Well, it feels like sticking tiny needles in your face. No way around that.
Pain is individual, and what feels like a six out of ten on a pain scale to one person might be a three to another. In my opinion–and take my opinion as just one individual experience–a 0.5mm roller is not pleasant but not painful, a 1.0mm only hurts on bony body parts like the forehead, and a 1.5mm is a 5/10 on the pain scale, rising to a 6/10 on bony parts. I am not an especially tough cookie, but anyone who compares this to dental work or childbirth is messing with you. A great point of reference for how much a dermaroller will hurt is an epilator (those electronic things that pull your hair out instead of waxing), if you’ve ever used one of those.
With that said, I am totally not one of those “a little pain is good for you” people. If you’re planning to dermaroll, you’re gonna do it whether it hurts or not, and managing the pain makes it easier to follow your chosen protocol and actually go through with it as scheduled. (Sometimes I’m guilty of eh, it’s gonna hurt so I don’t feel like it, I’ll do it tomorrow, day after day until I’ve missed the window for a given treatment! Don’t be like me, use a pain management strategy.)
Let’s talk about pain management options.
- First, and easiest: take ibuprofen an hour before the treatment. Much of what you read online hand-wrings about the fact that ibuprofen is a blood thinner, but microneedling simply does not cause enough bleeding to cause any risk to a healthy person. Unless you have a health concern that would endanger you if you lost a few milliliters of blood, ibuprofen is a perfectly fine choice for you.
- On a similar tack, if you are of age in the country you live in, there’s something wonderfully Elizabeth Taylor about drinking a glass of wine (or your chosen equivalent) and then doing an elaborate beauty treatment. Maribou slippers optional. Keep your wits about you during the treatment, of course.
- For a more labor-intensive option: there is a backing in the research and a lot of anecdata on the Essential Day Spa forums about using a lidocaine-like topical anesthetic for larger needles. If you choose to go this route, patch test the day before to ensure you don’t have a reaction, then apply, let it sit for 30-45 minutes, and wash it off when you wash your face prior to using your roller. Washing it off prevents the lidocaine from being driven down into your skin by the needles. Honestly, I have used a numbing treatment once and it just hasn’t seemed worth the hassle since, but if you are particularly susceptible to the pain or you just don’t want to deal with any pain, this is an option.
Since this blog is all about the research, I’ll note here that peer-reviewed research usually describes using lidocaine on subjects.
The option that you choose will really come down to a trade-off between how much you want to avoid the pain and how much extra work you’re willing to do to avoid that pain. Ultimately, it’s a totally individual choice.