There are so many tools and clinical devices on the market that make promises of renewing the skin. With most of these options a little research will lead you to similar devices claiming to yield the same results and this is where it gets difficult. As consumers our goal is usually to save money while getting optimal results. As a professional our goal is to deliver the best services at a fair price. Two new and similar device that you may recognize are the DermaRoller and MicroNeedling Pen(s). Clients regularly ask me to break down the difference between the two in order to better understand if the results are worth the investment. Below I discuss each tool and the differences that a clinical study of the two determined.
Before continuing, please keep in mind that a Derma Roller is a form of microneedling however it is not a microneedling PEN. For the sake of the article I chose to use "microneedling pen" to avoid comparing a specific brand of pen to the derma roller.
To begin, it is important to learn what each of these micro-needling tools does. Both tools are non-surgical, non-ablative, and collagen-inducing tools designed to improve skin tone and texture. The DermaRoller was the first of these two devices to be introduced to skin care and resurfacing. Some say this tool looks like a medieval torture device and I must agree, that’s an accurate description (It’s also what made me super excited to try this!). The handle is long and has a rolling drum on the end. The drum is covered in either very tiny surgical or plastic “needles” ranging from .25-2.0mm. The idea behind this device is that by rolling it across your skin, you trigger your skins natural ability to heal itself. After regular use, it’s believed that you will see a change (for the better) in scarring, wrinkles and fine lines, and discoloration. While triggering the skins natural ability to heal itself is the science used across multiple types of treatments (cryotherapy, laser, chemical peels etc) what really separates the good from the bad is the application. With this tool we find that the application technique does not allow for proper skin healing and has even been shown to cause more damage than good based on several factors.
- When rolled across the skin this devices digs into and tears the skin. This type of damage to the skin does not always heal properly. The improper healing can cause pitted scarring and discoloration of the skin. Some of you may have followed my 6 week DermaRoller series on snapchat. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to complete it because 3 weeks in I noticed extremely large pores on my nose and small pitted scars on my forehead. This was caused by the tools inability to create narrow permeations. Instead it causes large permeations which as previously mentioned may not heal properly.
- The depth of penetration is inconsistent. This tool is made for professional and at home use. You or your therapist will have to apply pressure in order to cause needle penetration. There is no way to measure the amount of pressure being applied and no way to guarantee that the same amount of pressure will be applied across multiple treatments. Pressure is a major factor because too little pressure does nothing and too much pressure does harm.
- The needles bend. The dermaroller is a multi-use disposable tool. This means that you can get 4 uses out of it (one week apart) and then you should throw away and replace your roller. The reason for this is because after a couple of uses the needles start to bend. Angled insertion can cause visible scarring and undesired bleeding which can lead to the same problems mentioned in #1. It’s up to the user to know when needles are bent but it’s hard to determine if 1 of 100 very tiny needles are angled.
- Sterilization is difficult. It is highly recommended that you disinfect your roller before and after each use. Alcohol is the recommended disinfectant for at home use. The tool is introduced to bacteria and sometimes even blood on the skin so improper sterilization can lead to breakouts or infections.
The best part about dermarollers is the price point. Compared to in office treatments dermarollers are more affordable but they won’t yield the same results and they are more likely to cause far more damage that correction.
There are multiple microneedling devices on the market, the most well known being the SkinPen and DermaPen. These devices operate the same way but each has it’s own customizable options available to the therapist. Instead of rolling across the skin, the microneedling pens make rapid verticle motions which create straight and narrow micro-punctures in the skin. This stamping technique allows for proper healing and skin resurfacing, greater reduction in scar depth and a less painful treatment with shorter downtime. Most microneedling pens allow the therapist to choose the needle length and speed. The advantage to this is that the therapist can treat multiple areas of the face with different needle lengths based on that areas specific needs. The size of the pen also allows for treatment of thin areas like the under eye and upper lip. To cover sanitation, the needles are placed on a disposable head which can only be used once and replaced for each treatment. With microneedling pens you can expect to see correction of hyperpigmentation and discoloration, reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, improvement in the appearance of pore size, and correction of pitted acne scarring most commonly known as “craters”. Microneedling is also safe for skin maintenance. This treatment should only be performed by a trained skin therapist and is not available for at home use.