Derms have long been using microneedling to rejuvenate the face, now they’re going further, and using it on your scalp for hair loss. Dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall explains…
As far as skincare tech goes, microneedling’s created quite the buzz in the beauty industry. It works by tiny needles rolling over the skin to create a healing response which stimulates collagen production and leads to a smoother and firmer complexion. Now its rejuvenating abilities are extending to the scalp too. Microneedling for hair growth is a procedure that’s increasing in popularity and could prove particularly beneficial for those suffering from progressive types of hair loss such as androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) which affects both men and women.
Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors (hormonal hair thinning often strikes in perimenopause as oestrogen declines) and affects 50 per cent women over the age of 65, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.
It's notoriously tricky to treat, but Consultant Dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall believes microneedling can help, and has seen the positive effects for herself in her clinic. What's more, it could also be effective in treating other types of hair loss too such as traction alopecia (caused by frequent pulling of the hair), telogen effluvium (stress related excess hair shedding) and alopecia areata (where the immune response mistakenly attacks the hair follicles), she says.
Here's what you need to know:
Like facial microneedling, it creates micro-injuries
The skin's heaing mechanism responds to ‘micro injuries’ caused by the micro needles, which leads to a rise in important growth factors and stem cells in the scalp as well as hair growth-related genes to create an increase in hair production.
It's better to have a course in a clinic rather than try it at home
“Practitioners use a mechanical microneedling pen that allows a variation in needle depth and a greater number of penetrations per second,” says Dr Hextall. “The treatment is usually carried out every four weeks and on average four to six treatments are required.”
You need to keep it clean
“The main risk from my point of view is infection,” says Dr Hextall. “Whenever we breach the skin there is an infection risk, so as long as the treatment is carried out using an aseptic technique and post-treatment instructions are followed to keep the area clean, then it is very safe.”
To keep risk of infection low, Dr Hextall recommends washing hair with an antiseptic shampoo such as Chlorhexidine both before the procedure and a couple of days afterwards.
How painful it is, depends on your pain threshold
“Some individuals find microneedling easy to tolerate, while others require topical anaesthetic,” says Dr Hextall.
Your hair hides any redness while you recover
There's not a lot of downtime, and how much depends on the size of the needles that were used. “The treatment depths will dictate downtime to a degree and there is always variation between individuals,” says Dr Hextall. However, the redness can be concealed to a degree by the hair and, roughly, it should settle within a couple of days, she says.
It's not cheap
It's a specialist treatment that needs to be done by a professional. Dr Hextall recommends a qualified doctor, nurse prescriber or cosmetic doctor. If they are registered on the Treatments You Can Trust register, that can also be helpful.
Make sure to enquire about your particular practitioner’s qualifications, experience and speciality face-to-face too. “A good practitioner will love to share their experience with you as they will want you to feel comfortable and confident when you’re making a decision to have a treatment,” says Dr Hextall. “They will also always want to see their new clients for a review or follow up to make sure they are happy with their treatment too.”
As for price: “It depends on how many sessions are needed and the size of the area that needs to be treated, but a course of three can start from around £400,” says Dr Hextall.
It's not a quick fix
An investment of both time and money, microneedling isn't an easy fix, and may not be your first line of treatment if your hair is thinning. “It is always important to have a proper assessment for hair loss as it may be that there is a simple answer such as previous stress now being reflected in hair loss months later, or low iron or thyroid abnormalities causing hair loss,” says Dr Hextall. “Once these are excluded, then treatment options can be discussed, but the cause of hair loss must be evaluated initially.
“I also recommend to all my patients who have hair concerns that a healthy diet is essential,” she adds. “Make sure iron-rich foods are eaten and foods rich in antioxidants. I am very keen on the marine protein supplement Viviscal as it is fantastic at supporting healthy hair growth.”
Once these avenues have been explored, microneedling can be a valuable next step. It's a safe and effective way to treat trickier forms of hair loss, in Dr Hextall’s view, and is a medication-free approach. What's more, science has proved that it can make common topical treatments for hair loss such as Minoxidil more effective. “With Minoxidil, the results are only sustained while the treatment is being used,” says Dr Hextall. “A 2013 study combining five per cent Minoxidil with microneedling showed that the new hair growth was sustained eight months after the study was completed.”