We love a good at-home beauty treatment, especially when it involves skincare. Over the years, we’ve tried everything from dermaplaning to pore vacuums in the pursuit of a smooth, glowy complexion. But one treatment we’ve yet to experiment with? Derma rolling. So, we decided to turn to two derms to see what all the hype is about—and whether it’s safe to do at home.
Derma rollers are handheld tools that use tiny needles to puncture the outermost layers of your skin. This creates a controlled injury, prompting your body to start healing, resulting in smoother skin (more on that in a sec). Though traditionally administered as in-office treatments by trained practitioners, they’ve become a popular choice for many at-home users to address everything from acne scars to fine lines.
“A derma roller works by breaking the top layer of a person’s skin in order to build collagen and elasticity,” explains Jeanine Downie, a board-certified dermatologist and co-host of TheGist.
The process of using a derma roller is also known as skin needling or microneedling. “This minimally invasive technique involves passing a series of very fine needles over the skin, creating micro-injuries, which trigger new collagen and elastin synthesis as the skin begins to naturally repair itself,” adds Dendy Engelman, MD, of Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York. “These micro-injuries also create channels that allow the active ingredients from your skincare products to penetrate deeper into the skin, resulting in better product efficacy.”
Though microneedling can certainly improve the appearance of some scars and wrinkles, according to Engelman, there are limitations. “It only works on more superficial scars and wrinkles, and does not work on the deeper scars.”
“In my opinion, they can be harmful if used aggressively. I’ve seen a lot of infections and spread of cold sores that end up causing scarring in some cases. But when people use them once a month lightly and do not have unrealistic expectations, they are fine to use,” says Downie.
Engelman adds: “Piercing the skin by any means creates an open channel…thereby increasing your chances of getting an infection. As with any skincare procedures, you want to make sure that you’re going to a reputable, licensed and trained practitioner. And if you’re doing it at home, make sure to use sterile tools every single time.”
“Don’t apply too much pressure, use them intermittently, do not use them when you have active cold sores or acne breakout, and avoid the area around your eyes entirely,” advises Downie.
We would also reiterate Engelman’s earlier point about using a clean tool. Sterilize the needles using isopropyl alcohol (80 percent or higher) and give the tool adequate time to air-dry (usually between ten to fifteen minutes) before every use. If you don’t have alcohol on hand, you can also submerge the roller head in boiling water for five minutes. Again, let it air-dry before you get to rolling.
On that note, you also want to make sure that you remove any makeup, dirt and surface oils from your skin before microneedling. You don’t want anything that could potentially clog or infect your pores sitting on top when you create these micro-channels in your skin.
Ready to roll? Here are the 12 best derma rollers for every skin concern and budget.