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I tried it: Micro Needling (Derma Roller) for Acne Scars


I Tried It: Micro Needling (a.k.a. The Derma Roller) Part I

Derma Rollers are small tools with a wheel covered in micro needles. They’re about $20 on Amazon.

Over the years, I’ve grown more daring in my beauty adventures. I enjoy being the test subject for my own experiments—especially when I can report back to my friends and Peaceful Dumpling readers.

This weekend I performed a skin experiment that was perhaps more harebrained than any of its predecessors: I rolled teeny tiny needles across my face with what looks to be a miniature medieval torture device—The Derma Roller.

Before you send me off to an institution for the insane, allow me to explain. In 2012, I’d recently become a vegan, switched my skincare products to mostly natural ones, and managed to get my moderate-to-severe acne under control. It was awesome! Unfortunately, my decade of acne had left a legacy of permanent, pitted scars, mostly across my cheeks. Sure, there was also some hyperpigmentation, but that fades in time, especially with the use of antioxidant serums and exfoliants. It was the textured scarring I was worried about.

I wasn’t quite sure how—or if—these scars could be treated. As a gift, my parents sent me to an aesthetician. I figured I’d have to go under some sort of laser, but my aesthetician assured me that we didn’t need to do anything so invasive. Instead, she used a little tool that would prick the dermis, or lower layer of my skin. By delivering a tiny trauma deep in the skin, the body will rush to repair the damage and stimulate collagen in the process. (Scars are not read as trauma by the body, so the body normally doesn’t see the need to repair them. In fact, scars are the repair work in response to a previous trauma.)

This micro trauma erases the skin’s “memory” of the scar, and as the skin replaces itself over a period of months, textured scars begin to “fill in” and resemble normal skin. According to a 2016 meta-study, “microneedling leads to reorganization of old collagen fibers and laying down of new collagen, elastin, and capillaries leading to the effect of skin tightening. A significant increase in level of collagen type I, III, and VII, newly synthesized collagen and tropoelastin from baseline was observed after 6 microneedling sessions at 2-week intervals.”

Because the skin incurs only minimal damage, downtime for this procedure is short. My skin was pink (like a sunburn) for a few days, but that was about it. As my aesthetician predicted, my results were gradual—but noticeable and lasting. My scars were lessened by about 1/3, which, in my book, is pretty significant.

Recently, a little home-use tool came on the market, promising to work the same magic by pricking the dermis and resetting the skin’s regenerative process. Naturally, I was intrigued. It would be awesome to improve my scarring further (especially before my wedding!). At the same time, however, any kind of “cutting edge” home-spa treatment immediately strikes me as ineffective/possibly dangerous. At first glance, the Derma Roller seemed no different.

So like the good little beauty junkie that I am, I did my research—hours of it. I watched tons of Youtube videos (some helpful, some terrifying), and I read reviews on multiple sites. From my experience at the aesthetician’s, I knew that at least the philosophy behind the Derma Roller was legitimate.

I eventually ordered a Derma Roller with about five hundred 1.5mm needles. For individuals merely seeking the anti-aging benefits of the Derma Roller (it can help with fine lines, too), a .5mm roller is sufficient. Deep scars, however, require longer needles. (Ugh, I hated even writing that sentence!) Keep in mind that .5mm needles are more appropriate for more delicate areas of the face. The cheeks and forehead, however, can handle a 1.5mm roller.

I Tried It: Micro Needling (a.k.a. The Derma Roller) Part I

Apparently derma rolling is a favorite procedure of Ms. Jolie.

How to use the derma roller for acne scars

The procedure takes about 20 minutes. You begin with a clean face and sanitized tool. (I let mine rest in rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, and then I made sure it was dry.) With gentle pressure, roll the needles against your skin: 10 times vertically, 10 times horizontally, and 10 times diagonally in any affected area. To change directions, lift the roller away from skin to adjust. Afterwards, sanitize the needles, and apply a serum of choice to your skin. I used a vitamin C and E serum. Allow skin to absorb the serum and then apply moisturizer. Apply sunscreen if you’re going outside (super important!). Avoid cleansing skin for 6-8 hours, and avoid wearing makeup for at least 24 hours—or more if you can swing it. Skin will be inflamed and sensitive for a few days, so be gentle.

In my case, I plan to use the 1.5mm roller only every 6 weeks. While some sites encourage very frequent use of the Derma Roller, I am playing it safe. Too much trauma to the dermis will cause it to be continually inflamed—and we need the inflammation to heal in order to see real results (not just swelling!). Less is probably more.

And now to answer the big questions.

Does dermarolling hurt?

Many report that microneedling with a 1mm roller (or smaller) doesn’t hurt too much. It may feel annoying, though—like getting a tattoo, according to one source. For longer needles, a numbing cream is recommended. For whatever reason, I thought I’d try my 1.5mm roller sans numbing cream, and I survived. It was uncomfortable, but it also felt kind of nice, like finally scratching an itch. (I swear I’m not a total masochist.) Also, for my first time, I was pretty gentle. Some sources indicate that one should draw pinpricks of blood during the procedure, but I did not. (My skin was pretty pink, however.) Again, I want to see if I can get results with the least amount of trauma. I can always apply a little more pressure next time if necessary. Most agree that anything more than pinprick bleeding is too aggressive.

I Tried It: Micro Needling (a.k.a. The Derma Roller) Part I

My pink skin post derma rolling. (It was actually a bit pinker in reality.)

When do you see results?

Results are gradual and may not appear for at least 2-3 months—and even then, you may not see the full results. See here for the update of my face 10 months after using the derma roller! 

Would you try a Derma Roller?

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This article was originally published on February 10, 2015 and most recently updated on September 28, 2019.

Photos: Derma Roller UK, Mary Hood

Mary Hood Luttrell

Mary Hood Luttrell

Beauty Editor at Peaceful Dumpling
Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Juhea Kim

    Mary, your skin looks amazing!! I can’t wait to see how much results you get. Personally, I noticed that using fruit acid-based treatment (basically, peel you can use daily) really evens out the texture of acne scars.

    • Aw, thank you! I’ve been feeling more comfortable in my skin these days–literally speaking. I am very curious to see results, too! I have never tried a peel…perhaps that will be my next experiment 😉

      • Nocturna Diel

        any updates after almost 1 month? 🙂

        • Hi Nocturna!
          Yes, I do have updates 🙂 I haven’t been noticed my textured scars as much. If I go looking for them, I can still find them, but I really believe the texture of my skin has gotten better. I plan to do more sessions of dermarolling, and hopefully things will just keep improving!

          • Nocturna Diel

            thank you so much for the update 🙂

          • Train Suplex

            Hi Mary,
            Sorry for the late response, but when you apply the vitamin c serum do you wait a while or apply it right after you finish derma rolling? Some people say it could sting, and others say they apply right after. And by moisturizer can I apply moisturizer that comes with sunscreen? Thank you very much.

          • Hi Train,
            I usually apply the serum immediately afterward. Sometimes it stings a bit, but I haven’t experienced anything unbearable 🙂 I always moisturize with SPF after derma rolling (unless I do it at night) since skin will be more sensitive to UV damage after rolling. Hope this helps!

  • Tracy Hersh

    Mary, I agree with Juhea! Your skin is so beautiful! I’ve read all of your articles. You are brave! I’ve wanted to try out some things too, including peels, but fearful of having to pick up my kids from school with my skin looking like Samantha’s on Sex in the City when she had a peel!

    • Juhea Kim

      Tracy! re: peels, try Ole Henrikson Invigorating Night Gel–you just put it on every night after toner and before serum. parabens free phthalates free etc. it’s not going to be like a chemical peel where you turn red!

      • Tracy Hersh

        Thanks for the tip Juhea! I actually use a lot of the Ole Henrikson products but hadn’t thought about that one! Now that I’m 44, I think I need to take my skincare to the next level!!!

  • Oh gosh, I’ve always wondered how dermarolling works. Your skin looks amazing though! I’m definitely intrigued and want to try this out…

  • Lucy Parker

    I love my derma roller and I feel the results are better than any treatment I have had in the past. My facial skin looks red for a few hours afterwards, but for the first time in my adult life I can go without makeup.It smooths and firms.

    • Train Suplex

      Sorry to ask to late but when applying vitamin C serum, do you apply it right after you derma roll or do you wait a little bit of time and then apply or do you not apply on that day you apply vitamin c serum?

  • Cheri Marqez

    Which brand did you try? I’ve been interested in awhile to try derma rolling but now can barely find any on Amazon

  • Brenda

    Dermarolling is an awesome skin care beauty treatment. I use it as well on a regular basis.

  • Camila

    This was so useful. I´m interested in this treatment but I don´t want to buy something without really knowing if it´s gonna be effective AND safe. I have pretty indented scars, so, according to your post, I would have to try the 1,5 mm. Wich brand would you recommend? Do you know where can I get more information about this tool? Thank you so much!

  • Giorgio Quiniones

    Hi just wondering if micro needling would help elevate my deep sunken/depressed scar underneath the cheek bone area.I got surgery 5 years ago appearance is embarrassing especially knowing the discoloration of it as well being dark around the area and being under certain lighting makes the look even worse. Please let me know if there’s a chance of improving the appearance of the scar and maybe advise other recommendations. Thank you.

    • It’s quite possible, but I would consult with a dermatologist first 🙂 Good luck!

  • senen

    I am going to start derma rolling and I’m looking to purchase my first one. I’m thinking to start with a 0.5mm in order to start slowly and get my skin used to it. Actually, I have found some models that have various heads with different needle sizes so I will not have to buy another one if I move to 1.0mm and 1.5 later on. Does it really matter which model I will choose? Because there are a lot of ones and I am a bit confused.
    And I have noticed that brand names keep changing often in Amazon and other websites.

    • Thus far, I haven’t landed on a “best brand.” So far, I’ve just tried to find ones with good reviews :/

  • Nathan Beattie

    Your skin looks great!

    I’m going to try this very soon. Thanks for sharing! One suggestion I can make reading your story is that you take a spoon and dip that in the alcohol you use to clean your roller. After it dries, lick the spoon. Isopropyl and ethyl alcohol should evaporate with 100% efficiency, but some formulations contain impurities which you certainly do not want to deposit under your skin. If the spoon tastes like anything other than the material it’s made of, get your hands on some sterile water, and use that to rinse the roller after sterilization with your alcohol of choice (you know, except everclear).

  • Nathan Beattie

    Your skin looks great!

    I’m going to try this very soon. Thanks for sharing! One suggestion I can make reading your story is that you take a spoon and dip that in the alcohol you use to clean your roller. After it dries, lick the spoon. Isopropyl and ethyl alcohol should evaporate with 100% efficiency, but some formulations contain impurities which you certainly do not want to deposit under your skin. If the spoon tastes like anything other than the material it’s made of, get your hands on some sterile water, and use that to rinse the roller after sterilization with your alcohol of choice (you know, except everclear).


    so you would say its a good way to get rid of acne scaring ?

    • It has helped me quite a bit. My scarring isn’t completely vanished, however.

  • I’m excited to try this procedure! Was a bit worried about the pinkness immediately following the treatment but yours really does just look like a fairly mild sunburn. Living in the Caribbean, I’m excited about something that doesn’t require lasers so I don’t have to be as crazy about keeping myself out of the sun!

  • Ben Lister

    A great summery of the derma needle process! I only wish I read this last week, I just payed $1000 for 6 sessions in 6-week intervals to get this done at a lazer clinic to reduce my acne scaring (although it did include free LED rejuvenation sessions). If i knew how simple and cheap it was to do it at home no doubt I would have opted for that!

  • Saneea

    Hi, I’d love to know if you saw results with the pitted scars.

  • Alicia Jackman

    You shouldn’t be applying a serum after rolling with 1.5 needles. Serums are not created to be absorbed into the deep layers of the skin, it can cause irritation. You should be applying an occlusive healing ointment containing vitamin a and e.

    • Geraldine Orentas

      This is so true! If you are using this type of needles you definitely have to follow up with gentle creams and cleansers to avoid any irritation.

  • PIggle

    Does it hurt to use?

  • derma rollers in abudhabi are usefull for acne scars.

  • aneira

    hi Mary may i know where did you buy your 1.00mm dermaroller?

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