It’s no surprise that microneedling has become a mainstay skin rejuvenator. Commonly performed on the face and neck, microneedling creates hundreds of tiny controlled injuries that, as they heal, leave the skin smoother, brighter and less laden with fine lines and wrinkles. Like other aesthetic treatments that find their way to other body parts, microneedling now follows that path, is moving from the face to the scalp.
Not everyone combating thinning hair and hair loss wants to resort to daily pills, supplements, or messy creams, making scalp microneedling a palatable option. Davie, FL, dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD says many patients don’t want to accept their hair loss, which can impact self-esteem, and that in-office scalp microneedling helps awaken hair regeneration.
Here, we’re unpacking everything there is to know about the buzzy treatment.
How Microneedling Benefits the Scalp
Rolling a microneedling handpiece outfitted with tiny needles across patchy areas on the scalp creates microscopic wounds. According to William Gaunitz, FWTS, certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology, these punctures in the upper dermis and into the dermal layer stimulate growth factors and tissue recovery, resulting in the body rebuilding the scalp and hair follicles. “The principles for scalp microneedling are identical to that of the face. However, the scalp requires longer needles to penetrate more deeply and pass through the existing hair for increased length to miniaturized hairs, improvement of pigmentation and minor regrowth in areas with recent hair loss.”
“With scalp microneedling, the thought is that amino acids in collagen may help build hair proteins that help strengthen hair,” shares New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD. But collagen production isn’t always enough to shift thinning hair to thick. “So, we combine scalp microneedling with PRP or exosome treatments for enhanced results.” She adds that scalp microneedling works best for those with progressive types of hair loss, such as androgenic alopecia, which affects both men and women.
At-Home vs. Professional Treatments
Professional scalp microneedling treatments follow the same protocol as the face. First, your dermatologist will apply topical numbing cream to the scalp. Then, an electrically-powered pen or rolling device with microneedles punctures areas where hair is sparse. Next, your doctor or provider will apply PRP or topical exosomes to the scalp. “In studies, patients achieve 50 to 70 percent improved hair growth when combining microneedling with PRP,” Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says.
Although at-home scalp microneedling tools exist, Dr. Levine says DIY microneedling is less safe and effective than treatments done by a licensed professional. Any dermatologist or trichologist will likely tell you to be cautious of at-home scalp microneedling rollers. Gaunitz shares that efficacy for scalp microneedling is typically documented at a needle depth of approximately 1.5 mm or longer; at-home dermal scalp rollers range between .25 mm and .5 mm. “Shorter rollers cannot penetrate as deeply as a microneedling device, and their size limitation poses tremendous risks.” He adds that at-home devices are likely reused, which may harbor bacteria and cause infection. “There’s also more risk for bleeding, scarring, hair loss, and thinning. The results are minor because they do not stimulate the same recovery repair as medical microneedling.”
Don’t expect Rapunzel-like locks after one session of scalp microneedling—patience is a virtue, and repeat treatments are necessary. An at-home routine consisting of scalp massages and hair growth-stimulating topical products or minoxidil may boost the effects of microneedling.
The initial results, such as small spurts of new baby hairs, likely won’t be seen for about six weeks. However, once new growth becomes evident, it is critical to continue with the treatments to achieve maximum results. Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says most of her patients require several treatments to achieve ideal results and then continue with maintenance treatments every three to 12 months.
What Else You Need to Know
Your dermatologist should always assess the scalp before undergoing microneedling. Patients with reactive, eczematic, acneic or extremely sensitive scalps should avoid the treatment until the condition is under control.
You’ll want to arrive at your appointment with a freshly-washed scalp since you’ll have to avoid washing your hair (no dry shampoo, either) for a few days after the treatment to allow the scalp to heal and any topicals applied to penetrate fully. Post-treatment, the scalp may be sore, red, bloody and bruised.
Still, scalp microneedling is far less expensive than a permanent hair restoration procedure like follicular unit grafting. While Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says hair transplant results are satisfying, they come with more discomfort than microneedling and a longer recovery.