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From skin-suctioning pore vacuums to vibrating spatulas or scrubbers, you'd be hard-pressed to find a gadget that skin-care enthusiasts wouldn't try — even one made of needles. Known as a dermaroller, this skin-care tool looks like a mini paint roller (or a jade roller) filled with teeny, tiny needles. And while, yes, intentionally pricking your face over and over again with needles might sound like a form of medieval torture, dermarolling can actually help you get one step closer to smoother, younger-looking skin.?Ahead, experts break down how to safely use a dermaroller and the best dermarollers you can buy.
Dermarollers feature needles made of silicone or medical-grade metal, to penetrate the outermost layer of the skin (or, in medical speak, the stratum corneum), says Sydney Givens, P.A.-C and founder of Skincare By Sydney. The benefits of dermarolling are twofold. One, these needles create undetectable, microscopic wounds, kick-starting a healing response in the skin that triggers collagen production, explains Hadley King, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist. “This can be beneficial for fading acne scars and minimizing the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and can even be done on the body to help fade stretch marks,” she says. Two, these micro-wounds create microscopic channels in the skin that allow any active skin-care ingredients you use afterward to penetrate more effectively, explains Dr. King.
The terms dermarolling and microneedling are often used interchangeably but they are more like cousins than twins. And while both have similar mechanisms of action (essentially needles penetrating the skin), dermarolling usually involves a tool (dermaroller) that has a barrel-shaped head that's rolled across the skin repeatedly. Microneedling, on the other hand, is an in-office procedure during which a pen-shaped device is stamped into the skin in a vertical pattern. They create more micro-injuries per second than dermarollers, making microneedling devices much more efficient, says Givens. Similarly, the needles used in a professional microneedling treatment penetrate deeper than those of at-home dermarollers, according to Dr. King, and their depth can also be adjusted, to ensure the device can be used safely across the entire face, adds Givens. TL;DR— microneedling can yield more dramatic results but has a higher risk of pain and bleeding (remember: the needles go deeper) and tends to cost more than an at-home dermarolling sesh. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About the Buzziest New Beauty Treatments)
”Because the needles are usually no more than .25 mm deep, at-home dermarolling is generally pretty safe,” says Dr. King. “However, it's not recommended for anyone with cystic acne, active breakouts, or inflamed, irritated skin,” as you risk distributing bacteria and/or further irritating the skin. Similarly, “the biggest risk is infection from an improperly cleaned tool,” cautions Givens.
Unlike in-office microneedling devices, which have a disposable, single-use cartridge, at-home dermarollers are meant to be used more than once, she says. To that point, look for dermarollers that come in sterilized packaging and feature replaceable heads that you can change out, which should be done after every 20 uses, says Dr. King. She adds that you also want to make sure the needles are made of stainless steel or medical-grade titanium (this will be specified on the package) and that they're aligned and evenly-spaced. This ensures that the needles penetrate in a clean and perpendicular pattern, minimizing trauma to the skin.
Roll only on clean, dry skin, moving it in a fluid, back-and-forth motion, covering each area of the face vertically, then change directions to roll in horizontal and diagonal patterns, advises Dr. King. Do not use a dermaroller over your lids, nose, or lips — unless you're using a device that features a smaller head specially designated for these areas. Another no-no: applying makeup on freshly rolled skin. But, applying skin-care products such as a hydrating serum after your dermarolling sesh is a good idea, as it'll allow for increased product absorption, she explains. As such, make dermarolling a part of your P.M. skin-care routine; it's also a good time to do it since your skin may be slightly red afterward. Once you've rolled vertically and horizontally, spray your roller head with rubbing alcohol and store it upright so that the needles aren't touching anything.
Because needle depth determines how often a dermaroller should be used and how many passes you should make across your face, Givens advises following your specific dermaroller's directions to determine how best to incorporate this tool into your skin-care routine. As a general rule of thumb, however, the longer the needles, the more they'll be able to penetrate, and the more effective each dermarolling session will be. Therefore, the less often you'll need to use the dermaroller and the fewer times you'll need to pass it across the skin. Regardless, if you notice that your skin is red, inflamed, or easily irritated when you apply your normal skin-care products, take a few weeks off from dermarolling, advises Dr. King. When you resume, do so gradually.
Ready to get rolling? Try these five expert-approved devices.
Jenny Patinkin Rose on Rose Dermaroller
King lauds this option for how well it's made, as well as the .2 mm stainless steel needles that are ideal for creating micro-channels (the same as micro-wounds mentioned above) to enhance product absorption. The head is replaceable, and, as an added bonus, the dual-ended tool comes with a rose quartz acupressure tip on the other side, ideal for releasing tension in spots like your temples and around your eyes.
Buy It: Jenny Patinkin Rose on Rose Derma Roller, $75, credobeauty.com
BeautyBio GloPro Microneedling Facial Regeneration Tool
Both experts recommend this dermaroller, which also utilizes red LED light, known for stimulating collagen and reducing inflammation, along with microcurrent stimulation to further enhance the effects, says Dr. King. Also nice: While pricey, this set comes with everything you need, including a special cleanser and wipes to prep skin, as well as an anti-aging serum to use after dermarolling. (Related: Here's How Red Light Therapy Works—Plus Why You Should Try It)
Buy It: BeautyBio GloPro Microneedling Facial Regeneration Tool, $199, sephora.com
GoodJanes Facial Micro Needle Roller
Another one of Dr. King's picks, this dermaroller wins points in the derm's book for being a quality tool with medical-grade titanium needles that comes at an affordable price. That being said, the head on this product isn't replaceable, so you'll have to purchase a whole new one after about 20 uses.
Buy It: GoodJanes Facial Micro Needle Roller, $24, goodjanes.com
ORA Microneedle Face & Full Body Roller Kit
”I like that this has titanium needles and a built-in sterilization tray and comes with different heads with varying needle lengths for different parts of the body and face,” says Givens. Remember: dermarolling isn't just for your complexion; its collagen-boosting benefits make it a good treatment for addressing stretch marks and scaring on other parts of the body. Along with the roller head for using on the body, this kit also includes a roller for the face and two very tiny ones designed for delicate spots such as your eyelids and lips.
Buy It: ORA Microneedle Face & Full Body Roller Kit, $85, dermstore.com
Sdara Skincare Derma Roller
This Amazon top-seller is also one of Dr. King's picks, as she says it meets all of the criteria for a good dermaroller at a great value (see: budget-friendly price). This bad boy boasts 540, .25 mm titanium needles, and Dr. King notes that she's very impressed by the standout Amazon reviews that praise how well it works to address acne scarring and sun damage.
Buy It: Sdara Skincare Dermaroller, $19, amazon.com