- Dermarolling creates microscopic wounds in the skin with tiny needles to promote skin cell regeneration.
- It lightens hyperpigmentation by breaking up melanin clusters.
- Dermarolling is mildly invasive and considered safe for all skin types, with few associated side effects.
- This treatment should be avoided by individuals whose skin scars or inflames easily.
Hyperpigmentation usually develops as a result of sun exposure, hormonal fluctuations or inflammation due to acne. While using a dermaroller for hyperpigmentation has not been widely studied, the technique has nevertheless shown promise in its ability to regenerate skin and lighten dark spots.
Dermarolling is a mildly invasive treatment to address several skin concerns including wrinkles, stretch marks, sun damage and dark, discolored areas of skin known as hyperpigmentation.
What Is Dermarolling?
Dermarolling is a treatment usually performed at home, though it is offered at some medical spas. It involves rolling a small handheld device tipped with thousands of tiny needles over the skin. The needles create microscopic wounds, signaling the body to increase collagen and elastin production. Once healed, the skin is smoother and firmer with fewer signs of sun damage. Stretch marks, fine lines and wrinkles are reduced, and skin thickness is increased.
This treatment also lightens hyperpigmentation by breaking up clusters of melanin that appear as dark spots on the skin. It can treat all types of hyperpigmentation, including acne scars, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma and lentigo, or sunspots.
Dermarolling vs. microneedling
Microneedling is the technique of puncturing the skin with tiny needles to treat various skin concerns. It is a form of collagen induction therapy (CIT), meaning it promotes the production of this important protein. Microneedling can be performed using either a dermaroller or a stamping device called a dermapen.
The primary difference between a dermaroller and a dermapen is the angle at which the needles enter the skin. On a dermapen, it’s a 90 degree angle; on a dermaroller, a 45 degree angle.
Dermapen use results in shorter recovery time, and less risk of side effects than a dermaroller as the angle of needle entry minimizes epidermal damage. However, both devices are about equally effective at treating hyperpigmentation.
Can Dermarolling Treat Hyperpigmentation?
While dermarolling is not yet well studied as a specific treatment for hyperpigmentation, evidence does point to its efficacy for this purpose. It causes skin cell regeneration, which is understood to effectively lighten dark spots in all skin types.
Very dark patches of skin will likely require more treatment sessions than less severe forms of hyperpigmentation, and may never be fully erased by dermarolling.
How does it work?
A dermaroller must be used in a specific pattern to reduce the risk of track marks and uneven penetration. When dermarolling for hyperpigmentation specifically, you can localize the treatment to those areas of your face.
Choose a device with a needle size of 0.2 to 1 mm, starting with the shortest possible needle length to damage the skin as little as possible.
Regardless of what skin concerns you are treating, the pattern is the same: roll upward on the skin for 6–8 passes, taking care to lift the device at the end of each pass. Then roll from left to right, horizontally, for another 6–8 passes. Do not roll diagonally, as this creates an uneven pattern of penetration.
Wait at least a month for your skin to fully heal before dermarolling again. Multiple treatment sessions are necessary to start seeing results, with more sessions required to treat darker forms of hyperpigmentation.
What Types of Hyperpigmentation Can It Treat?
Although it has not been formally studied as a specific treatment, the principles behind dermarolling indicate that it should treat all forms of hyperpigmentation. These include
- Acne scars
- Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Lentigo (age spots)
You can increase the efficacy of this treatment by using products containing vitamin C, niacinamide or hyaluronic acid, both before and a few days after treatment. These anti-aging ingredients encourage further collagen production for even greater results.
Can Dermarolling Cause Hyperpigmentation?
Yes. If your skin scars easily, dermarolling can increase hyperpigmentation. The response triggered in your skin by the procedure can increase melanin production, causing or worsening dark spots.
To decrease the risk of this occurring, first patch-test a small area of skin to see your body’s response. If there is no inflammation after 48 hours, it’s likely safe to try treating a larger area.
Dermarolling should not be performed over active acne and pimples as it can spread bacteria and cause infection.
If you are not sure whether dermarolling is suitable for your skin, consult with a dermatologist.
Other side effects
Side effects are similar to sunburn, and include skin redness, slight swelling and peeling that last several days after treatment.
Individuals with sensitive skin may experience more irritation post treatment than others, but dermarolling is considered safe for all skin types.
Dermarolling causes fewer side effects than comparable treatments such as chemical peels, especially for people with darker skin tones as defined by Fitzpatrick skin types IV–VI. This is because the technique is nonablative, meaning it does not involve removing any skin. Ablative procedures often trigger unwanted reactions in skin with high levels of melanin.
In the 24 hours after a treatment session, do not apply any topical skin care products—such moisturizer, makeup or sunscreen—to treated areas, as they can cause irritation.
Dermarolling creates microscopic wounds in the skin using a device tipped with tiny needles, encouraging the growth of new, healthier skin in the treated area. Although no studies have definitively proven that dermarolling lightens hyperpigmentation, the principles behind this treatment indicate that it should.
This treatment must be performed several times in sessions spaced at least one month apart to see results. More severe forms of hyperpigmentation require additional sessions.
While dermarolling can treat all forms of hyperpigmentation including melasma, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation and age spots, it is contraindicated for those whose skin easily scars or becomes inflamed.
Dermarolling has few side effects and is considered a safe and promising treatment for hyperpigmentation.
- Cohen, E., Elbuluk, N. (2016). Microneedling in skin of color: A review of uses and efficacy. Journal of the American academy of dermatology, 74(2), 348–55. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.09.024
- Iriarte, C., Awosika, O., Rengifo-Pardo, M., & Ehrlich, A. (2017). Review of applications of microneedling in dermatology. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 289–298. doi:10.2147/CCID.S142450
- Fabbrocini, G., Fardella, N., Monfrecola, A., Proietti, I., & Innocenzi, D. (2009). Acne scarring treatment using skin needling. Clinical And Experimental Dermatology, 34(8), 874-879. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2230.2009.03291.x
- Lima E. (2015). Microneedling in facial recalcitrant melasma: report of a series of 22 cases. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, 90(6), 919–921. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20154748
- Litchman, G., Nair, P., Badri, T. (2019). Microneedling. In: StatPearls [Internet]. FL: StatPearls Publishing. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459344/