Ever heard the word “microneedling” and wondered what it means? Or came across a scary-looking device called the “dermaroller” and wondered 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 dermaroller actually works.
Before going straight into the core of this post, let’s do some clarification.
The name dermaroller is used to refer to a small handheld device used for performing a procedure called Microneedling.
Dermaroller 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 on the skin. It is professionally known as Collagen Induction Therapy (CIT) or Percutaneous Collagen Induction (PCI). It’s also often called Derma-rolling, Microneedling Therapy and Medical Skin Needling to mention some common names.
So, throughout this post, I will stick with dermaroller as the name of the device and microneedling or dermarolling as the name of 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 meant to be rolled on the skin for beneficial effects.
The last three words of the above definition “for beneficial effects” sounds IRONIC with rolling needles on your skin, right?! I thought so too as a novice.
Like many new or intending users, I also wondered (as a novice) how this sort of device with plenty tiny needles be beneficial to one’s skin when rolled on it. Especially because of the fact that it looks like something that would do the exact opposite – destroys one’s skin.
But, indeed, microneedling brings loads of unmatched beneficial effects to our skin. Just read on, you will soon understand how.
As said in the opening paragraph of this post, derma roller is used for a procedure professionally known as Microneedling, CIT or PCI. At this point, it’s apt to explain what Microneedling, CIT or PCI is.
What is Microneedling, CIT or PCI?
Microneedling is a minimally-invasive cosmetic procedure. It’s done by repeatedly puncturing the skin in a controlled manner with the dermaroller so as to trigger the body’s natural wound healing process which then triggers the release of the body’s growth factors that lead to the production and remodeling of collagen and elastin at the affected area to bring about beneficial effects.
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.
The Science Behind Microneedling
Recall a dermaroller is a roller device studded with many tiny needles. When these needles are rolled on the skin, they penetrate the outer layer of the skin and create micro wounds (tiny punctures) on the middle layer of the skin, (don’t be scared).
These micro wounds (tiny punctures) are so tiny that they are difficult to see with bare eyes but are considered enough trauma (wound) to trigger a reaction from the body.
This reaction is the activation of the body’s natural wound healing mechanism/process.
The next question that naturally comes to mind is:
What Is The Body’s Natural Wound Healing Mechanism/Process?
Wound healing mechanism/process 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 cell 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/process.
To understand this better, let’s talk a little about the human skin.
The Human Skin
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.
For those who don’t know, the human skin is not just a mere covering 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, with a surface area of about 20 square feet in adults, the skin is our first line of shield from adverse environmental conditions and factors such as pathogens, chemical pollutions, Sun UV-ray, etc. 1, 2.
As the body’s first line 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, our skin was also designed with an action plan to always heal itself whenever a wound occurs. 1, 2, 3. 123
This action plan is what is referred to as the wound healing mechanism/process and it’s a three-phase self-healing process that is triggered when a wound occurs especially when the wound reaches the second layer (the dermis) and below. 1, 2.
So, 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 reaches the dermis and below (tissue wound), then our body is forced to react immediately by activating the three-phase natural wound healing process which are: 1. The Inflammatory, 2. The Proliferative, and 3. The Maturation phase.
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 tissues.
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 filling up the wound with healthy and newly formed connective tissue in the form of granules hence they are called granulation tissue. These 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. During this phase, the wound would have been replaced with new dermal tissues and blood vessels. The type iii collagen formed at the proliferation phase is replaced by a stronger and flexible type 1 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. 1, 2.
It may be difficult for a layman to understand the activities in each of the 3 phases of wound healing above.
So, below, I will attempt a layman’s explanation to help you truly understands the activities of each of the three (3) phases of wound healing above so as to help you better understand the importance of the wound healing process.
Wound Healing Process Re-Explained With An Analogy
Using the summary 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 repairing a broken part of, say, a 25-year old concrete fence that was erected to secure a house.
Think about this as the fence built around the house in which you currently live.
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 it can perform its function 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, aging, etc. would cause the materials used in erecting the fence to start deteriorating in quality and strength. Therefore, its firmness would inevitably begins to weaken from wear (this is exactly what happens to our skin as we grow old too).
Now, 25 years down the line, even if the fence is still standing, it would be old and 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, acne scars, black spots, sun damage, bleach damage, wrinkles, fine lines, aging, age spot, enlarged pores, rough skin texture, blemishes, hyper/hypo-pigmentation, discoloration, melasma, etc.
Now, if one day an accident occurs or let’s say a vehicle accidentally ran into the fence and broke a part of the fence (wound), then the owner of the house must respond immediately to mobilize human and materials resources needed to mend/repair the broken part (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.
As response to mend the broken part of the fence, the owner of the house would call/mobilize builders to the site of the accident (wound) and the following activities would likely take place:
PHASE 1 (The Inflammatory Phase)
Builders will arrive at the site of the accident (wound) with necessary working tools and would, among other things likely do the followings: carefully look at how the damage occurred, break out the weak parts that are still hanging around the affected area, make sure the broken pieces (debris) are packed away from the site, and so on. They would also ensure that the two upright edges to the right and left of the broken portion are trimmed so the mending to be done would fit in well.
This preparation is similar to the activities that take place at the inflammatory phase at the site of a new wound. The white blood cells prepare the wound bed for the repair that is to follow.
PHASE 2 (Proliferative Phase)
During this phase, new building materials to be used for rebuilding the fence such as blocks/bricks, iron, cements, gravel, water, sand, etc.) are brought to the site of the accident (wound). Then the builders such as carpenter, mason/bricklayers, etc, would lay the groundwork, replace all broken and worn out materials with new ones, arrange and lay the blocks in their proper places and hold them firmly together with concrete, etc. In summary; the wall is rebuilt by these skilled workers using new building materials.
This is much the same way the activities of fibroblasts and the growth of new blood vessel lead to the formation and reconstruction/remodeling of new tissue, collagen and elastin on a wound site during the proliferative phase.
PHASE 3 (Maturation Phase)
During this phase, all things have been fitted well in their proper positions. The wall is plastered with cement and dressed to look beautiful with no cracks or splits. Then, finishing touches are done and then the wall is allowed to dry and become solid.
This is much the same way the type iii collagen is replaced by mature, stronger and flexible type 1 collagen that has been remodeled and realigned along the line of tension to restore skin almost to its original state by giving it a new and smooth appearance in the maturation Phase.
Laughs… Ok, maybe not the best of analogies but my hope is that the picture I tried painting is clearly seen and the message is well passed. So, let’s move forward.
In the above analogy, the fence is the human skin while the house (with the owner) is the human body. The accident on the fence is a wound while the response by the house owner to mend the broken part of the fence is the body’s natural wound healing response, then the activities of each of the three (3) phases of wound healing together constitute the wound healing process.
Now, at the completion of the mending process, I am sure you would agree with me that the mended part of the fence, other things being equal, would stand out both in appearance and strength from the whole.
It would be more resilient to adverse environmental conditions because it’s recently been reconstructed with new building materials compared to the rest part of the fence that was erected 25 years ago and in a state of deterioration.
I also don’t need to mention the obvious fact that the mended portion would be smooth, spotless and beautiful with all previous signs of deterioration such as cracks, defacement, holes, splits, and weakness, etc. all gone.
This is what the body’s natural wound healing process does to your skin when it healed from a tissue wound without a scar. Your skin goes through a total reconstruction/renovation process every time it heals from a tissue wound.
The same way new building materials are used to reconstruct the broken part of the fence in our analogy above, so are new tissue, blood vessel, collagen, elastin, keratin, etc. used to replace the old and damaged ones in the reconstruction of the skin during wound-healing.
And this skin reconstruction/renovation that happens during wound healing is an effectively way to eliminate/fix/repair most beauty worries such as stretch marks, scars, sun damaged, aging, age spots, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, fine lines, skin discolorations, rough skin texture, burn scar, acne scars, black spot, blemishes, hyper/hypo-pigmentation, cellulite, hair loss, etc.
Now that we have seen that the wound healing process can do a great deal of repair to the skin, how nice would it be if we could make this wound healing process happen without “WOUNDING” our skin so that it can heal without any scar.
How about finding a way to activate this wound healing process that leads to skin Repair/renovation/reconstruction/regeneration without actually wounding the skin?
This is where microneedling with the derma roller comes into the picture.
Now, the most interesting part of this post.
How Microneedling Actually Works
Even with the skin repair, reconstruction and rejuvenation that come with the wound healing process hardly would anyone in her right mind want to cut her skin open (wound) just to activate the wound healing process to eliminate certain skin issues. Moreover, cutting your skin open would leave a scar when it heals. But, microneedling let you have it both ways – the repair, reconstruction and rejuvenation that come with wound-healing without even wounding your skin at all.
Here is the thing…
When the derma roller is rolled repeatedly on an area of the skin, the needles penetrate the epidermis (outer layer), without damaging it, and prick the dermis (second/tissue layer) to create hundreds of micro punctures and cause blood to flow to that area via the needles pinpoints.
These pinpoint punctures on the dermis trick our body into believing that a tissue wound has occurred in that area. This then force our body to respond immediately by activating the body’s natural wound healing process in order to repair/reconstruct the area.
Once the body’s wound healing process/mechanism is activated, it sends out signals (like it does during real wounding) that leads to the release of various growth factors such as platelet derived growth factor (PGF), transforming growth factor alpha and beta (TGF-α and TGF-β), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), and many others – (these are the blocks/bricks, cement, sand, gravel, water used for rebuilding the broken fence in our analogy above).
These growth factors stimulate the migration and proliferation of fibroblasts that promote the formation of new natural collagen (neocollagenesis) and elastin (neoelastinogenesis) in the papillary dermis. Also, new capillaries or blood vessels are formed (neovascularisation).
These neocollagenesis, neoelastinogenesis and neovascularisation caused by microneedling leads to a total repair, remodeling, reconstruction and rejuvenation of the affected area through the production of new natural collagen, elastin, blood vessels to replace the old and damaged ones and to regenerate smooth and flawless skin. 1, 2.
Microneedling your skin is like saying: hey! I don’t like the way this part of my skin is, please repair it and take it back to what it used to be before this skin issue occurred.
Yes! It is like placing an order for your skin to be renovated.
This why microneedling is a very effective way to fix/repair many difficult skin issues that result from damaged skin, tissues, collagen and elastin such as stretch marks, scars (pitted, box, burn, chickenpox, surgical etc.) sun damage, aging, black spot, wrinkles, enlarged pores, saggy skin, uneven skin tone and texture, rough skin, blemish, discolorations (melasma, hyper/hypo-pigmentations) and hair loss.
That’s not all, it rejuvenates your skin and keeps it smooth, clear, spotless and makes it glow. So, if you want to look spotless and younger than your actual age? Look no further – microneedling is skin rejuvenator par excellence.
But all these goodness of micrneedling come with knowing how to use/do it the right way. And they don’t happen over night.
Natural collagen and elastin reproduction and remodeling processes that microneedling stimulate take time and require patience, consistency and understanding. It’s not an overnight success kind of thing. But the good thing is that the results are certain and are well worth the wait.
So, there you go.
Apart from activating the body’s natural wound healing mechanism, the micro punctures (tiny holes/wounds) created by the derma roller also serve as channels for transporting skincare products into the dermis to boost their efficacy especially to support the process of new skin regeneration and rejuvenation.
When you derma-roll an area of the skin, the micro punctures (tiny holes) created by the derma roller on the skin also serve as passage for skincare products into the dermis to boost their absorption and increase their efficacy by more than 10 times.
For this reason, whatever skincare product you apply after dermarolling would penetrate the skin, through the micro channels created by the roller needles, more than 10 times as it would otherwise do without dermarolling.
This is so because as we grow old, our skin pores get clogged. This makes it difficult for skincare products to penetrate our skin’s outer layer (epidermis) to a depth where they can find expression and be effective or very effective. This explains why most topical skincare products are not very effective on most adults.
Therefore, applying a good, purposefully and well-formulated skincare product after microneedling would really help to quicken the process of collagen and elastin formation as well as skin repair and regeneration. This is exactly what Re-FiXu oils were formulated to do.
Re-FiXu oils also help in speeding up the healing process as well as hydrates and keep the treated area moist for better and faster results.
But there’s a red flag:
Just the same way good skincare products would penetrate to a depth where they would be efficacious, so would harmful and irritating products penetrate to a depth where their harmful effect become phenomenal if applied after microneedling.
So, you have to be careful with everything and anything that comes in contact with the treated area for up to at least 48 hours post rolling when the micro punctures would have closed enough. This is why you CAN’T use your normal cream or make-up for at least 2 days after rolling because they may contain irritating and/or active ingredients.
For your own good, steer clear all forms of skincare products with irritating and or active agents (whether good or bad) until the micro channels have closed up totally which normally should take up to 72 hours (3 days) post treatment.
To be doubly assured that you’re on the safe side, just use Re-FiXu oil(s) that comes with our dermaroller alone. It is formulated to help the microneedling process and contains everything to help your skin after treatment.
The idea behind microneedling is to repair, regenerate, reconstruct, and rejuvenate the skin to eliminate skin issues such as stretch marks, scars, sun burn, signs of aging, age spot, wrinkles, black spot, discolorations, uneven tone, cellulite, etc. through the activation of the body’s natural wound healing mechanism.