Out of the hundreds of different hair loss treatments available on the market, there are a select few that stand out amongst the rest. Minoxidil (sold under the brand name Rogaine) is one of those treatments. It is one of only three FDA approved hair loss treatments, and it didn’t get that way by accident.
Minoxidil has helped millions of people regrow their hair and has been shown to be effective time and time again throughout various scientific studies. But what if I told you that most people were not using minoxidil to its full potential? And maybe only getting ¼ of the results that they could?
That’s right. Many people are not aware of one simple thing that they can add to their hair loss regimen that can potentially quadruple the effectiveness of minoxidil, it’s called microneedling.
Before we explore microneedling, let’s quickly take a look at how minoxidil works.
How minoxidil works: a brief overview
Minoxidil is classified as a vasodilator.
Vasodilators are medications that dilate (open) blood vessels in order to increase blood flow.
This is important for hair regrowth because blood contains vital oxygen and nutrients that the hair uses to grow. This is why scientists have established a connection between low blood flow and hair loss (1).
When applied topically, minoxidil increases blood flow, and subsequently delivers oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles which promotes growth. Although this is an effective way to regrow hair, adding microneedling is like putting minoxidil on steroids.
Microneedling: minoxidil on steroids
For starters, what is microneedling?
Microneedling is essentially exactly what it sounds like it would be: using tiny needles to penetrate your skin, specifically the dermis layer, causing what are aptly called microwounds. Typically, either a derma roller or derma stamp is used to microneedle (although I recommend using a derma stamp, more on that later).
How does microneedling help hair loss?
Well, the dermis layer of the skin is where the base of the hair follicle is located. Normally, after minoxidil is applied topically, it has to soak through the skin, eventually reaching the dermis/hair follicle. That is why typical minoxidil products advise you to leave the product in for at least 4 hours: to give it time to fully soak in. Microneedling can drastically shorten the time it takes for minoxidil to reach the hair follicle.
The microwounds that microneedling creates provide a more direct pathway for minoxidil to reach the dermis. Essentially, the absorbtion rate of minoxidil into the scalp is drastically increased, which increases blood flow, which means more oxygen and nutrients are being delivered quicker and you get more hair growth. Let’s look at some data to support this.
In one study, researched assessed “hundreds of cases of mild to moderate androgenic alopecia.” The participants of the study were split into two groups: one group using only 5% minoxidil twice daily and the other group using 5% minoxidil twice daily alongside weekly microneedling treatments. It was conducted for twelve weeks where three parameters were measured: change from baseline hair count, patients self-assessment of hair growth, and an investigator assessment of hair growth.
After the twelve weeks concluded there were a couple of profound findings. First: the mean change in hair count for the microneedling group was much higher than the minoxidil group at 91.4 and 22.2 respectively. That’s over four times more growth! Second: the patient self-assessment revealed that 82% of patients in the microneedling group reported more than 50% improvement in their hair density versus only 4.5% in the minoxidil group.
There was another interesting study that assessed four men with androgenic alopecia. All four had been using both finasteride and minoxidil for between 2-5 years with essentially no improvement in hair growth (although hair loss had not worsened).
The study went on for 24 weeks and included four, 20 minute sessions per week with a 1.5mm derma roller.
Around week 8-10 hair growth began to occur in all four patients. Once the study had concluded, all four patients had over 50% satisfaction, including three that were over 75% satisfaction. The researchers also noted a +2 to +3 grade on a seven-point evaluation scale.
There are plenty of other studies that have shown microneedling to be effective as well, in fact there is even some anecdotal evidence that microneedling alone could help hair loss. But, microneedling without minoxidil, or vice versa, would be like eating popcorn without butter: it’s alright but it could be much better.
A few tips from someone who has been microneedling for 3 years
Now that I have (hopefully) convinced you that you need to add microneedling to your hair loss regimen I wanted to share a couple of tips that I feel have helped me get the most out of my microneedling sessions.
Use a derma stamp
The first, and most prominent tip that I have is to use a derma stamp.
When most people start microneedling they use a derma roller, but doing so can damage your hair. The main reason is because when you derma roll you are, as the name suggests, rolling the tool across your scalp. This can cause it to get caught in hair and sometimes pull it out, which is the opposite of what someone who is trying to regrow their hair wants.
On the contrary, a derma stamp does not roll across your scalp. Instead you just apply pressure to it, which minimizes the risk of pulling hairs out.
Every other day
There has not been an optimal consistency established for how frequently you should microneedle and there are many different articles that scare you into thinking it should be done this way or that way. The truth is that no one knows for sure. Currently, the best you can do is take suggestions from trusted sources and tweak them to fit your needs.
Experts suggest that you should use a shorter needle (between 0.2mm and 0.5mm) every other day, and a longer needle (1mm to 1.5mm) about once a month. This will allow to microwounds to properly heal.
Clean your derma tool
Derma rollers/stamps can quite quickly collect bacteria and scalp buildup. If they are not cleaned properly you could be subjecting yourself to infection and potentially worsening hair loss. Make sure that you clean it with isopropyl alcohol after each use.
Why have plain popcorn when you can add butter? Why use minoxidil without microneedling? Two paradoxes that just don’t quite make sense.
Not only are derma tools cheap, but they have the potentially to vastly improve the results that you can get from minoxidil. Researchers have made profound discoveries suggesting that microneedling may be able to make minoxidil four times as effective.
Not choosing to microneedle is not choosing to regrow your hair. Make the right choice.