Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Science is a wonderful, strange, yet sometimes frustrating phenomenon. Modern day science has led us to be able to build rockets, create virtual worlds, and produce self driving cars, but science surrounding hair loss is still largely inconclusive. Although scientists are confident that the cause of male and female pattern baldness is the hormone DHT, no scientist has been able to prove it with 100% confidence yet.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a serum you could rub on to your head and by the next day you could have all of your hair back? Well obviously yes, but unfortunately there isn’t (yet, fingers crossed). There are however several treatments that have been shown to help reduce hair loss and promote hair regrowth. Amongst those are the most common treatments such as finasteride and minoxidil, but there are also several lesser-known treatments that may be able to make a huge impact on your hair. In this article, we wanted to focus on one of the more profound yet less popular treatments, microneedling. So let’s get into it.
An overview of microneedling
Also called collagen induction therapy, microneedling is a popular treatment for skin. Commonly used to help mitigate signs of aging such as line, wrinkles, and scars, it has been trusted in skin care regimens since the early 90’s.
The name collagen induction therapy comes from, you guessed it, the production of collagen that results from microneedling. Collagen is an important protein that is abundant throughout the body, but particularly in the skin, as it is a structural component that makes up 70% of skins weight.
Typically, a tool called a derma roller is used for microneedling (although we recommend using a derma stamp for hair loss, more on that later). It is called a derma roller because the tiny needles penetrate the dermis layer of the skin, which is where collagen is found. This causes microwounds which stimulate the release of growth factors. Those growth factors then facilitate the production of new skin cells. The cells form new layers of skin utilizing collagen and other proteins which gradually replace the problematic areas over time, thus giving you younger, healthier looking skin.
How microneedling can help hair loss
Although the benefits of microneedling are well understood for your skin, there is a lot of confusion in regards to how it affects hair loss. First, a couple common misconceptions:
Myth 1: The stimulation of collagen helps hair
The most common claim that most articles make is that collagen degradation leads to hair thinning, and that the collagen production from microneedling can reverse it.
Collagen degradation is a natural process that occurs when people age. It is the process by which collagen production slows down in the body. But, although this has been proven to affect the skin, people often fail to find studies linking it with hair loss. That is because there is only one of somewhat significance (found here). It was a small Japanese study that was conducted on mice, and even though it did find a correlation between lower collagen levels and thinner hair, it has no definitive implications on humans whatsoever.
There is an extreme lack of evidence, especially for a claim that gets thrown around so often, for collagen degradation being linked to thinning hair. The fact that collagen helps produce keratin, an important building block of hair, is a markedly obvious reason as to why confusion arises, but the truth of the matter is that collagen degradation, or collagen in general, does not have a significant effect on your hair loss. We cover the missing link between collagen and hair loss more in depth in this article.
Myth 2: Microneedling increases blood flow
While microneedling is indirectly related to increased blood flow, this is still a common misconception.
A lot of articles say that microneedling increases blood flow on its own. This can be very enticing because blood flow is indeed very important for hair regrowth. Blood is responsible for delivering vital oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles that they use to grow. Anything that increases blood flow to your scalp will likely help your hair growth be quicker and more pronounced, but microneedling alone will not increase blood flow. It is important that you know…
The truth: microneedling helps increase the absorbtion and effectiveness of
In order for microneedling to have an effect on your hair loss, it needs to be used in conjunction with minoxidil.
There are two studies that are often referenced when people talk about microneedling and hair loss (1,2). The more compelling of the two studies (found here) was conducted on 100 men, one group using microneedling + minoxidil and the other using only minoxidil, and found that the group that was microneedling had a significantly higher mean change in hair count after 12 weeks (91.4 vs 22.2).
The results from both studies showed significantly positive results, but both included microneedling and minoxidil. Not to mention there have not been any studies done testing microneedling alone for hair loss.
The reason for these findings is likely due to the way that microneedling and minoxodil interact with one another. Minoxidil is a time-tested, FDA approved hair loss treatment that is referred to as a vasodilator. It has been shown by many studies to have a direct effect on increased blood flow, hence the categorization as a vasodilator. The reason that minoxidils effectiveness is likely increased when it is used after microneedling is because of the microwounds caused by microneedling. Like we stated earlier, the microwounds penetrate the dermis, which is the layer of skin that the base of the hair follicle lies. This provides minoxidil a direct pathway to the dermis, and subsequently the base of the hair follicle, as opposed to having to soak through the scalp, which increases blood flow directly to the base of the hair follicle and promotes enhanced regrowth.
Yes, you should definitely be using microneedling alongside minoxidil, but don’t be allured into thinking that microneedling alone will have a significant effect on your hair loss, it probably won’t. Now that you are aware of that pertinent information, it’s important that you know the…
Tips for effective microneedling
Although microneedling can be a very effective addition to your hair loss regimen, you need to do it right. Here are a few quick tips so you can make sure you are microneedling correctly and safely:
-Though derma rollers are the most popular option for microneedling, we recommend using a derma stamp. This is because you need to protect your vellus hairs (smaller, thin, unpigmented hair) that are present during the regrowth process. When you are derma rolling you may be causing strain, damage, and pulling out those precious vellus hairs due to the rolling motion. Using a derma stamp mitigates most of the damage because you are not moving the needles while they are in your scalp. Derma stamps can better protect the hairs that may one day turn back into healthy terminal hair
-When microneedling, make sure you are applying the right amount of pressure. Do not apply too much pressure as it can damage the scalp and cause irritation and bleeding. Try to apply just enough pressure so you can feel it, but no damage is being done. With practice and consistency you will be able to get it down quickly
-Ideally, you should use a needle between the length of 0.2mm and 0.5mm. This is because that is the optimal length for penetrating the dermis without going too deep and causing permanent damage, and is the optimal length for minoxidil absorption
-Although there has not been any research done on the optimal consistency for which to microneedle, experts suggest using the shorter needle (0.2mm-0.5mm) every other day and using a longer needle (1mm-1.5mm) once every 3-4 weeks. This will allow the skin on your scalp to recover and heal from the microwounds and protect your hair
-Finally, after each use, make sure you clean your microneedling device with isopropyl alcohol. If you do not, you may be subjecting your scalp to potential infection and further hair loss
In conclusion, microneedling is without a doubt a very effect tool for hair loss. We highly recommend using it in conjunction with minoxidil, as that is the way it will likely be most effective. There seems to be a lot of confusion in the hair loss community about the mechanism by which microneedling has an effect on hair loss, but hopefully we were able to clear most of that up. Also, if you are already using minoxidil but haven’t implemented microneedling into your regimen, consider that multiple studies have shown that microneedling increases minoxidils effectiveness significantly, plus they only run you about $10-15. Hopefully by now you are considering starting microneedling and taking the next step towards hair loss recovery.