My Dermaroller Philosophy (or, the Minimum Effective Dose)

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I offer some suggestions about how frequently to use a dermaroller on some other parts of this website, but I wanted to write a post that explains how I approach dermarolling in general, and how I arrived at some of those suggested protocols.

My philosophy on dermarolling (and a lot of other stuff, actually) comes from a concept called the ‘Minimum Effective Dose’, invented by Arthur Jones and popularized by author Tim Ferriss. The basic idea with the Minimum Effective Dose is to find the minimum amount of time and effort that you can put into your pursuit of a goal while still actually achieving the goal.

The easiest comparison is the gym: if your goal is a basic fitness level, you can throw yourself into it, spend two hours a day in the gym and eat nothing but egg whites and spinach…or you can walk a little every day, do a little basic strength training and eat your veggies. That’s the minimum effective dose–it’s going to get you what you want without taking up all of your time and mental energy, so that you have enough bandwidth left for your family, your friends, your job, your hobbies, all the other stuff!

In the case of skincare in general, it can be really easy to end up with a 16-step routine that eats up a lot of your time, or a militant mindset that means you never set foot in the sun or eat birthday cake. This is particularly true for those of us that come to skincare from a place of insecurity about what we perceive as skin flaws. If you feel insecure about acne scars or skin aging or hair loss, it can be really tempting to throw all of your energy at the “problem” to try to fix it as soon as possible. Inevitably, though, when this happens we burn out, give up and then beat ourselves up for giving up. 

In the case of the dermaroller specifically, that means those people who buy 2.0mm rollers and use them weekly. Don’t do that! It comes from a place of wanting to correct a skin imperfection as quickly as possible because that skin imperfection is causing emotional pain. With the dermaroller in particular, because we don’t see the full effects of a single roll until after the next one, it can feel as if a first roll didn’t do enough, so we need to rush on to the next one. It can consume a lot of mental energy, and it can also result in burnout when you just run out of energy for the process, or other areas of your life suffer because your attention is so focused on your skin.

That’s why I pursue the minimum effective dose philosophy with dermarolling. I don’t roll exactly every tenth day with a 1.0mm roller even though I technically could, and I wrote my protocols exactly the way that I use the rollers myself. Could you technically roll more frequently than my protocols suggest? Yeah, you could! If you want to, you can find the minimum wait between treatments on the individual pages for each roller size here: Dermaroller Downtime – How long is the downtime after using a dermaroller?.

1.. mm dermaroller
1.5mm Koi Beauty® Professional Titanium 200 Tips Face Skin Care for Acne Scars and Stretch Marks (1.0)

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However, the minimum effective dose–rolling on the 1st of the month, or the 1st and 15th, and so on, offers me the ability to plan on when I’m going to need to roll, and to have the flexibility to move a roll without impacting my recovery. Let me give an example:

The roller that I use the most on my face these days is a 1.0mm. As it stands, the protocol I’m using states that I roll on the 1st and the 15th of every month. In theory, based on the suggested recovery time, I *could* be rolling on the 1st, the 10th and the 20th, but I don’t, because in order to do so safely, I have to block out an hour on those exact three days a month. If I’m busy on June 10th, I can’t choose to roll on June 9th because the recovery window is not yet up from the 1st. However, if I choose to roll June 11th instead, I then have to move my recovery window forward–I can’t roll on the 20th, I have to choose the 21st! Choosing to roll on the 1st and the 15th of every month gives me the flexibility to move a treatment date forward or back by a day or two without forcing me to “reschedule” the next date. (It also avoids the headache of February being a short month!)

This is what works for me. I find it mentally healthiest, because I have already built in for myself the flexibility to say, “I’m going to see my friends on the 1st and roll on the 2nd!”, or “My treatment date falls during our romantic weekend away, and I am NOT packing my dermaroller and rubbing alcohol, so I’ll do it on the 30th instead”. I think that perspective helps me remember that improving my skin is a small part of my life, not something that should control my schedule. I have concert tickets for the 15th of next month, and you can be sure that I will be doing my treatment the day after instead of showing up with a cute outfit and a red face.

1.5 mm dermaroller
1.5mm ROCSTDM Needle Skin Care and Cosmetic Needling Instrument for Face 540 Titanium Micro Needles Perfect Facial Skin & Face Care Beauty Massage Tool with Hyaluronic Acid

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The other benefit of this scheduling is that it means that when I am doing protocols with different recovery times (like a 1.0mm on my face for fine lines and a 1.5mm on belly stretch marks), I’m able to do them all in one night instead of having to do them on different nights because the minimum recovery times fall on different days.

Dermarolling is a long-term solution, where each treatment contributes a small amount to improving or rejuvenating your skin. It’s not the right choice for someone who’s looking for an immediate fix. The protocols I’ve written under the philosophy of the Minimum Effective Dose, reflect the belief that scars or wrinkles or hair loss shouldn’t prevent you from living your life, but skincare shouldn’t prevent you from living your life either!

With that said: lots of people decide to “kick-start” their dermarolling journey by doing the minimum wait time for 5-6 treatments before shifting over to protocols that look like mine. That’s totally cool (any safe way you use your roller is pretty cool with me). Just remember that you don’t see the full benefits of a single treatment until 6 weeks later, so if you’re using a 1.0mm roller every 10 days, you will not see the full results of that first roll until after your fourth roll, and you won’t see the full results of your kick-start until three and a half months after you start!

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