Is Needle Rolling Effective?

According to JAMA Dermatology, "Needling devices that prick the skin with 1mm or 2mm needles on a roller improved acne scars in a recent trial."

I have this derma roller, and I use it because I believe that it also helps wrinkles--and I have a few small acne scars on chin.

I think this is a great treatment between chemical peels because there's practically no downtime: my skin is red for only a couple of hours. There is some micro swelling, which sort of plumps up the skin a bit, so this may also be good option when I want nice glow with fewer wrinkles for a special event ;)

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Dermatologists, blinded to treatment procedures, reported a "significant improvement in scars treated with these devices," researchers said. "For each of the patients in the trial, half the face was randomly assigned to needling; the other half of the face received no treatment. Patients underwent three treatments, each spaced two weeks apart. Three and six months later, two dermatologists rated the scars of both the treated and untreated sides of the patients' faces.

Although patients can have this done at a doctor's office for less than the cost or downtime of lasers, these simple rollers can be purchased for less than $15! 

How I Use my Derma Roller

After cleansing my face, I roll mine about 5 times in one direction, change directions, and repeat until I can't tolerate it anymore.

I may see one or two tiny spots of blood, but not always; it is red afterward though, and it hurts but not terribly. I immediately apply actives, such as DIY vit C and EGF (epidermal growth factor), followed by rosehip seed oil to moisturize.

I immediately spray the roller with alcohol and store it back in the plastic case to keep it clean.

I do not use mine as aggressively as I've seen others in videos. I use it once or twice a month.

Compared to Other Treatments

The trial didn't include other treatments, so they didn't compare needling to other methods, but the study did show a benefit, researchers say.

Compared to the scars at the start of the study, those treated with needling had improved significantly at six months (p=0.03) and not quite significantly at three months, as assessed by the global scarring grading system developed by Dr. Greg Goodman at the Skin and Cancer Foundation of Victoria, in Victoria, Australia.

Comparing microneedlers to lasers is tricky now without much data, but at least one trial is underway to compare the two. In the meantime, Dr. Alam guesses that a fractional non-ablative laser is probably more effective.

"On the other hand, needling is easy and cheap," Dr. Alam says.


I don't have costs for professional needling, but mine cost around $13. I've replaced mine twice (every 6 months) because I've read that it becomes dull after about 15 uses and should be replaced.

"Needling is so easy to undergo, and potentially so inexpensive, that even a modest benefit may be sufficient to make this a worthwhile treatment for some patients with limited budgets," reported Dr. Murad Alam of Northwestern University in Chicago, who led the study.



  1. Hi,

    I am a 31 year old white male. I used to have some sort of mole on my cheek and a dermatologist removed it with laser 5 years ago. The mole is gone but I have an area of skin that is irregular with some parts raised and some parts sunk. The area is smaller than a penny. The scar is the same color than my skin.

    After reading your blog, I started using 50% TCA peels on some dark spots on my face with great results. I just did it one, applying only on the spot, and they are 50% gone. I will most likely do another treatment.

    The scar on my cheek is bothering me. What would you advise me to do to make it fade? Needling? TCA?

    I was thinking that maybe I could apply TCA on the raised part of the scar for a couple of nights. What do you think?


    1. Hi newtonyc83, Congrats on your success with the dark spots; I think TCA is great for that!
      Is the cheek scar more of a keloid (just raised) or hypertrophic (raised and red)? I've read that smaller keloids can be removed with cryotherapy (freezing therapy using liquid nitrogen)--like the kind we can buy for warts. Steroid shots also help these, but that requires $$. I don't have any of these particular types of scars, so I can't speak to personal experience.
      For me, TCA has worked for indentations (acne scars and fine wrinkles), moles, and pigmentation issues. I think that needling also works for indentations, but not raised areas because the needling seems to start a collagen-building process, which would raise the area even more over time with consistent use.
      If it were me, I would be tempted to try the cryotherapy since I do buy it inexpensively at the drug store, but if it were on my face, I'd probably want to try it on another part of my body first, if I had another keloid or hypertrophic scar.

    2. Thank you very much for your response. It is funny, cryotherapy is exactly what I did a couple of weeks ago. I bought the kit online and it worked pretty well. It definitely made my scar smoother, the problem is that compared to the rest of the skin on my face that's very smooth, you can still tell that there is a scar... It seems to me that these wart removal kits a good but not precise enough for me to go any further with it. Do you think that some TCA on the whole area (less than a penny) would make it a bit smoother?

    3. I had to do some searching since I haven't personally treated a keloid scar. According to Dr. Stephen Prendiville, "TCA might aggravate the scar and make it worse. Keloids are histologically different from normal scars and can increase in size if irritated." Dr. David Hansen says, "Keloid scars are better treated with kenalog injections every 2 weeks until flat and lighter in color. TCA peels won't flatten a keloid scar but will help with the discoloration but the cortisone shots do both so don't bother with the peels. Get the injections at $100 per session for 3-5 sessions on the average." Based on both of these drs., I probably wouldn't try TCA on it unless I were trying to lighten the color.