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Last updated: Apr 21, 2022
6 min read

Microneedling for hair loss: does it work?

 

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Microneedling is a popular skincare technique used to treat things like acne scars and stretch marks. 

Given its success in skincare, microneedling for hair loss is now being examined by researchers as a treatment for thinning locks. So far, the results have been promising.

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What is microneedling? 

You may have heard about microneedling as a skincare and anti-aging tool. During a treatment, a dermatologist or trained esthetician uses a tool called a derma roller, a small wand with an end studded with short, tiny needles. 

The needle depth ranges from 0.25–2 mm long, depending on where it’s being used and the purpose. Shorter needles are typically used for fine lines and wrinkles and longer ones for reducing the appearance of stretch marks (English, 2022). 

A derma roller is designed to create small areas of damage to disrupt the outer layer of skin. This stimulates collagen production and encourages repair, which helps improve skin texture and appearance.

How microneedling for hair loss works

When done on the scalp, microneedling may stimulate hair growth. You might be wondering: how exactly does damaging skin improve hair loss?

These tiny topical injuries trigger the wound healing process. This prompts the release of hormones called growth factors, which stimulate new blood vessels to grow in the area (a process called neovascularization). These blood vessels carry more nutrients and oxygen and are believed to contribute to improved hair growth (Fertig, 2018; Iriarte, 2017).

Most studies that evaluated microneedling for hair growth showed it was beneficial when combined with existing treatments like minoxidil (Rogaine)

Benefits of microneedling for hair loss

While microneedling on its own may not be the be-all-end-all solution for hair loss, it does carry some benefits. Let’s take a look.

1. It’s relatively affordable

Depending on where you get the procedure done and how many sessions you need, microneedling runs a few hundred dollars per session. That can be a heavy price tag, but other treatments (like platelet-rich plasma injections and surgical hair transplants) often cost more. 

2. Microneedling is quick

While some procedures like hair transplants and scalp micropigmentation take hours, sometimes over multiple days, microneedling is pretty fast. The whole process (which we’ll dig into below) typically lasts less than an hour. 

3. Doesn’t require daily treatment

Most hair loss treatments like minoxidil and finasteride (Propecia; see Important Safety Information) need to be used daily. Microneedling, on the other hand, is performed intermittently. 

One small study found people who got three treatments over six months saw a halt in increased hair shedding. The most improvement was seen in areas commonly affected by pattern hair loss; the vertex (top of the head) in men and the front of the head in women (Starace, 2020). 

4. Can help when other treatments fail

Microneedling is particularly promising for people who don’t respond to other conventional treatments like topical minoxidil. One study explored the effects of microneedling for hair loss in men who didn’t respond to minoxidil. All participants reported positive results within 8–10 microneedling sessions and rated their hair growth 50–75% improved (Dhurat, 2015).

How effective is microneedling for hair loss?

Microneedling likely won’t be everyone’s first choice for treating hair loss. The downside is it’s not as convenient or affordable as a twice a day spritz of minoxidil or a daily finasteride pill. Still, based on the limited studies available, it does seem to help. 

Microneedling treatments for people who use minoxidil and finasteride may be one of the best approaches since the tiny punctures help your scalp absorb topical hair loss treatments (Fertig, 2018). 

In one study, more than 80% of participants using a combination of minoxidil and microneedling saw a 50% or better improvement in hair growth and hair count. Those trying the combined treatment spotted new hair growth within six weeks, while those using minoxidil alone took 10 weeks to notice a difference (Dhurat, 2013). 

In another study testing microneedling and PRP therapy, the combined treatment was more effective than minoxidil alone (Shah, 2017). 

While the results sound great, some researchers note the effects of this combo treatment compared to minoxidil on its own isn’t that noticeable to the untrained eye (Kumar, 2018). Still, multiple studies have shown that combining one or more hair loss treatments is the most effective option. 

What to expect during a microneedling treatment

A microneedling session typically takes less than an hour. The procedure is relatively painless, although some people do report discomfort. 

Here’s how the process works from start to finish (Litchman, 2021; Gupta, 2022):

  1. The dermatologist will apply a topical anesthetic to numb your scalp and reduce pain during the procedure. They’ll cover the cream with cellophane and let it soak in for 15–45 minutes. 
  2. Before the microneedling process begins, they’ll clean your scalp with saline. A handheld derma roller is then run across your scalp. The procedure itself is quite short and can take less than 10 minutes.
  3. When it’s over, any blood is gently washed off. Saline pads and serums rich in vitamins A and C are may be applied to the scalp to soothe the damage and improve wound healing.

You can receive your next treatment after three weeks. You should start seeing results within 3–6 months (Litchman, 2021).

Microneedling aftercare

One benefit of microneedling is it has minimal side effects, and aftercare is fairly straightforward. 

It’s normal to experience oozing of clear or blood-tinged fluid in the hours after treatment, which you can wipe away with gauze. Besides that, aftercare consists of keeping your scalp clean and applying a topical serum or cream. 

You’ll also want to avoid sun exposure and harsh chemicals for a week following treatment. Wear a hat and apply sunscreen liberally when you’re outside (Litchman, 2021). 

While rare, infections can occur. Be sure to follow your healthcare provider’s aftercare instructions. If you develop an signs of an infection, such as excessive oozing, pain, pus, redness or fever, speak with a healthcare provider. 

If you also use minoxidil, talk to your healthcare provider about when you can start using it again. Using it too soon afterward a microneedling session can cause burning, irritation, and itching on areas of the scalp. 

Side effects of microneedling

It’s rare to experience serious side effects from microneedling. Typically, side effects are minimal and go away within a few hours or days. These may include (Litchman, 2021):

  • Bruising
  • Oozing
  • Redness
  • Scarring
  • Swelling
  • Pain

Some people may be more at risk for side effects during a microneedling procedure. Tell your healthcare provider beforehand if you get Botox injections, are immunocompromised, or have one of the following conditions (Litchman, 2021; FDA, 2021): 

Cost of microneedling for hair loss

An individual microneedling session costs anywhere from $200–800. Multiple sessions (as many as 10) are commonly required before seeing results. Microneedling is considered a cosmetic procedure, so it’s typically not covered by medical insurance (Dhurat, 2015). 

Can you try microneedling at home?

Given the cost, some people consider microneedling at home. However, DIY treatments can be risky and less effective. A licensed professional knows exactly how long and where to do the treatment, and can easily see all sides of your scalp. 

They’re also trained to apply a certain amount of pressure and use the right needle length, which can make a real difference. One study found that needles with a 1.2 mm depth were more effective in promoting hair regrowth among people with androgenetic alopecia than a 0.6 mm depth (Faghihi, 2021).

Microneedling has grown in popularity due to its effectiveness, minimal side effects, and relatively low cost. If you’re thinking about microneedling for hair loss as an option, talk to a licensed dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon who can help determine the next steps.

References

  1. Chandrashekar, B., Yepuri, V., & Mysore, V. (2014). Alopecia areata-successful outcome with microneedling and triamcinolone acetonide. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, 7(1), 63–64. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.129989. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24761107/
  2. 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), 260–263. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.156361. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26120151/ 
  3. Dhurat, R., Sukesh, M., Avhad, G., et al. (2013). A randomized evaluator blinded study of effect of microneedling in androgenetic alopecia: A pilot study. International Journal of Trichology, 5(1), 6–11. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.114700. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23960389/
  4. English, R. S., Jr, Ruiz, S., & DoAmaral, P. (2022). Microneedling and its use in hair loss disorders: A systematic review. Dermatology and Therapy, 12(1), 41–60. doi:10.1007/s13555-021-00653-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34854067/
  5. Faghihi, G., Nabavinejad, S., Mokhtari, F., et al. (2021). Microneedling in androgenetic alopecia; comparing two different depths of microneedles. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 20(4), 1241–1247. doi:10.1111/jocd.13714. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32897622/
  6. Fertig, R. M., Gamret, A. C., Cervantes, J., & Tosti, A. (2018). Microneedling for the treatment of hair loss? Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 32(4), 564–569. doi:10.1111/jdv.14722. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29194786/
  7. Gupta, A. K., Quinlan, E. M., Venkataraman, M., & Bamimore, M. A. (2022). Microneedling for hair loss. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 21(1), 108–117. doi:10.1111/jocd.14525. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34714971/
  8. Iriarte, C., Awosika, O., Rengifo-Pardo, M., & Ehrlich, A. (2017). Review of applications of microneedling in dermatology. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 10, 289–298. doi:10.2147/CCID.S142450. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28848356/ 
  9. Kumar, M. K., Inamadar, A. C., & Palit, A. (2018). A randomized controlled, single-observer blinded study to determine the efficacy of topical minoxidil plus microneedling versus topical minoxidil alone in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, 11(4), 211–216. doi:10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_130_17. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30886475/
  10. Litchman, G., Nair, P. A., Badri, T., & Kelly, S. E. (2021). Microneedling. StatPearls. Retrieved on Mar. 29, 2022 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29083607/
  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), 14–18. doi:10.4103/ijt.ijt_75_16. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28761259/
  12. Starace, M., Alessandrini, A., Brandi, N., & Piraccini, B. M. (2020). Preliminary results of the use of scalp microneedling in different types of alopecia. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 19(3), 646–650. doi:10.1111/jocd.13061. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31254437/
  13. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2021). Microneedling Devices: Getting to the Point on Benefits, Risks and Safety. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/microneedling-devices-getting-point-benefits-risks-and-safety