Although the procedure may appear to be all pain and no gain, microneedling for hair loss does have a few advantages.
You may be ready to take your anti-hair-loss efforts to the next level after trying many shampoos that claim to thicken your fine locks, serums meant to battle your excessive shedding, and even ridiculous at-home hair growth treatments from TikTok – all to no effect.
A microneedling treatment for your scalp conducted in-office by a hair care professional is one alternative. But what exactly is the technique, and can it help you get the Rapunzel-like locks you’ve always desired?
Before you make an appointment, specialists explain down everything you need to know about microneedling for hair loss, including the benefits, dangers, and treatment method.
What exactly is hair loss microneedling?
A microneedling therapy for hair loss is precisely what it sounds like: According to Rae Lynne Kinler, M.D., an expert hair restoration surgeon and clinical director of Ziering Medical in Greenwich, Connecticut, a hair care professional will run a manual or motorized device equipped with fine, tiny needles across the scalp, penetrating just into the upper portion of the dermis — the layer of skin where the hair follicle lies.
All of the puncturing can help promote blood flow and collagen synthesis, but more importantly, it generates “microchannels” that allow topical hair loss treatments like minoxidil and finasteride to be more effective, she claims.
“It improves the absorption of topical medicines since they aren’t being obstructed by the skin,” she explains. “…It really penetrates into the level of the hair follicle and can potentially cause it to start thickening up the current hair, putting it into an active growth phase, making it stronger, longer, and darker in color.”
(FTR, the color shift is very faint, if at all visible – you will not enter as a blonde and depart as a brunette.)
According to Andrew Kashian, the founder of Solve Clinics, a hair transplant facility in Chicago, the minimally invasive process causes the scalp to release platelets and hair growth hormones in the damaged areas, which helps expand the existing follicles.
“With microneedling, people believe, ‘Oh, new follicles are developing,’ but that’s not always the case,” he explains. “It’s the thin follicles in that region that are thickening and returning to their regular, healthy form, giving the appearance of new growth when, in reality, it’s just a thickening of what’s already there.”
Some clinics will also combine the therapy with injections of a patient’s own platelet-rich plasma, which is considered to produce growth factors required in the wound healing process and, as a result, may boost hair growth, according to Kashian.
“As a result, your hair thickens faster, and the treatment outcome is substantially more significant,” he explains.
Who might benefit from hair loss microneedling?
If you have overall hair loss or thinning, or if you have androgenetic alopecia — a hereditary hair loss condition caused by an overreaction to the hormones androgens — Kashian recommends a microneedling therapy.
“We utilize it a lot when there are those teeny, delicate, miniaturized hairs — or baby hairs — that are on their way out,” Dr. Kinler says. “Essentially, they’re the ones who are about to be permanently gone, but we can flip it around and make it fuller, stronger, and thicker hair.”
People who have already lost all of their hair in a specific place or on the entire scalp would find little, if any, benefit, she adds.
The bulbs of the hair follicles, which receive signals to produce a new hair and grow it up out of the scalp, may not be generating hair in certain circumstances, or they may have “shriveled up and perished,” according to Dr. Kinler. Because microneedling boosts the density of existing hair but does not encourage new follicle growth, using it in a bald region is a “lost cause,” according to Kashian.
Dr. Kinler and Kashian agree that hair transplant surgery, which involves taking tiny pieces of scalp containing hair follicles from a donor location and placing them on a bald or thinning part of the scalp, is your best hope.
According to Dr. Kinler, microneedling is not suggested for people who already have a full head of hair. “You may really harm the hair on the exterior of the scalp as well as the hair follicles below the scalp, especially if the needle depth is too great,” she says. (FTR needles often penetrate 1.5 millimeters into the skin, according to Kashian.)
What are the potential side effects of microneedling for hair loss?
According to Kashian, the risk of infection with microneedling for hair loss is the same as with any operation that involves cutting the skin and creating an open wound.
Nonetheless, “the danger of infection with microneedling is really low,” he says. “The size of those incisions is so little that we’ve never had an infection from one of our patients in our years of conducting thousands of them in our clinic.”
According to Dr. Kinler, a bigger risk, especially if you have the procedure from a medical spa or clinic that doesn’t specialize in microneedling for hair, is irreversible hair damage and loss.
Non-trained providers may raise the needle depth too much, causing harm to the hair bulb as it penetrates the scalp, she notes. “I’ve had people come in with superficial hair shaft breaking at the scalp, which clearly takes time to regrow,” she explains.
“But I’ve also seen patients with spotty, irreversible hair loss when the needle entered [too deeply] and knocked off the hair bulb, rendering it unable to produce a new hair shaft. Then they have patchy regions of baldness that they didn’t have before, and there’s basically nothing you can do about it except transplant those places.”
Dr. Kinler advises avoiding performing an at-home microneedling therapy for hair loss for the same reason. “There’s a bigger danger of causing hair damage, therefore I don’t encourage it,” she explains. “I’d rather have it done at a certified, professional physician’s clinic that specializes in hair.” (Wait, should you be dermarolling at home?)
Dr. Kinler typically avoids microneedling for hair loss or thinning due to the possible hazards and the availability of “better” hair loss therapies. Instead, she frequently advises KeraLase, a laser therapy accessible at dermatologists and hair restoration clinics that develops those same helpful microchannels by breaking the water bonds in your scalp — all without the use of needles.
“It doesn’t affect the hair follicle, the bulb, or the external hair shaft,” she claims. “… We provide a highly popular therapy, and we see no risk of hurting the exterior hair or the hair follicle. With this procedure, we don’t notice any spotty or permanent hair loss.”
Dr. Kinler claims that KeraLase is more tolerable than microneedling, especially in sensitive parts of the scalp like the front hairline and the sides of the head.
The treatments take approximately the same length of time to complete, while KeraLase is administered more often; the first four treatments are spaced four weeks apart, and your practitioner may prescribe more treatments a year later, she notes.
What to Expect During a Microneedling Treatment for Hair Loss?
If you consult with a hair loss specialist and determine that microneedling is the best option for you, there are a few things you should know before your visit.
Make sure your scalp is properly washed and clear of any hair products before your microneedling for hair loss treatment, since they may get into the wounds and perhaps trigger an infection, advises Kashian.
According to Dr. Kinler, your hair care expert may use a topical or local anesthetic to relieve any discomfort before passing the roller over the afflicted regions to generate microtrauma.
According to Kashian, the needles will feel like a rubber band snapping on your skin, and you will suffer some redness and bleeding. Dr. Kinler notes that the surgery normally takes 20 to 30 minutes.
According to Kashian, a microneedling procedure with PRP injections might take 45 to 60 minutes. (Considering a microneedling treatment for your face? Before making an appointment, please read this FAQ.)
If your provider advises you to use a topical hair growth therapy, you should do so 24 hours after the procedure since the retinoic acid in such treatments might cause irritation if administered before the scalp has healed, according to Dr. Kinler.
She also recommends avoiding shampoo, conditioner, and alcohol-based hair products for two to three days after a microneedling treatment. “We want to give the skin an opportunity to recover, and we don’t want to introduce anything that may interfere with that,” she says.
“We also want to allow the growth elements to properly seep into the scalp.” She also emphasizes the need of keeping your scalp away of direct sunlight, which can cause hypersensitivity and hyperpigmentation.
Most essential, keep in mind that this is not a one-time therapy. “Consistency is crucial – this isn’t a quick remedy,” Kashian explains. “You can’t microneedle once, wait a month, and expect your hair to become thick. You must persist with it.” Dr. Kinler recommends that you undergo a treatment every four to six weeks for the first six to eight months, then once every six to twelve months after that.
It is totally up to you how long you continue the therapy beyond the initial eight months. “We’ll take photographs so we can see the changes that the patients are having, but sometimes they just don’t feel like they’re getting enough of a result and then they opt to discontinue the treatment,” she says. “However, some patients come in once a year — they feel like the benefits of the treatment last that long.”
If you don’t use topical growth therapies like minoxidil or finasteride, no matter how many rounds of microneedling you have, you may not see a difference in your hair loss or thinning.
“The only time I’ve ever seen microneedling truly assist is when combined with grow factor treatment, which is something external that is administered topically to the scalp after the small microchannels are made,” Dr. Kinler explains.
Furthermore, research has yet to demonstrate the treatment’s effects in the absence of these topicals: While a 2016 research on mice discovered that microneedling alone enhanced hair growth, the existing human trials that illustrate the procedure’s advantages all required treating participants with microneedling and topical growth factor therapies at the same time.
Should you undergo microneedling for hair loss?
According to Kashian, if you have hair loss or thinning, microneedling can be an excellent technique of increasing the thickness of your locks and giving you the appearance of a full, lush head of hair.
However, the treatment does not address the underlying cause of your hair loss, and neither microneedling nor KeraLase will stop the advancement of it, according to Dr. Kinler.
“These substances assist to enhance the current hair on the head – to make it fuller, thicker,” she says. “They simply offer [the patient] a little more confidence, whether they are waiting for surgery or becoming a candidate for surgery.
Even if they claim they would never have a surgery, [these treatments] can help them progress in terms of increasing their confidence and hair look.”