There has been a viral TikTok trend on DIY scalp microneedling, and people actually say it works! Microneedling is when little punctures are made in the skin to stimulate collagen production. It is also used to create tiny channels in the skin so serums and active ingredients can penetrate more efficiently.
But, what does the science truly say about microneedling the scalp, and what are the dangers of doing it at home? Is there truly data that shows microneedling to be an effective treatment for hair loss?
All studies have concluded that more research needs to be done, but many have shown microneedling’s potential. For example, there was a pilot study done on people with androgenetic alopecia, and it demonstrates how professional microneedling could help with hair growth. Androgenetic alopecia is a genetically predetermined disorder due to an excessive response to androgens. More simply, androgenetic alopecia is caused by how your body responds to certain hormones.
The study looked at this type of hair loss and observed how microneedling stimulates the dermal papilla. The dermal papilla (DP) is a cluster of specialized fibroblasts that regulates the growth and activity of cells in the hair follicle. Thus, it plays a key role in the regulation of hair cycling and growth.
Photocred: Promo Cell
This study says that microneedling can stimulate dermal papila, and likewise, it could lead to promising results of new hair growth. However, not only did this study look at microneedling. It also looked at using Minoxidil with microneedling.
During this same study, there were two groups. One group was only given Minoxidil, a hair loss treatment. Then, the other group was given a microneedling treatment plus Minoxidil.
Afterward, they shaved the participants' heads to see how the hair grew back. They compared how fast the hair grew and how many hairs there were. The group that had microneedling plus Minoxidil saw a rapid increase in hair growth whereas the minoxidil group didn't. In the Minoxidil with the microneedling group, 82% said that things were going very well and that they were seeing a major difference. On the other hand, only 4.5% of the group only given Minoxidil reported seeing a huge difference.
The study concluded that for people who have androgenitic alopecia - the microneedling plus Minoxidil treatment was far more effective than using Minoxidil on its own. While this does seem promising, many other studies didn’t find these impressive results. As a standalone treatment,Verywell Health states that microneedling has no data to support it as a treatment for advanced hair loss. So, most of the studies have only shown microneedling to be effective when combined with a topical solution like Minoxidil.
More on Minoxidil: What is it?
Minoxidil helps stimulate blood flow to areas of hair loss, and it's been shown to keep the hair on the scalp longer. Originally, Minoxidil was created for hypertension, but they noticed how people on Minoxidil developed longer, stronger, and healthier hair. So, they put it in a topical formula. However, Minoxidil is not the only effective treatment used with microneedling. There’s also platelet-rich plasma for hair regrowth.
PRP Microneedling: What is platelet-rich plasma therapy?
There's also a study that's been done on PRP (platelet-rich plasma) which is when blood is drawn, put in a centrifuge machine, and the platelet plasma is extracted. The plasma can be placed on the skin or microneedled into the skin to stimulate new growth, collagen, and elastin.This 2017 study showed that this treatment increased hair growth and even hair count. Likewise, PRP is used in many dermatology hair loss clinics.
Is using microneedling alone effective for hair regrowth?
One 2021 study on adrogenetic alopecia demonstrated that microneedling alone is better than using a topical solution alone. It also showed that the consistency and duration of the treatment play a huge part in its effectiveness. The authors do state that more research is needed on this. So ultimately, while many results for microneedling on the scalp look promising, more research is needed - specifically research with randomized, controlled studies. These are studies where people don't know which treatment they're getting, and they can't be influenced by placebo effect or bias.
Should I try microneedling? Is DIY scalp microneedling safe?
The best way to do microneedling is with a dermatologist or a licensed professional. Microneedling at home for the scalp can definitely have some downsides. The first is infection whereas if you're doing microneedling professionally, you have a better chance of doing it in a sanitary manner. There will be using sterile tools and needle. But, if you do it at home, things can go wrong.
You can introduce bacteria, pathogens, and cause infection on the scalp. So, if you're not trained professionally, there's a lot of risk.
When microneedling the scalp, one of the main risks is breaking off the hair at the root. But, when your hair is short there's less of a risk of your hair breaking off.
There's also the risk of scarring the follicle which could cause more hair loss. You could also get keloid scarring. Keloid scarring is when the skin takes granular tissue and hardens it into a raised scars. Although not everyone is prone to them, keloid scars can be very resistant to treatment, and improper mincroneedling can cause them.
So, it's best to speak to a dermatologist if you’re interested in microneedling the scalp. Also, ask your health professional about scalp SPF.