also called a roller, the device is rolled along the treatment area, creating small injuries.
Unlike other treatments that target your skin’s surface, the needles used in the rollers extend to the middle layer of skin. As these microinjuries heal, your skin produces more collagen and fibers. It also helps to strengthen the hair follicles.
A doctor will apply a topical anesthetic to your scalp about 45 minutes prior to treatment. This helps to reduce any pain you may feel. The actual procedure time can vary based on treatment area, but may take as little as 30 minutes, according to the Emory Aesthetic Center. After the scalp microneedling is completed, the doctor may apply a soothing balm or serum to the area to alleviate inflammation and discomfort.
Microneedling itself can cause bruises, oozing from the wounds, and skin irritation. There’s also a risk that the wounds caused by the needles may scar. The area may be red and inflamed for a few days following the procedure. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), most side effects diminish within five days after your treatment.
Speak with your doctor before you consider this treatment if you:
- have a history of acne, eczema, or open wounds
- have a condition that slows healing, such as diabetes
- are on blood thinners or other medication
Microneedling also isn’t recommended for those who are pregnant.
Using microneedling before minoxidil can increase the absorption of the treatment. However, this can also increase the risk of side effects from the minoxidil, such as:
Your scalp may be more sensitive to the sun after treatment. Wearing sunscreen every day is recommended. A hat can also help protect your scalp when outdoors.
Another risk of microneedling on your head is the possibility of infection. While the needles are small, they’re still inflicting wounds. You’ll need to follow your healthcare professional’s aftercare instructions carefully to prevent infection. This often involves keeping the area clean for a few days, as well as using antiseptics to ward off bacteria. You may be at an increased risk for infection if you’re in poor overall health, or if you have a history of frequent infections.
To offset costs and time commitments, some people choose to purchase dermarollers to self-administer microneedling treatments at home. According to Dermapen, at-home sessions can cost as little as a third of getting microneedling done from a professional.
There are certainly some downsides to at-home dermaroller treatments:
- You may not know the right size needles to use to get the most out of your treatment.
- It’s hard to see certain parts of your own scalp, such as the back of your head.
- You may not be able to target the desired areas as well as a professional.
These factors can make your treatment less effective compared with seeing a practitioner.
A licensed microneedling practitioner will also know how to help you minimize side effects from treatment. It can be difficult to assess risks and treat any complications on your own — you could end up seeing a doctor anyway if you do develop any side effects.
While it’s tempting to buy your own dermaroller, it’s much safer to leave these devices in the hands of a licensed and experienced professional for your hair loss treatment.
Out-of-pocket costs for microneedling can range between $200 and $700 per session, according to Dermapen. The bigger the treatment area, the more expensive each session will be. You could end up spending over $4,000 since up to six sessions may be needed. The AAD says that these sessions are usually spaced two to six weeks between treatments.
Microneedling generally isn’t covered by medical insurance because it’s considered a cosmetic treatment. However, your insurance might cover some of the costs if you’re getting the procedure done for medical purposes.
Microneedling procedures are performed by licensed medical professionals who specialize in skin care. These may include dermatologists, aestheticians, and cosmetic surgeons.
Microneedling isn’t a surgical procedure, so there generally aren’t as many risks involved. However, you’ll still want to find an experienced and trained professional to reduce possible complications, such as scarring.
Once you’ve found a few prospective providers, request a consultation with each one. You can then get a better sense of their experience, as well as the projected costs of treatment. A reputable microneedling provider will show you a portfolio of their work.
According to the AAD, it can take up to nine months for microneedling to reveal its effects on the skin. Some studies have noted minor changes within three months of treatment, and more full effects after six months. The exact timeline will vary, but you should see gradual changes in hair growth.
Microneedling may be a promising hair loss treatment. Talk with your doctor about all your hair growth options.