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I’ve never used a derma roller. The thought of using a device with tiny needles isn’t very enticing to me, but on a recent sleepless night an array of thoughts occurred: Am I missing out on something? Maybe microneedling has benefits for the skin? And can I use microneedling devices at home since I am on a budget?
As it’s often the case with me, I gathered a lot of information. The story of my life! So, in this post I will explain what various microneedling devices do. In the next one, I will discuss the potential benefits of microneedling for various skin problems.
2. What is microneedling?
Microneedling is the repetitive puncturing of the skin with very fine sterilised needles. Simply put, it triggers a wound healing process that leads to the production of elastin and various types of collagen.
Microneedling is used to treat various skin concerns: acne scars, post-traumatic scars, wrinkles, melasma and stretch marks. Many studies have proven its efficacy, especially for acne scars. It is often combined with other treatments, such as chemical peels, for enhanced results.
It is also used to improve absorption of medications and skincare products.
Microneedling is a minimally invasive procedure with minimal downtime: it doesn’t damage the epidermis like some lasers do and it doesn’t cause scars. Usually redness starts to subside after 48 hours.
Microneedling started with dermarollers in the early 2000’s but it is constantly updated with new devices and techniques. Nowadays, dermapens are more popular than dermarollers for in-office procedures.
Microneedling has many names that more or less mean the same thing: collagen induction therapy, skin needling and dermarolling.
3. Needle length in microneedling devices
The length of the needles of microneedling devices is important. Different skin problems require different needle lengths.
- For acne scars, 1.5 to 2 mm was effective in many clinical trials.
- For skin aging, the recommended needle length is 0.5 to 1 mm.
- For melasma, the needle length used in clinical trials is 1.5 to 2 mm.
- For stretch marks, 1.5 mm.
- For hyperpigmentation around the eyes, 0.25 mm.
Usually 2-6 sessions are required for best results.
The longer the length of the needles, the higher the interval required between two sessions. Needles with a length of up to 0.5 mm are usually not painful. Longer needles may require application of an anaesthetic cream.
The dermaroller is the device with the cylindrical roller that most of us have associated with microneedling.
The dermarollers used in at in-office procedures typically have 192 stainless steel needles and a needle length of between 0.5 and 3 mm. Dermarollers recommended for at-home use have shorter needles, typically 0.25 mm.
However, you can easily purchase dermarollers online with 3 mm needles. And that’s not recommended.
The dermarollers for in-office procedures are discarded after one use. Unless your physician is saving money! Dermarollers for use at home are considered suitable for repeated use by the same person.
Dermaroller with a capital “D” is essentially a brand name. The Dermaroller brand created one of the first dermarollers. But nowadays, we call “dermaroller” any device of this kind, by any brand. It’s sort of similar to calling every chocolate spread “Nutella”.
Other types of dermarollers
There are also derma rollers with a narrower roller for smaller areas, such as the area around the eyes.
For larger body areas, there’s a microneedling device called Beauty Mouse. It looks more like a computer mouse, rather than a real mouse, and it has three different rollers in the bottom. The needle length in Beauty Mouse is 0.2 mm.
The Beauty Mouse is relatively pricely. But I reckon it’s a quality microneedling device because it’s made by Dermaroller. Various cheaper copycats of the Beauty Mouse are available online.
The dermastamp is a microneedling device that looks like a sealing wax stamp. Κind of! It is a variation on the standard dermaroller that isn’t rolled over the skin but is pressed like a stamp. Hence its name.
It’s suitable for smaller areas that are difficult to reach with the dermaroller, such as the upper lip. It is considered ideal to use on isolated scars and wrinkles.
The dermastamp has evolved into the more advanced dermapen. I don’t think it’s commonly used at in-office microneedling anymore.
However, various types of dermastamps can be bought online. Dermastamps are more affordable than dermapens.
The Dermapen is a more recent development on the dermaroller and the dermastamp. It is a pen-shaped automated microneedling device that is electrically powered. The Dermapen has a disposable tip cartridge with 12 needles. For every use, the cartridge is replaced with a new one. The actual device isn’t disposable.
The needles of the Dermapen don’t come in various sizes, like in dermarollers. They all have the same length. The device itself has a switch that adjusts how deep the needles get into the skin: between 0.5 and 2.5 mm. A bit like hair clippers.
Devices similar to Dermapen
Dermapen with a capital “D” is a specific brand, just like Dermaroller. It’s commonplace nowadays to call all devices of this type “dermapens”.
The Dermapen and some similar devices, like the Eclipse MicroPen and the EdermaStamp, are only available for in-office microneedling. But according to my research, there’s a black market for Dermapen, just like with most of the finer things in life. Hopefully I’m not giving you ideas!
There are other dermapens that can be legally bought from online stores like Amazon for use at home. The quality of some of them is questionable, of course.
7. Dermapen vs dermaroller: Which is better?
The Dermapen has a different type of motion to the standard dermaroller. The dermaroller is rolled over the skin like a paint roller. The needles of the Dermapen just go up and down like a sewing machine while it glides on the skin. These are the closest analogies I could think of!
The Dermapen is thought to have some benefits over the dermaroller.
- easier to use in smaller areas such as the eyes and lips
- less painful
- shorter recovery time
- more precise depth of needle penetration
One study concluded that the Dermapen was more effective than the dermaroller for acne scars. But it’s the only study comparing these two microneedling devices.
You may have read that dermapens are way superior to dermarollers but that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The effectiveness of dermarollers has been proved beyond doubt. Dermapens are relatively new and there’s less research on them, but they are definitely very promising.
8. Fractional radiofrequency microneedling
8.1 What’s fractional radiofrequency microneedling?
Fractional radiofrequency microneedling is a fusion of microneedling and radiofrequency. It is often abbreviated as FRFM or fractional RF microneedling.
Radiofrequency on its own stimulates collagen production by heating parts of the dermis (the area under the epidermis). It is typically used for various signs of aging and acne scars. It is a minimally invasive procedure but it may not produce dramatic results.
There are no needles involved in plain radiofrequency treatments.
The device used in fractional radiofrequency microneedling is different: the radiofrequency waves are transmitted by gold-plated needles. The advantage here is that the needles penetrate into the dermis. And so they deliver the radiofrequency waves more efficiently without damaging the epidermis.
It’s quite a complex technology but I’m trying to explain it as simply as possible!
The needles can be adjusted between 0.5 and 3.5 mm in order to reach specific skin layers.
8.2 Fractional RF microneedling benefits
Fractional RF microneedling doesn’t destroy the epidermis, like ablative lasers do. So it is less painful and with less side-effects and downtime.
It is considered suitable for dark skin types because, in contrast to ablative lasers, it’s unlikely to cause discolourations.
9. LED microneedling devices
These are plain microneedling devices with the addition of LED light. There are both LED dermarollers and LED dermapens on the market.
Usually the colour of the LED light is either blue or red. The blue LED is considered best for acne and the blue LED ideal for skin aging and inflammation.
LED microneedling devices have generated a lot of buzz recently, but researchers are not convinced: there’s practically no research that proves their effectiveness. But I must admit, they do look nice!
If you use LED microneedling devices, try to avoid getting the light into your eyes.
Dermafrac is a treatment that combines microneedling with microdermabrasion, LED light and simultaneous infusion of a skincare serum with active ingredients in the upper dermis. (dermis is the part under the epidermis)
Dermafrac is used for various skin concerns: aging skin, acne, superficial scars, uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation. The active ingredients in the serum can be adjusted to the patient’s needs.
There’s hardly any clinical trials on Dermafrac. In a study, it dramatically reduced hyperpigmentation around the eyes of a 48-year old male.
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What’s your experience with microneedling devices? Leave a comment below!