Dermaroller and Minoxidil: Can You Use Them Together?
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’ve searched high and low for solutions to hair loss, you’ve probably come across topical medications like minoxidil (also known as Rogaine) and treatments like dermarolling, two of the most popular products on the market for hair loss treatment.
Dermarolling — a form of microneedling — uses small needles to create tiny holes or punctures in the skin, which research suggests can encourage new hair growth. Meanwhile, minoxidil is an FDA-approved medication for male pattern baldness.
Both a dermaroller and minoxidil have a place in slowing hair loss and stimulating hair regrowth. But can they be used together if you’re desperately searching for a hair loss solution?
Good news — some research shows that the two treatments may be more effective at promoting hair growth when they’re used together.
Below, we’ve explained how dermarolling and minoxidil work together, as well as the safety of using both methods to treat hair loss. And if you’re wondering how the heck dermarolling even works, don’t worry — we’ve covered that too.
What Is Dermarolling?
It sounds unusual, but dermarolling, which is a type of microneedling, has a ton of benefits as a skin care procedure, from reducing acne scarring to skin rejuvenation and many more.
You might wonder, “How does inserting little needles result in hair growth? And why would anyone want to do that?” First off, these needles aren’t the same kind of needle you get the flu shot with, so need to worry about that.
A typical dermaroller used for acne scars and other skin care issues is a drum-shaped roller studded with hundreds of tiny microneedles.
Microneedling treatments and dermarolling work to improve skin by creating micro-injuries that are thought to trigger your body’s healing process. It’s also thought that dermarolling increases the production of collagen, a protein responsible for skin, muscle and bone health.
One very small-scale study published in 2015 looked at the effects of microneedling on hair growth in four men who failed to respond to conventional hair loss treatments.
After a period of six months, the men completed 15 microneedling sessions and showed a grade of +2 to +3 improvement on a standardized 7-point evaluation scale for hair growth.
While the findings of this study are certainly promising, it’s important to note that relatively little research has been done on dermarolling alone for hair loss.
But using a dermaroller shouldn’t immediately be ruled out as a hair loss solution. Keep reading for a look at the results of using a dermaroller and minoxidil together.
Can You Use a Derma Roller and Minoxidil Together?
Before we get into whether or not you can use minoxidil and dermaroller treatments together, let’s briefly cover what minoxidil is.
A common topical medication for treating hair loss, this option is available as either minoxidil foam or a liquid minoxidil solution, which are applied directly to the scalp in areas affected by hair loss.
Minoxidil is thought to work by helping stimulate blood circulation to your hair follicles, which may prolong your hair’s growth period.
Numerous studies have found that minoxidil is effective at stimulating hair growth. For example, one study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology looked at more than 900 men with hair loss who had successful results using minoxidil.
We should also note that most often male pattern baldness (or androgenetic alopecia) is caused by a genetic response to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which stops new hair from growing from your follicles.
Because of this, using a dermaroller and minoxidil as a combination hair loss treatment may work better in some people than in others — neither treatment will affect DHT.
But research shows that using a dermaroller and minoxidil together is actually more effective at reducing hair loss and improving hair growth than using each one separately.
In one study, men between the ages of 20 and 35 years old who had mild or moderate hereditary hair loss were treated with either 5% minoxidil twice a day or 5% minoxidil twice a day plus weekly microneedling.
After 12 weeks of treatment, the patients treated with minoxidil and microneedling had significantly more hair growth.
Another study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery in 2018 looked at the effects of microneedling using a dermaroller and minoxidil as treatments for hair loss in 68 men.
One group underwent treatment with minoxidil alone, while the other underwent weekly dermaroller treatment along with minoxidil.
The minoxidil and dermarolling group experienced a much more significant increase in hair count than the minoxidil-only group.
However, it’s worth noting that the researchers did conclude that they could not establish that microneedling combined with minoxidil is an effective therapy for androgenetic alopecia — possibly due to the small sample size — and said that more research is needed.
A different study, however, divided 60 total patients between the ages of 21 to 40 years old with androgenetic alopecia into two groups: one that completed microneedling twice a month in addition to a topical 5% minoxidil solution, and another that only received the minoxidil solution.
The first group saw an 86 percent improvement in hair loss compared to the minoxidil-only group, which saw around a 63 percent improvement.
In short, not only can you dermaroll and use topical minoxidil at the same time, but research shows that doing so is likely to improve your results. Now for the next step, how to use a dermaroller for your hair.
How to Use a Derma Roller with Minoxidil
No need to ask Siri how to use a dermaroller for hair growth — we’ve got that covered below.
Visit a Clinic for Dermarolling
There are two ways to use a dermaroller with minoxidil. The first is to go to a clinic and have the process performed by a professional. This is a good option if you have never used a dermaroller before and want the process to be as simple as possible for you.
A major advantage of having dermarolling performed clinically is that the device used is typically able to penetrate deeper into your skin than an at-home dermaroller. This may be more effective at stimulating hair growth in areas affected by male pattern baldness or other forms of hair loss.
For example, many studies of microneedling as a treatment for hair loss use a 1.5mm device — a needle length that’s limited to clinical, physician-operated devices.
In comparison, most dermarollers designed for home use can only penetrate 0.25 or 0.5mm into your skin.
One downside of having microneedling performed by a professional is the cost. A microneedling session can cost anywhere from under $100 to several hundred dollars based on the area to be treated and your location. Over time, this can add up to a significant amount of money.
To find a clinician who is trained to perform microneedling, you can ask your healthcare provider or a dermatologist for a recommendation.
Use a Derma Roller at Home
The second way to dermaroll is at home. Dermarollers are available online from a range of retailers. Most dermarollers come with a variety of heads with needles of different lengths and are priced from as little as $15 to $30 or more.
To use a dermaroller for microneedling, follow the instructions that came with your device. Most dermarollers are designed for light, slow use on the affected areas. While using the dermaroller, you may feel a mild tingling or pricking sensation in the targeted area of your scalp.
Make sure to keep your skin safe and protected while dermarolling by:
Applying numbing cream. If you find the feeling of using a dermaroller uncomfortable, it may help to numb the area by applying a mild lidocaine numbing cream. Make sure that you fully wash away the cream before using the dermaroller.
Disinfecting both your dermaroller and the targeted area of skin. You can do this using 70% isopropyl alcohol. This is especially important if your dermaroller has needles that are 0.5mm or longer.
Rolling vertically, then horizontally. Most dermaroller products recommend rolling over the target area vertically, then horizontally. Apply the dermaroller from top to bottom a total of six times, then repeat the process horizontally over the same area.
After you’ve finished using the dermaroller, it’s important to rinse the target areas of your scalp using warm water.
Make sure that you also follow the instructions provided with your dermaroller to keep it clean and free of bacteria after you’ve used it on your skin.
After you’ve completed this process, you can apply minoxidil to the areas of your scalp affected by hair loss. Our guide to applying minoxidil for hair growth provides step-by-step instructions for the liquid and foam versions of minoxidil.
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How Often to Use a Derma Roller for Hair Loss
Although minoxidil can be used twice per day, dermarolling isn’t something that you should do too often. This is because excessive dermarolling may irritate your scalp and increase your risk of experiencing side effects.
Most studies of microneedling for hair loss involve using a dermaroller one time per week, with minoxidil used two times per day, so try to keep your hair loss treatment routine on that schedule.
Be sure to avoid using a dermaroller if your skin feels irritated, swollen or as if it’s not fully recovered from the last session.
And although results can vary by person, it usually takes around two to four months before minoxidil starts working for most people.
Side Effects of Derma Rollers
Microneedling using a dermaroller can cause side effects, whether it’s performed by yourself at home or by a professional in a clinic or other setting.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, microneedling may cause some degree of swelling and bruising. This may persist for several days after you treat your scalp using a dermaroller.
Your scalp might also be at a higher risk of infection with bacteria or the herpes simplex virus after you treat the area using a dermaroller. As such, it’s important to practice good hygiene if you use a dermaroller as part of your hair loss prevention routine.
As for the side effects of minoxidil, you can expect skin irritation at the application site, itchy scalp, skin rash and more.
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Final Thoughts: Derma Rollers and Minoxidil
Hair loss can be a real annoyance to deal with, and in the search for hair loss treatments, you’ve probably come across minoxidil and might have heard of dermarolling.
Dermarolling uses a tool with tiny needles (called a dermaroller or derma roller) to create tiny injuries that may increase collagen production, as well as improve blood flow to the scalp and increase hair growth.
Minoxidil is a topical solution that is thought to lengthen the growth phase of hair and encourage new hair to grow.
Some small studies have found that using a dermaroller may increase hair growth. But multiple studies have found that using a dermaroller and minoxidil together may slow hair loss and increase hair growth.
Using minoxidil and a dermaroller for hair loss are just two options to bring back a full head of hair. If you’re dealing with androgenetic alopecia, for example, finasteride (available as an oral medication or a combination of topical finasteride & minoxidil spray) is another option — it’s a medication that blocks the production of DHT, the hormone that causes hair loss.