Ever heard the word “microneedling” and wonder what it means? Or came across a scary-looking device called the “derma roller” and wonder what it is? What it’s used for? Or, how it works? Don’t worry, this post is a detailed layman’s explanation of all you need to know about how microneedling with the derma roller works.
Before going into the core of this post, let’s do some clarification.
The name derma roller is used to refer to a small handheld device used for performing a procedure called Microneedling. Derma roller is also called by different names, some of which are: micro-needle, skin-roller and skin-needle.
Microneedling is the procedure for using the derma roller. It is also known as Collagen Induction Therapy (PCI), Percutaneous Collagen Induction Therapy (PCIT), Dermarolling, Microneedling Therapy, Medical Skin Needling, etc. More on this in a bit.
So, throughout this post, I will stick with derma roller as the name of the device and microneedling as the name for the procedure.
Now, let’s get into the core of this post.
What is a Derma Roller?
A derma-roller may be described as a small roller device studded with carefully arranged tiny needles of the same length and attached to a handle used to create micro punctures on the skin to trigger the body’s healing process.
It’s normal for many intending users to wonder how this sort of device with plenty needles be beneficial to their skin when rolled on it. Many even consider it a torture device for obvious reason and find it hard to understand how in the world would anyone want to use such on their skin for whatever reason.
From experience, since being in position where I talk people into using the derma roller to solve a range of skin issues, I have realized that the fear, hesitation and skepticism associated with derma roller use for many intending users were due to lack of the understanding of the science behind the working of the device and how immensely their skin can benefit from it.
Shedding light on this seemingly dark side to microneedling with is the basis for this post. So, sit back and relax while l explain, with an analogy, all you need to know about how microneedling works and how your skin can benefit from it.
The Science Behind Microneedling
As said in the opening paragraph of this article, derma roller is used for a procedure professionally known as Microneedling. At this point, it’s apt to explain what Microneedling means.
NOTE: It’s important to state here that derma roller is not the only device used for PCIT. Derma pen and stamps are also used. While derma rollers are mechanical, derma pen and stamps are automated.
Microneedling is a minimally-invasive cosmetic procedure. It’s done by moving a device with lots of tiny needles in certain directions on the skin so that the tiny sterile needles would repeatedly puncture the skin in a controlled manner in order to stimulate the body’s natural wound healing process which then triggers the release of body growth factors that lead to the production and remodeling of collagen and elastin at the affected area.
Lost!? Don’t be. All the explanation you need to understand this better has been done below. Just read on.
Now that we know or at least, have an idea of what microneedling is and that dermaroller is used to perform it, let’s go straight into details on how everything comes together to make sense.
Recall a dermaroller is a roller device studded with many tiny needles. When these needles are rolled on the skin, they penetrate the skin and create micro punctures (channels) on the skin, (scared? Don’t be). These punctures are so small that they are difficult to see with bare eyes but are considered enough trauma to trigger a reaction from the body. This reaction is the activation of the body’s natural wound healing mechanism.
The next question that naturally comes to mind is “what then is the body’s natural wound healing mechanism?”
The Body’s Natural Wound Healing Mechanism/Process
Wound healing process/mechanism here is the natural process the skin goes through to heal itself when a wound occurs. It’s a natural bodily reaction to derma (tissue) wound and it involves a complex interplay among several cells types such as cytokines, fibroblasts, keratinocytes, macrophages, neutrophils, platelets, endothelial cells, myofibroblast, etc. 1, 2, 3, 4.
Ever wondered how those small cuts you get on your skin get healed without you paying attention to them or applying anything on them? That’s the work of the body’s natural wound healing mechanism.
For those who don’t know, the human skin is not just a mere cover for our body flesh but a vital part of our well-being and a protector for our internal tissues and entire body. Apart from being the largest organ of the human body (not sure everybody knows this), with a surface area of about 20 square feet in adults, the skin is our shield from adverse environmental conditions and factors such as pathogens, chemical pollutions, Sun UV-ray, etc. 1, 2, 3.
As the body’s first point of protection from adverse environmental factors, our skin was designed to be without any cut or opening (wound) where pathogens or external elements could penetrate into our body. And to effectively play this protective role, the human skin was designed with an action plan to always heal itself whenever a wound occurs. 1, 2, 3.
This action plan is what is referred to as the wound healing process and it’s a three-stage self-activated process that is triggered when a wound occurs especially when the wound reaches the second layer (the dermis) and below.
The Three Phases of Wound Healing
The human skin has three (3) layers: the Epidermis (the outer layer that we can see and touch and contains the primary protective structure called the stratum corneum), the Dermis (a fibrous layer that supports and strengthens the epidermis that is just above it), and the Subcutis, Hypodermis or Subcutaneous layer (a layer of fat just beneath the dermis that supplies nutrients to the other two layers and that cushions and insulates the body). 1.
When a wound affects only the outer layer (the epidermis), this is considered a surface wound or a minor scratch and does not trigger the body’s full natural wound healing process. Such scratches usually result in dead skin cells that flake off with time.
But when a wound goes deeper than the epidermis and affects the dermis and below (tissue wound), then our body is forced to react immediately by activating a three-stage natural wound healing processes which are: 1. The Inflammatory, 2. The Proliferative, and 3. The Maturation phase.
NOTE: Some people maintain that wound healing is a four-phase process by including the Hemostasis phase which is regarded as the first phase when the injury just occurred and it deals with stopping blood from flowing out by clotting it, while others maintain that wound healing is a three-phase process excluding the Hemostasis phase. The interest here is not to say one is true and the other is false. However, I have decided to stick with the latter because considering wound healing as a three-phase process makes more sense for the purpose of this post.
The Three Phases of Wound Healing In Summary
The Inflammation Phase: This phase takes place from the 1st to the 3rd day of wounding. It is characterized by edema (swollenness), erythema (superficial reddening), pain, and heat. It involves the presence of different types of white blood cells reaching the wound site to destroy bacteria, clear off debris and attract immune cells to facilitate tissue repair. This stage essentially prepares the wound bed for the growth of new tissue.
If you have had a wound before, I am sure you would remember this phase because I really do.
The Proliferative Phase: This phase begins from the 3rd day of wounding and last for more than two weeks. It consists mainly of the activities of fibroblasts and involves the growth of new blood vessel as loops filling up the wound with healthy and newly formed connective tissue in the form of granules hence they are called granulation tissue. The newly formed tissue temporary consists of (type iii) collagen and elastin and constitutes part of the extracellular matrix. Re-epithelialization (covering of the wound bed) is a key event that also happens during this phase.
The Maturation Phase: This phase can last anywhere from 21 days to upward of 2 years depending on various factors and can vary from individual to individual. At this phase, the wound has been replaced with new dermal tissues and blood vessels. The type iii collagen formed at the proliferative phase is replaced by a stronger and flexible type i collagen which can contract to create a tightening on the skin. Collagen fibres are remodeled, realigned along the line of tension and become mature with an overall increase in tensile strength.
Wawu!! Who else can see the total reconstruction that takes place from the wound healing process?
Loads of good stuffs for the wounded area of the skin but how many of you truly understand what happens there?
It’s easy for me to assume that everyone who reads the above summary of the three (3) phases of the wound healing process would understand what those activities translate to, but chances are most people would just read them but would never truly understand what happens during these phases.
So, below, I will attempt a lay man’s explanation that would help you truly understands the activities of the three (3) phases of wound healing above as well as help you see how the affected area of the skin benefits from the whole process. Just read on…
For now, our take should simply be that wound healing comes with loads of good stuffs (benefits) for the affected area of the skin.
PHASES OF WOUND HEALING PROCESS RE-EXPLAINED
Benefits of Stimulating The Body’s Wound Healing Process (
Stimulating the body’s natural wound healing mechanism (Collagen Induction Therapy) can benefit the skin in more ways than one. But first you must understand how the wound healing process truly works to understand how your skin benefits from it.
Therefore, I will make extra effort to explain the wound healing process in a different way.
Using the summary of the activities of the 3 phases of wound healing above, let me re-explain the wound healing process with the use of an analogy. This analogy likens wound healing to re-erecting/mending or renovating a broken part of a 30-year old concrete fence built to secure a house.
For many people, the fence of a house is literally supposed to keep the house safe from unauthorized entry or invasion. If this is the purpose for erecting a fence round a house, then the fence must stand upright and solid with no part of it broken at any time so as to be able to perform its duty effectively.
However, as days, months and years pass by, exposure to changing and unfavorable environmental conditions coupled with other factors such as use, contact with different human and non human objects, age, etc. would cause the materials used in erecting the fence to start deteriorating in quality and strength. Its firmness would therefore inevitably begins to weaken (this is what happens to our skin as we grow old too).
30 years down the line, even if the fence is still standing, it would be characterized by both visible and invisible signs of deterioration such as cracks, defacement, holes, splits, weakness, etc.
On the human skin, these signs of deterioration are scars, stretch marks, pimples, acne, spots, wrinkles, aging, enlarged pores, rough skin texture, blemishes, sun damaged, hyper-pigmentation, discoloration, melasma, etc.
If one day an accident occurs or let’s say a vehicle accidentally ran into the fence and broke a portion of the fence (wound), then the owner(s) of the house must respond immediately to mobilize human and materials resources needed to mend/repair the broken portion (wound healing response) otherwise the security of the house would be in jeopardy and the purpose of erecting the fence in the first place would have been defeated.