Microneedling treatments were first developed in the 1990s to help treat scars. Since then, the procedure has been improved. These days, there are many types of microneedling devices with different needle types and lengths. This has allowed microneedling to be used for a variety of medical and aesthetic treatments, from skin rejuvenation to hair loss.
Microneedling for hair growth is a particularly interesting option for people who haven’t had much success with FDA-approved hair loss treatments. It can be used on its own or as a combination treatment with platelet-rich plasma therapy, minoxidil, and other topical treatment options. Results are generally seen after a few months of treatment.
What Exactly Is Hair Microneedling?
When you get a medication injected at a doctor’s office, a long needle is used. In order for the drug to be delivered properly, the needle generally needs to pass all the way through your skin. It should only be injected once it reaches its intended place, like your vein or muscle.
Although microneedling has the word ‘needle’ in it, the tiny needles used in this procedure are nothing like the ones used to draw blood or deliver anesthesia. These needles are more like those used in acupuncture.
Microneedling uses devices with tiny needles that only penetrate the upper layers of skin. This results in tiny punctures and facilitates the delivery of topical medications or nutrients. And unlike the average needle that hurts, microneedling is relatively painless. If you do find it painful, a topical anesthetic can usually be applied before treatments to make it less uncomfortable.
Microneedling Devices Work in Different Ways
If you’re considering a microneedling treatment, you’ll be able to choose from a wide range of different devices. The most common ones are usually referred to as the dermaroller, dermapen, and derma-stamp.
Microneedling devices that you can buy for home use are generally considered to be cosmetic devices. These devices typically have small needles that are 0.13-0.2 mm (130-200 μm) long. These devices only penetrate the skin’s very top layer, which is called the epidermis. (1)
Devices that are used in clinics are typically medical-grade devices with longer needles. The microneedles on medical-grade dermarolling devices range from 0.5-1.5 mm (500-1,500 μm) in length. Microneedles that are at least 1 mm (1000 μm) long are able to penetrate into the skin’s top two layers: the epidermis and the dermis. (2)
Using medical-grade microneedling devices with longer needles can have additional benefits. A variety of different growth factors and proteins are released when microneedles create tiny holes in the skin’s dermis. The release of these proteins and growth factors can positively affect both hair and skin. (3)
Of course, medical-grade microneedling devices aren’t usually sold to the public, which means that you’d need to seek out a clinic that can provide you with microneedling treatments. These clinics often offer combination treatments, like microneedling with minoxidil, topical finasteride, or platelet-rich plasma therapy.
Does Microneedling Work for Hair Loss?
As recently as a decade ago, microneedling for hair regrowth was pretty new. With just a few scientific publications on the subject, it would have been hard to say whether or not it really worked. But in the last few years, a huge amount of microneedling studies have been published and a myriad of different microneedling devices have been developed. Most of the ones focused on treating androgenetic alopecia (commonly known as pattern hair loss) have shown positive results. (4,5)
However, it should be noted that the vast majority of these articles focus on microneedling alongside another treatment, like platelet-rich plasma therapy. Microneedling while applying minoxidil solution is another popular option. Microneedling on its own is the least well-studied hair loss treatment option – and is often only explored in order to compare it to combination treatment options.
But one such study, which explored using microneedling as a stand-alone treatment, as well as microneedling in combination with platelet-rich plasma therapy, reported that microneedling on its own worked just as well as the combination treatment. The main difference in results was that platelet-rich plasma therapy and microneedling combined produced more hair regrowth around the temples. (6)
Combining Microneedling and Other Hair Loss Treatments
Although microneedling does have an effect on its own, many studies have reported that microneedling works best as part of a combination therapy. For example, studies have found that microneedling with minoxidil works better than either microneedling or minoxidil treatments on their own. (6,7)
In general, if you’re planning on combining microneedling with another medication or hair loss treatment, it’s most sensible to consider an option that’s been FDA-approved. You can also go into a hair loss clinic, where more experimental treatments and alternative formulations of existing drugs might be offered. These centers often offer unique solutions using devices that can only be used in clinical settings, like fractional non-ablative laser treatments or platelet-rich plasma therapy (which requires blood to be drawn and spun down using a centrifuge).
Microneedling combination therapies have been able to help people who haven’t had success with minoxidil and finasteride. So if you’ve already tried FDA-approved treatments like finasteride and minoxidil without success, microneedling could be quite promising for you. (8,9)
What To Expect When Trying Microneedling
If you’re thinking about trying microneedling treatments, you can obviously do so at home, with a cosmetic microneedling device. But you’re more likely to have successful hair regrowth if you go into a clinic where a medical-grade device will be applied to your scalp.
All studies exploring the effectiveness of microneedling for hair regrowth use medical-grade devices. While cosmetic devices may have an effect, it’s unclear if they stimulate follicles or improve hair growth. This means that DIY microneedling at home may not be able to produce the same level of beneficial results. And unless you’re experienced with this technique, microneedling at home can also increase your risk of a skin infection.
Going to a dermatologist’s office or a hair loss clinic for microneedling treatments also allows you access to interesting combination hair loss treatments. For example, treatments like platelet-rich plasma therapy can only be prepared in a lab. And certain products, like topical finasteride (which isn’t sold over the counter), can be prepared for you by one of the clinic’s healthcare practitioners.
Different microneedling devices or devices with different needle lengths may be used, depending on the treatment or combination of treatments you’ve selected. For example, if you’re planning on receiving a combination treatment like platelet-rich plasma therapy, it’s standard for longer medical-grade microneedling devices (around 1.5 mm or 1,500 μm) to be used during your treatment. However, devices as long as 3 mm or 3,000 μm have been used in microneedling procedures.
How Long Does Microneedling Take?
If you’re going into a clinic for a microneedling treatment, it shouldn’t take more than half an hour. In fact, in most cases, it should only take 10 or 15 minutes.
The average treatment starts by making sure your scalp is clean, then applying a mild numbing agent to the scalp. Although microneedling is unlikely to hurt, this can prevent you from feeling any discomfort or pain during and immediately after treatment.
After giving the anesthetic a few minutes to kick in, the clinician will clean the top of your head again and apply the microneedling device to your scalp. They may only microneedle the areas where you want to see hair regrowth, rather than your entire scalp.
It’s normal for your scalp to be slightly red and irritated after the treatment. Don’t worry: This side effect should go away after a few hours.
How Long Does It Take To See Results From Microneedling?
Like other hair loss treatments, microneedling takes time to work. Most studies last a few months and report positive changes in hair regrowth and hair density after 3-6 months.
One study that combined microneedling with minoxidil reported faster hair growth by the first week and new hair growth within 6 weeks. But it’s important to note that these men were applying minoxidil to their heads twice a day and microneedling once a week. If you’re microneedling less frequently, it’s probably more realistic to expect results after a few months, especially if you’ve never tried a hair loss treatment before. (6)
In contrast, you may actually see results slightly faster if you’re already using an FDA-approved hair loss treatment. One study reported visible hair regrowth after 10-12 weeks of weekly microneedling treatments. (9)
How Many Microneedling Treatments Do I Need?
It’s hard to say how many microneedling treatments you might need to regrow hair. However, it’s likely that you’ll need at least a few months of treatments.
Some studies, like the one that used platelet-rich plasma therapy with microneedling, only treated patients’ scalps once a month for 3-6 months. Others have performed microneedling sessions on a weekly basis over the same period of time. In general, people tend to receive between three and 12 treatments. (3,9)
How Long Does Microneedling Take to Heal?
There isn’t any set standard of time you need to wait between microneedling sessions. The only rule is: Let your skin rest and heal. Most studies wait at least a week between sessions.
Microneedling is essentially causing micro-punctures in your skin. Any redness, irritation, and inflammation should be brief, and the procedure should never cause scarring. This is why the tiny needles need to be such a specific length. It’s also why procedures aren’t done on a daily basis.
If you were to repeatedly poke yourself with a needle every day in the same spot, there’s a good chance you’d end up with a scar. This would obviously be very likely to happen if you were using a very long needle. But it would eventually also happen with a shorter needle if you did it day after day and never let your skin heal.
Breaks between microneedling sessions are essential as they allow the scalp to heal. While it might be tempting to do a bunch of microneedling all at once in the hopes of getting faster results, the healing process is crucial to hair regrowth. Excessive microneedling, which could trigger scarring, would be counterproductive and actually damage hair follicles.
Can Microneedling Cure Androgenic Alopecia?
Microneedling is one of the newest treatments for androgenic alopecia. It’s usually used in combination with platelet-rich plasma therapy, minoxidil, finasteride, or another hair loss treatment. Changes to hair regrowth and hair density are typically seen after a few months of treatments, but you might start seeing results in as little as 6-10 weeks.
However, regardless of how many microneedling sessions you have, be aware that this treatment isn’t a cure-all for pattern hair loss. The results of microneedling treatments are often sustained for months after sessions stop. But androgenic alopecia is a progressive condition, which means that any treatment needs to be long-term. If not, hair shedding and other hair loss symptoms will start up again.
This doesn’t mean that you need to keep microneedling over the long term, though. You can also switch back to an FDA-approved treatment after your sessions, or continue with your combination therapy. Long-term hair regrowth can be maintained even after microneedling treatments end. Unfortunately, there still aren’t any studies exploring the effects of long-term microneedling on its own, so it’s not certain how effective or helpful this hair loss treatment might be.
If you’re interested in continuing combination therapy, a participant in one study had microneedling sessions every 2-3 weeks for 18 months and maintained his hair growth. This person was also taking minoxidil and finasteride at the same time. (9) Another study gave men that were already using minoxidil and finasteride 15 sessions of microneedling. Once the treatments were completed, they continued taking minoxidil and finasteride. These drugs allowed them to maintain their hair growth when assessed after 18 months. (1,8)
If you’d prefer to avoid drugs but want to combine microneedling with another hair loss treatment, you could also consider StimuSIL’s new SAGA treatments, which combine laser hair therapy with microneedling. Combining microneedling with PRP, which is made from your own blood, is another effective drug-free hair loss treatment option that’s becoming increasingly popular.
- Singh, A., & Yadav, S. (2016). Microneedling: Advances and widening horizons. Indian dermatology online journal, 7(4), 244.
- Dsouza, L., Ghate, V. M., & Lewis, S. A. (2020). Derma rollers in therapy: the transition from cosmetics to transdermal drug delivery. Biomedical Microdevices, 22(4), 1-11.
- Shah, K. B., Shah, A. N., Solanki, R. B., & Raval, R. C. (2017). A comparative study of microneedling with platelet-rich plasma plus topical minoxidil (5%) and topical minoxidil (5%) alone in androgenetic alopecia. International journal of trichology, 9(1), 14.
- Kim, J.H., Shim, S.E., Kim, J.Y., Kim, H.N., Hwang, J.M., Park, K.J., Jo, M.G., Jang, J.Y., Kim, J.H., Goo, B. and Park, Y.C., 2020. A Literature Review of the Microneedle Therapy System for Hair Loss. Journal of Acupuncture Research, 37(4), pp.203-208.
- Needling your way to Healthier Skin (2019) Harvard Health. Accessed: November 1, 2022.
- Aggarwal, K., Gupta, S., Jangra, R. S., Mahendra, A., Yadav, A., & Sharma, A. (2020). Dermoscopic assessment of microneedling alone versus microneedling with platelet-rich plasma in cases of male pattern alopecia: a split-head comparative study. International Journal of Trichology, 12(4), 156.
- Bao, L., Zong, H., Fang, S., Zheng, L., & Li, Y. (2022). Randomized trial of electrodynamic microneedling combined with 5% minoxidil topical solution for treating androgenetic alopecia in Chinese males and molecular mechanistic study of the involvement of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 33(1), 483-493.
- Dhurat, R., & Mathapati, S. (2015). Response to microneedling treatment in men with androgenetic alopecia who failed to respond to conventional therapy. Indian journal of dermatology, 60(3), 260.
- Parajuli, S., & Paudel, U. (2020). Microneedling for androgenetic alopecia not responding to conventional treatment. Our Dermatol Online, 11(2), 140-142.
Last updated October 2023