Are derma rollers actually good for your skin?

Kaia Gerber no makeup

The answer might just surprise you

The thought of pricking your skin with tiny needles on a regular basis is enough to put off even the most adventurous beauty lover. And yet, derma rolling has become more and more popular as the years go by. While microneedling (derma rolling’s older and more professional sister) is a common in-salon treatment, many people are ditching the professionals and picking up a derma roller in the comfort of their own home.

And while the numerous benefits of derma rolling have been touted by a number of skin care experts, the practice is not without its downsides. We spoke to two experts to find out everything you need to know about the controversial technique. 

What is a derma roller?

According to Mukti, founder of her own eponymous skin care brand, derma rolling is a type of microneedling procedure that involves the use of either a device or roller made up of micro-needles. “These prick the skin to create numerous micro-punctures or channels, which create minimal damage to the upper epidermal layer and microscopic injury through the dermal layer.” It’s this minute amount of damage that “subsequently triggers a cascading wound-healing repair response throughout the skin,” she adds.

How derma rolling differs from microneedling

The main characteristic that sets the at-home practice of derma rolling and in-salon microneedling treatment apart is the length of the needles used to penetrate the skin. Derma rollers use needles anywhere between 0.1mm and 0.25mm whereas microneedling involves the use of needles 3mms or longer. Because the needles used in microneedling are longer and reach deeper into the skin, you’re likely to achieve better and quicker results. 

The pros of derma rollers

According to Mukti, when used correctly – i.e. only two to three times a week and as per the roller’s specific instructions – derma rolling “results in significant improvement across skin texture, scarring and wrinkles”. In addition, “there is an increase in collagen and elastin thickness and it works wonders on a myriad of skin types including sensitive skin, teenage skin, oily skin that’s prone to breakouts, as well as those suffering from atopic skin disorders and rosacea”.  

The cons of derma rollers

As with most things in life, you can have too much of a good thing where derma rolling is concerned. Not only can overuse cause irritation and swelling, but not cleaning your roller properly after use (it needs to be soaked in warm water and isopropyl alcohol) can lead to infection. Because you’re opening channels to your skin, the use of a dirty roller can increase the risk of bacteria entering the deeper layers of your skin.  

Another potential downside of derma rollers is that although they have been proven to stimulate collagen production, repeated use of the device can create ‘ugly’ collagen rather than the smooth, healthy collagen we all know and crave. Founder of Paula’s Choice, Paula Begoun, explains the concept of ugly collagen: “When you fall down and scrape your knee and a scab develops, your skin in that area isn’t attractive. It’s rough, it’s thick and it doesn’t feel soft and smooth. Then after a few weeks, you start seeing the colour of your skin improve and it starts looking normal again after about three, four or five months. So, initially when you wound the skin, it starts making two types of collagen; collagen one and collagen three. Collagen one heals wounds and collagen three is young and healthy. The wound-healing collagen isn’t beautiful, but the skin makes a ton of it to help the skin heal. The problem, however, is if you continue to wound the skin on a regular basis without giving it time to heal itself properly, it will never stop making collagen one and you won’t reap the benefits of collagen three. Ultimately, collagen one isn’t bad collagen per se, it’s just not the smooth, young and healthy variety you want.”

Begoun does note that derma rolling once or twice a year could be beneficial for the production of healthy collagen. However, she believes packing your skin care routine full of ingredients that are going to prevent collagen degradation and stimulate production such as sunscreens and powerful antioxidants is more worthwhile.

Looking for more skin care tips and tricks? Then discover the best ways to care for your skin when you come off the pill and find out the best ways to get rid of back acne

What are your thoughts on derma rollers? Do you use them on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments below.

Main image credit: @kaiagerber

Kate has worked for BEAUTYcrew since early 2016, first as a contributor, before being named Beauty Writer in 2017. She loves picking the brains of the industry's top experts to get to the bottom of beauty's toughest questions. Bronze eyeshadow palettes are her weakness and she's forever on the hunt for the perfect nude nail polish to suit her fair skin. Her words can also be found in Men's Health magazine.