Research demonstrates that dermarolling can improve melasma and increase the effectiveness of melasma products. This post will show you how to improve melasma with a dermaroller at home.
You can learn the difference between melasma, sun damage and hyperpigmentation, and read some of the research on how dermarolling has been used to improve melasma in patients that didn’t respond to traditional treatments in yesterday’s blog post on melasma, vitamin C, transexamic acid and tri-luma. This post will offer some guidelines about how someone might treat their melasma at home using a medical-grade dermaroller. You can also read more about how I write these protocols.
This post contains affiliate links.
What you need
I’ll give you a list at the end of this section.
All the research I reviewed on microneedling for melasma used a 1.5mm dermaroller. (None used a dermastamp, and it’s unlikely that a melasma sufferer would benefit from a dermastamp that’s usually used for tiny areas instead of a dermaroller that can more efficiently cover the face. You could if you really wanted to, but if you’re buying something for melasma specifically, buy a roller.)
If you want pain relief, all the studies involved use lidocaine cream. To be completely honest, I used this once and then never bothered again, but everyone’s pain threshold is different. As long as you wash it off before the roller touches your face, there’s no harm in using it, even if it’s only for the first time! More about pain management here.
Yesterday’s post discusses products for dermarolling melasma more thoroughly and links to some options. You can think of those extra options as additions to your dermarolling process, since there’s evidence that just dermarolling alone can help melasma even without the addition of extra products…this is particularly awesome in the case of melasma because the best treatment options are expensive. Doing this with just hyaluronic acid is likely to be effective. Just to recap, though: your additional serum options are Vitamin C (cheap, somewhat effective, more useful for light-skinned people than deeper-skinned people), transexamic acid (very expensive because it’s not widely available yet, more effective, menstruating women need to be cautious because it affects blood clotting and can mess with your period) and Tri-Luma (extremely effective, prescription-only, not available in all countries, harsh).
- 1.5mm dermaroller
- hyaluronic acid – small bottle or large bottle* from a brand I really like, or a hyaluronic acid sheet mask (you can use what you have but check it for potentially irritating ingredients
- lidocaine cream
(Product suggestions for the additional products are in this post! Please read the description of the product you choose before you buy it!)
What to Do
A few days before your treatment, stop using any chemical exfoliants. If you’re using tretinoin or any other prescription topicals, take a few days off from those too. (Start with 3 days before; if your skin responds well, you can experiment with decreasing the amount of time off from your topical and figure out how much time you, personally, need. I generally find that I only need 1 day off before my roll.) Use sunscreen diligently.
For melasma, your rolling frequency is once per month. On or around the same date every month, dermaroll over any areas of discoloration and the surrounding skin. Wherever your melasma is, roll there. You can think of it as rolling sections of your face rather than trying to get the individual spots; rolling over unblemished skin won’t change it at all.
You can find more specific directions for how to use your dermaroller here. The only special note specific to melasma here is that all the studies I read specifically mentioned rolling diagonally in addition to horizontally and vertically, so make a point of doing that as well–top left to bottom right and then top right to bottom left. Try to make big X shapes with the diagonals, where the center of the X is a patch or cluster of discoloration on your skin.
If you are just using the hyaluronic acid, apply it thickly (I sometimes do two layers because my skin tends to be dry) and you’re done!
If you are using the Vitamin C or transexamic acid products (only one or the other, please!), apply that product first, let it soak in, and then apply the hyaluronic acid (as serum or sheet mask) afterwards.
If you are using the Tri-Luma, you cannot apply it the same night that you use the dermaroller. Use the roller and apply hyaluronic acid, then use the Tri-Luma the next morning with sunscreen. Let at least 12 hours elapse between the roll and the Tri-Luma.
Melasma and sunscreen
Melasma has a weird swirl of causes. For a lot of people it’s got a hormonal cause (birth control and pregnancy both set it off in women), for some people it appears to be genetic, it’s more likely in deeper skin tones, but allllll cases of melasma have a sun component. Too much sun is always a part of melasma.
Someone who gets melasma once is likely to see it recur, especially if there wasn’t a hormonal cause for it, so even after you’ve treated your melasma to your satisfaction, you need to continue to be careful in the sun. Now that you know you’re predisposed to melasma and discoloration, you can take control and prevent it from happening to you ever again. Get your sunscreen!
(Usually I put a ‘Justification in the Research’ section at the bottom of these protocols, but since I referenced all relevant studies in yesterday’s post I’ll just point scientifically minded people there.)