Microneedling is a type of cosmetic treatment that addresses various effects of aging. It’s also nicknamed skin needling because of its effects on increasing collagen production in the skin.
Microneedling involves the use of a skin roller with small needles that causes minor skin injuries.
While used as an anti-aging skin treatment, microneedling may also be a method of treatment for hair loss. There’s even evidence that it can help a special type of hair loss known as alopecia areata.
The same process of creating wounds in the skin is also thought to regenerate the health of the hair follicles. It’s thought that this can result in new hair growth, or perhaps, it may thicken thinning hair as seen in androgenic alopecia or male pattern baldness.
Microneedling for hair loss benefits
Microneedling first gained its reputation as a scar treatment during the 1990s. Since then, it’s been studied as a potential alternative or adjunctive treatment for androgenic alopecia and alopecia areata.
Aside from collagen production in the skin, which is thought to underlie one of the reasons it may be beneficial for acne scars, it’s thought that microneedling can also help induce stem cells in the hair follicles that may lead to hair growth.
Microneedling may also promote the absorption of products used to treat your hair loss, such as:
- minoxidil (Rogaine)
- topical steroid
- platelet rich plasma
One study in particular explored the potential benefits of microneedling when used with a topical corticosteroid to treat alopecia areata.
How it works
During microneedling, your healthcare provider uses a roller with needles on it.
The size of the needles can range from less than 1 millimeter to a few millimeters in length. They’re all contained in a handheld device. Also called a roller, the device is rolled along the treatment area, creating small injuries.
Some speculate that microneedling may provoke the release of factors that promote hair growth or perhaps directly stimulate hair growth as a result of the small injury caused.
Your healthcare provider will apply a topical anesthetic to your scalp about 45 minutes prior to treatment. This helps to reduce any pain you may feel.
The actual procedure time can vary based on the size of the treatment area, but it generally takes less than 10 minutes. After the scalp microneedling is completed, your healthcare provider may apply a topical balm to the area or perform an injection, depending on what the goal of the microneedling session is.
Side effects of microneedling on the head
Microneedling itself may cause:
- oozing from the wounds
- swelling pain
There’s also a risk that the wounds caused by the needles may scar.
The area may be red and inflamed for a few days following the procedure. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), most side effects diminish within 5 days after your treatment.
Speak with your healthcare provider before considering this treatment if you:
- have a history of acne or eczema
- have a condition that slows healing, such as diabetes
- are on blood thinners or other medications
Microneedling also isn’t recommended for women who are pregnant.
Using minoxidil immediately after microneedling can potentially increase the absorption of the medication and cause more burning, itching, and irritation on the scalp. It’s important talk to your healthcare provider about when you should resume your topical minoxidil after treatment.
Your scalp may be more sensitive to the sun after treatment. Wearing sunscreen every day is recommended. A hat can also help protect your scalp when outdoors.
Another risk of microneedling on your head is the possibility of infection. While the needles are small, they’re still inflicting wounds.
You’ll need to follow your aftercare instructions carefully to prevent infection. Your aftercare often involves keeping the area clean for a few days, as well as using a prescribed topical or oral antibiotic to ward off bacteria.
You may be at an increased risk for infection if you have other serious health conditions or if you have a history of frequent infections.
Dermaroller at-home treatment
To offset costs and time commitments, some people choose to purchase dermarollers to self-administer microneedling treatments at home.
According to one company, Dermapen, at-home sessions can cost as little as a third of the costs associated with getting microneedling services from a professional.
There are significant downsides to at-home dermaroller treatments though. These include:
- not knowing the right size needles to use
- not being able to see certain parts of your own scalp, such as the back of your head
- not being able to target the desired areas as well as a professional
- not knowing how to use the roller properly
- not knowing when to stop
- not knowing how much pressure to use and how to properly roll the roller
- not having the adjuvant treatment available that providers may use to see results, such as platelet-rich plasma
These factors can make your treatment less effective compared to seeing a professional.
A licensed microneedling professional will also know how to help you minimize side effects from treatment. It can be difficult to assess risks and treat any complications on your own. You could end up seeing a healthcare provider anyway if you develop any side effects.
While it’s tempting to buy your own dermaroller, it’s much safer to leave these devices in the hands of a licensed and experienced professional for your hair loss treatment. Dermatologists strongly discourage doing microneedling at home or with providers who aren’t properly trained.
Microneedling for hair loss cost
Out-of-pocket costs for microneedling can range from an estimated $200 to $700 per session. The bigger the treatment area, the more expensive each session will be.
Microneedling generally isn’t covered by medical insurance because it’s considered a cosmetic treatment. However, your insurance might cover some of the costs if you’re getting the procedure done for medical purposes.
Choosing a practitioner
Microneedling procedures are performed by licensed professionals who specialize in skin care. These may include dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons.
Microneedling isn’t a surgical procedure, so there generally aren’t as many risks involved. However, it’s still recommended that you find an experienced and trained professional to reduce possible complications, such as scarring.
Once you’ve found a few prospective providers, request a consultation with each one. You can then get a better sense of their experience, as well as the projected treatment costs.
A reputable microneedling provider will show you a portfolio of their work.
Microneedling may be a promising hair loss treatment, particularly for androgenic alopecia, to add to any current treatment regimens for those who can afford it.
Talk with your healthcare provider about all your hair growth options.
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