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Reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Hair loss in men may be common, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with. Whether your hairline is starting to thin or you have the beginnings of a bald patch, even the slightest hint that baldness is coming can easily send many men into a panic.
A quick Google search reveals all sorts of options for reducing and reversing hair thinning, from over-the-counter treatments like topical minoxidil to surgical procedures such as hair transplant surgery.
There are also lots of treatments that appear to be either all or partly hype, from lotions, serums and hair care products to vitamins and laser devices.
One option for hair loss treatment that’s gaining plenty of attention is microneedling — a process that involves making small pinpoints in your scalp to stimulate your hair follicles and promote an increase in hair growth.
If you’ve ever read about dermarollers and microneedling, you might be quick to lump them into the many other questionable hair loss treatment products and fads. However, there’s actually a reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that they could aid in hair regrowth.
Below, we’ve explained why and how hair loss happens, as well as what microneedling involves as an option for the treatment of hair loss.
We’ve also taken a look at the latest scientific research on how the microneedling process may improve hair growth and promote better hair health.
Finally, we’ve covered some other options you may want to consider if you’re starting to notice the early signs of baldness and want to prevent them from getting worse.
A large variety of issues can either cause or contribute to hair loss. However, in men, the most common form of hair loss is male pattern baldness, which is caused by a mix of genetic factors and the effects of the hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
If you’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, DHT can attach to receptors in your scalp and cause your hair follicles to gradually stop working.
Currently, most effective hair loss treatments work by either preventing your body from creating DHT, or by stimulating hair growth at the scalp level.
For example, the medication finasterideworks by reducing the amount of testosterone that your body converts to DHT, while the topical medication minoxidil is believed to work (its exact mechanism of action is still unknown) by moving your hair follicles into a state of active, ongoing growth.
Our guide to the causes of hair loss in men goes into more detail about the factors that can play a role in a receding hairline, bald patch near your crown or diffuse hair thinning.
So, what exactly is microneedling for hair loss, and how does it fit in next to other treatments for male pattern baldness?
Microneedling is a minimally invasive procedure that involves the use of a dermaroller — a small rolling device with fine microneedles on its surface — to produce small punctures in your scalp or other areas of your skin.
A typical dermaroller used in the microneedling process contains about 200 tiny needles, which are used to penetrate into your skin. These needles are around 1.5mm in length, allowing them to reach only into the outer layers of your scalp.
Microneedling is sometimes referred to as collagen induction therapy. The idea behind it is that the mild physical trauma from having a needle penetrate into your skin can lead to a cascade of wound healing effects, resulting in improvements in your skin health.
Microneedling has been around since the 1990s, with the first drum-shaped dermaroller devices developed throughout the 2000s.
When it comes to microneedling for hair growth, experts think that the process of microneedling may also protect and stimulate your hair follicles.
In addition to microneedling for hair loss, this type of treatment is also used for a diverse range of other conditions and skin issues.
For example, microneedling is used to treat scarring, wrinkles and other signs of aging, as well as skin pigmentation disorders. It’s also used to treat several forms of sun damage to your skin, such as actinic keratoses — dry, precancerous spots that form after excessive sun exposure.
For many of these uses, microneedling is used in combination with anti-aging medications such as tretinoin to improve effectiveness.
Microneedling with a dermaroller involves rolling the tool across certain areas of your skin while maintaining firm, consistent pressure.
For treating hair loss, this means using the dermaroller on areas with a visible reduction in hair count, such as a receding hairline or thinning patch.
The purpose of microneedling in the case of hair loss is to stimulate dermal papilla, or the stem cells in your hair follicles, to encourage the activation of growth factors.
Part of the idea behind this is that by producing tiny wounds, your body’s natural defenses may step in to encourage the healing process and ultimately activate dormant hair follicles, resulting in a thicker head of hair.
One important thing to keep in mind is that although microneedling isn’t a completely new form of technology, its use for treating hair loss is fairly recent.
As such, we don’t yet have the same comprehensive scientific evidence on the effectiveness of microneedling for hair loss prevention that we do for treatments such as minoxidil, finasteride or hair transplant surgery.
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“I’m a 34-year-old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid-twenties.”
Despite this, research is ongoing into the potential benefits of microneedling for hair growth and general hair health, with several studies on its effectiveness as a treatment for male and female pattern hair loss published in the last few years alone.
For example, a 12-week 2013 randomized study of 100 men in Mumbai was the first to examine the hair growth results of microneedling in humans.
Previously, researchers had seen promising results in mice. In this study, half of the participants were given minoxidil (a topical, FDA-approved hair loss treatment) and the other half underwent microneedling procedures once per week in addition to twice-daily treatment with minoxidil.
According to the researchers, participants who used microneedling in conjunction with minoxidil grew thicker hair and reported higher overall patient satisfaction. Eight months after the study, the participants still showed positive results.
A separate scientific study, which was published several years later in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic, also showed promising results.
This 2018 study recruited 68 men and split them into two groups. The first group used minoxidil solution twice daily, while the second group used minoxidil twice daily and underwent a weekly microneedling procedure.
At the end of the study, participants in the microneedling group reported greater hair growth and satisfaction. However, the researchers noted the results were “not cosmetically significant.”
A small study of four men in 2015 also showed promising results. What’s unique about this study is that the men involved had not positively responded to traditional therapy with finasteride and minoxidil, medications that are considered gold standards in hair loss treatment.
The results of their six-month microneedling period were positive, with three of the men that took part reporting satisfaction greater than 75 percent, and the fourth greater than 50 percent.
Although these findings are definitely promising, it’s essential to understand that research on the potential benefits of microneedling for hair loss is still in a fairly early stage.
Many studies involve the use of microneedling in combination with hair loss medication, such as minoxidil. This means that we can’t necessarily conclude that microneedling is equally effective when it’s used as a form of monotherapy for hair loss.
It’s also possible that microneedling may help for some hair loss disorders, but not for all causes of hair loss in men.
In other words, the usual disclaimers for early-stage hair loss treatments definitely apply when it comes to microneedling — namely, that we need more high-quality information before we’re able to authoritatively state that it’s an effective treatment for hair loss.
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Microneedling is widely used as a skincare treatment, with research showing that it offers real, noticeable benefits for issues such as sun damage and acne scarring.
Currently, research shows that hair microneedling may offer benefits when it’s used alongside minoxidil. There’s also small-scale research suggesting that microneedling might promote hair growth in men who don’t respond to conventional hair loss interventions.
However, while the research out there for microneedling appears promising, it’s a long way off from proving anything substantive.
If you’re starting to develop a receding hairline, a bald patch around your crown or other common signs of hair loss, it’s important to take action before they become worse.
You can do this using treatments such as minoxidil and finasteride, which work by moving hairs into a state of active growth and blocking the hormone DHT, which harm your hair follicles and contribute to male pattern baldness.
We offer both of these medications as part of our range of hair loss treatments, with finasteride available following a consultation with a healthcare provider.
Want to learn more about treating hair loss? You can take part in a hair loss consultation online via our telehealth platform, or find out more about your options for preventing hair loss with our guide to the best treatments for thinning hair.