Derma rolling – what is microneedling and does it hurt?

The go-to beauty treatment for fine lines, wrinkles and acne scarring

derma rolling
(Image credit: 2018 Stephane Cardinale - Corbis)

The go-to beauty treatment for fine lines, wrinkles and acne scarring

The quest for younger looking skin is never-ending. We'll try it all – invest in all the anti-ageing products the world has to offer, try and drink three litres of water a day (why is so easy to drink wine, but bloody tricky to drink the recommended amount of water?!) and even take the best skin supplements if we think it'll get rid of our crow's feet. What's everyone doing now? Derma rolling. But what exactly is it?

What is derma rolling?

Derma rolling, or microneedling, is a treatment whereby a device that looks a bit like a tiny paint roller is rolled across the skin. This roller is covered in teeny tiny little needles that, when rolled over the face and neck, puncture the skin.

These punctures do two things: 1), trick the skin into regeneration mode, because it thinks it has been injured. And 2), create little channels in your skin's layers, meaning that products are able to penetrate further to get to where they're needed, improving their efficacy.

Derma rolling benefits

'Microneedling is an extremely effective treatment for the reduction in fine lines, wrinkles and pore size, and the collagen stimulation also improves skin texture, as well as improving the appearance of acne scars,' says Kate Kerr, a celebrated facialist who offers a range of micro-needling treatments in her clinic at the Mondrian London Hotel.

There's also minimal downtime, making it an extremely attractive alternative to traditional anti-ageing treatments like chemical peels.

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At-home derma rolling vs in-clinic derma rolling

You can now buy your own derma rollers or derma stamps (Kerr's preferred method) to use at home to give yourself a microneedling treatment.

The main difference between at-home and in-clinic in the needle length. 'Although the mode of treatment for skincare and professional needling techniques is similar, the course of action provides a deeply different result,' explains Kerr. 'Microneedling performed in clinic utilises a much longer needle, and although this also creates a micro-channel for effective product penetration, the goal is to initiate trauma.

'This trauma, deep within the skin, kick starts the wound-healing cascade, leading to stimulation of the fibroblast and enhanced production of hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin. This is compared to at-home treatments, where the main benefit is to increase product penetration.'

At-home devices tend not to have longer than 1.5mm derma rolling needles, whereas those in clinic can go up to 8mm.

Does derma rolling hurt?

This is completely dependent on the length of the needles on the derma roller. At-home derma roller needles are short so don't pierce the skin deep enough to hurt.

However, anything over 1.5mm can be painful, so facialists will tend to pop a numbing cream on your face an hour before your treatments. You might also draw blood with the longer needles, but nothing to be frightened off.

At-home microneedling devices

BeautBio GloPRO Tool and Face Head, Harrods

derma rolling GloPro

There aren't a huge range of at-home micro-needling devices, but places like SwissClinic and BeautyBio have them. Beauty Bio's GloPRO tool, £190, is particularly good because of its detachable heads for different parts of the body – face, eyes, lips and body.

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How often should you derma roll?

'Twice a week at home,' Kerr recommends. 'And a course of three to six treatments, four to six weeks apart, in clinic once a year – as the resulting heightened fibroblast action has been shown to last 12-18 months.'

Which skincare product should you use before and after treatments?

Hydration is key both before and after. 'Apply a layer of hyaluronic acid serum to a small area and use no added pressure. I like Medik8 Hydr8 B5 [£40 at Lookfantastic],' Kerr says. 'Post treatment, you need to use hydrating products too, no vitamin c or retinols.'

Where can I book a derma rolling treatment?

Well obviously with Kate Kerr at her clinic – her Dermapen Microneedling treatment starts at £250 for 90 minutes.

Alternatively, you could try Skin Design London's Radiance Roller treatment, which uses a derma roller under 1.5mm, so there's no need for the numbing cream. You'll look a little rosy afterwards on the tube, but you'll wake up to beautiful skin. It costs £60 and is available at both John Bell & Croyden or Fortnum & Mason.

We urge to introduce this super duper treatment into your routine.

Either through regular appointments or with an at-home device.

Katie Thomas

Katie Thomas is the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire UK. With over 10 years of experience on women's luxury lifestyle titles, she covers everything from the best beauty looks from the red carpet and stand out trends from the catwalk, to colonic irrigation and to the best mascaras on the market. She started her career on fashion desks across the industry - from The Telegraph to Brides - but found her calling in the Tatler beauty department. From there she moved to Instyle, before joining the Marie Claire digital team in 2018. She’s made it her own personal mission to find the best concealer in the world to cover her tenacious dark circles. She’s obsessed with skincare that makes her skin bouncy and glowy, low-maintenance hair that doesn’t require brushing and a cracking good manicure. Oh and she wears more jewellery than the Queen.