Experts weigh-in on the best way to use the tool.

By Rebecca Norris
September 03, 2020
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In a world where skincare trends come to fruition every other day, it can be tough to know which products, tools, and treatments are actually worth testing. If you're looking for a skincare tool that can help revive your complexion, a derma roller is definitely worth considering. Scary as it may seem, a derma roller is an at-home tool covered in tiny needles designed to graze over your skin. "The tiny needles on it create channels in the skin for better product absorption and penetration," says celebrity master esthetician Sarah Akram. "Using a roller enhances the effectiveness of [skincare] ingredients, reduces fine lines, and improves skin texture."

As far as how a derma roller brings about these results, the tiny needles actually create micro-tears in the skin which Heather Nicole, master esthetician and founder of Heather Nicole Advanced Integrative Skincare, says stimulates collagen and elastin production by forcing it into repair mode. To help you navigate the never-ending beauty process, we spoke to experts to determine how and when to use a derma roller.

Courtesy of Sephora

How to Prep Skin for Derma Rolling

A derma roller is most effective if your skin is as clean as possible prior to use. "You should cleanse the skin with your usual cleanser [before using a derma roller] but if you are using an oil or cream cleanser, be sure that there is no residual product left on the skin," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Robin Gmyrek advises, noting that anything on the skin surface will be pushed into the skin by the needles. If you want to be 100 percent certain that there's nothing left on the skin, she suggests following up your cleanser with a gentle witch hazel toner.

In addition to prepping your skin for derma rolling, you must also prep the tool itself. Dr. Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in Manhattan, New York, suggests soaking your derma roller for a few minutes in isopropyl alcohol or the included cleansing solution (most derma rollers come with one) and allow it to fully dry before rolling it across your skin. Another option is to soak it in boiling water. "Because the derma roller is creating small, superficial wounds in the skin, there is always risk of infection," Dr. Chang warns, noting that cleaning your skin and roller will simultaneously minimize any risk. Dr. Chang recommends Stacked Skincare's MicroNeedling Skin Refining Tool ($125, sephora.com).

How to Use a Derma Roller

Once your skin and tool are cleansed, you're ready to roll. When using your derma roller, Dr. Chang says to apply gentle pressure while rolling it over your skin. "It is easier to divide your face into sections when using a derma roller to keep track of how many passes you have done in each area," she adds, pointing out that you can use multiple passes vertically and horizontally. "I recommend rolling in one direction at a time and lifting the roller off the skin after each pass.

In terms of pressure, she says that you don't want to apply too much given the fact that the needles are already penetrating into your skin. What's more, she says to keep the needles perpendicular to the skin, as opposed to inserted at an angle. This will help you avoid any excess trauma or tearing in the rolling process. Dr. Chang also says to avoid using a derma roller too close to your eyes, as the skin on the lids and under-eye area is much thinner and more sensitive than other areas on the face. That said, Dr. Gmyrek points out that each individual derma roller comes with its own instructions and it's important to read them prior to use.

Akram says to start using your derma roller on your forehead, rolling it vertically two to five times. "Pick up the roller completely (do not drag) to treat all areas of forehead," she instructs. "Next, roll over the same areas horizontally, two-to-five times." Once you've completed your forehead region, Akram says to repeat this same process on all the other areas of your face: both cheeks, chin, and even your neck and the top of your chest. "Start by rolling twice a week and work your way up to daily use," she adds.

Aftercare and Ingredients to Avoid Post-Roll

A key factor in derma rolling benefits comes from what you do after the actual rolling process. After all, the reason derma rolling is so great for skin is because it clears any blockages to allow products and active ingredients to sink deeper into the skin to work their magic.

That said, as tempted as you may be to slather on retinol for even more wrinkle-reducing results from the beloved ingredient, Dr. Chang says to instead reach for gentle skincare products and avoid exfoliants, scrubs, and retinoids immediately after using a derma roller. "You can pair your derma roller with serums and essences that have active ingredients," she adds, recommending those formulated with hyaluronic acid, peptides, and antioxidants like vitamin C and niacinamide to help hydrate, plump, and brighten the skin. "Using a derma roller can help these active ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin to increase their efficacy." Additionally, she says that sun protection is essential always, but especially post-roll. "Sun protection and regular sunscreen use is essential after using a derma roller as the healing skin is especially sensitive to UV exposure," she explains.

Outside of how to treat your skin post-roll, remember: You should cleanse your roller after each use. While you don't have to boil it each time, spritzing it with alcohol can be a quick and effective way to prevent any infections the next time you roll.

Word of Warning

Derma rollers can increase the efficacy of your skincare routine but Dr. Gmyrek says it's important to remember that at-home versions are not FDA-approved. But, if you are going to use one, to opt for one like Beauty Bio's GloPRO® Microneedling Facial Regeneration Tool ($199, sephora.com), which Change also recommends. Or, if you prefer to dip your toe into the trend with an FDA-approved method, Dr. Gmyrek says that the SkinPen Precision System, a medical-grade micro-needling device offered by healthcare professionals, is worth considering.

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