- Microneedling, also known as dermarolling, is the application of tiny needles to stimulate collagen production in the skin.
- Due to multiple factors, including the thinness of the stratum corneum, the lips are too delicate to be dermarolled safely.
- Other treatment options that are safe for the lips include injectables and lip lifts.
Microneedling is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that helps renew the skin and reduce the appearance of scars and other imperfections. This technique can be used to address an impressive array of skin conditions, from acne scars to wrinkles.
But can dermarollers be used on the lips? Here’s why it might not be a good idea, and what lip treatments you should consider instead.
What is microneedling?
Microneedling is a skin treatment that involves the application of very fine needles — just a few millimeters in diameter and length — to the skin.
The microneedling device, also known as a dermaroller or dermapen, creates microchannels in the skin, which in turn stimulate the cells to heal themselves.
“Microneedling creates microscopic punctures in the skin, promoting wound healing and collagen/elastin production,” explains Jennifer Humphrey, a medical aesthetician at Chernoff Cosmetic Surgeons in Indianapolis.
Collagen — the most abundant protein in the body — can be found in the bones, muscles, tendons, and skin. It’s what gives skin its elasticity and youthful appearance, as does another protein, elastin, as its name indicates.
As you get older, your body stops producing as much collagen and elastin as it formerly did — after the age of 20, you make about 1 percent less collagen with each passing year — and your sweat and oil glands reduce their activity. This causes your face to dry out and your skin to sag, resulting in wrinkles.
The tiny punctures caused by microneedling make the body create more collagen and elastin in response, resulting in skin that looks plumper and more elastic.
For a few weeks after the treatment, the skin can also look more “glowy” and radiant due to very superficial inflammation and swelling that results from the procedure.
How are lips different from the rest of the skin?
Before we consider microneedling for the lips, we need to understand why lips must be treated with special consideration.
Like all of your skin, lips have three main layers — the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous fat beneath it — but the protective top layer, or stratum corneum, is much thinner on your lips than it is on the rest of your face.
Not only do your lips physically have less skin to protect them, they also lack sebaceous glands, which secrete oil to moisturize the rest of your skin. Your lips’ only source of moisture is the saliva from your mouth, which is why they get so dry in the wintertime. Lips also lack melanin, the skin pigment that helps protect the cells from the sun.
So if your lips don’t have melanin, why do they have color? The classic natural pink of lips comes from the blood vessels underneath that show through the thin layers of skin on your lips.
Humans are the only animals that have such distinctly colored lips, and the transition from your reddish-pink lips to the rest of your skin even has its own name: the vermillion border.
Can you microneedle your lips?
Since lips are made of skin, in theory using a dermaroller on them should have the same benefits as microneedling the rest of your skin: a plumper, more youthful appearance.
But given the delicate nature of the skin on your lips, should you be rolling tiny needles across them?
According to the experts, a dermaroller should not be used directly on the lips themselves. “Microneedling the sensitive tissue of the lips is generally not a great idea,” Humphrey says.
“I would not recommend microneedling the lips,” seconds Dr. Rhonda Q. Klein, of Modern Dermatology in Westport, CT. “It will cause significant swelling and bleeding temporarily if used on the lips.”
That being said, microneedling the areas around the lips is generally fine, since that skin isn’t as delicate as the lips themselves. In particular, dermarolling can be used to target lip lines, those pesky vertical lines that appear directly above the upper lip, a classic sign of aging. “I would not microneedle someone’s lips — rather the lines above the lip would be appropriate,” Humphrey says.
“We perform microneedling daily on the perioral area, around the actual lips, but not on the lips themselves, as microneedling involves lots of needles rolled across the skin to injure it and promote collagen growth,” explains Dr. Klein.
Dermarolling around your lips at home
Clearly you shouldn’t microneedle your lips themselves — but you can dermaroll the area around them, either at the doctor’s office or at home. If you’d like to experiment with dermarolling your lip lines or you are trying to maintain your skin between office visits, there are a couple things to know about at-home microneedling kits.
“The length of the micro-needle varies among skin rollers; some have micro-needles 2mm or longer,” Humphrey notes. “I would not advise this length for home use. Rather, trust a medical professional. But 0.5-1.5mm are safe needle sizes for home use.”
Humphrey recommends trying microneedling at home once a week to begin, and then working your way up to twice a week. You should always use a serum while dermarolling for the best results, and be sure to disinfect your roller after each use to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Because of the smaller needles, at-home devices usually have a more modest effect than professional treatments, so don’t expect them to completely smooth your skin tone or get rid of scarring.
How to safely augment your lips
What if you want to treat the lips themselves, and not just the area around them? While dermarolling might not be an option, there are plenty of other procedures to explore.
If you’re in need of a quick moisturizing SOS, you can try a collagen lip mask. While the product doesn’t necessarily live up to its claims of instantly plumping up your lips, it will give a quick burst of hydration to thin or chapped lips. Applying plumping lip glosses or extending your lip liner can also give the temporary appearance of fuller lips.
If you’re looking for something a little more effective but still aren’t ready to commit to injectables, dermatologists offer intermediate rejuvenating treatment options.
“There are many better lip treatments than dermarolling,” Dr. Klein says. “For example, Hydrafacial just came out with their lip perk treatment that is very nice for patients not wanting fillers.”
Injectables and lip lifts
If you’re looking for something a little more permanent than these options, you can try lip injectables and dermal fillers to add volume to your pout, making it look fuller and more youthful. Lip injectables usually last about six months before you need to get another round.
While such fillers originally used collagen itself, advances have led to the use of better synthetic options, such as hyaluronic acid and calcium hydroxyapatite, that reduce the risk of a possible allergic reaction. Popular dermal filler brand names include Juvederm, Voluma, Belotero, Radiesse, Restylane, Perlane, and Sculptra.
If you’d like something even more permanent, you might want to look into getting a lip lift — a cosmetic surgical procedure that permanently reshapes your lips. Lip lifts may be paired with implants or incisions to add volume, making lips appear fuller and more youthful. Unlike injectables and fillers, lip lifts do not have to be renewed or repeated in any way.
While dermarolling holds a lot of promise for other areas of the skin, the procedure should not be used on the lips themselves, although it’s okay for the skin around the mouth.
» To find out more about semi-permanent or permanent lip rejuvenation procedures, ask a cosmetic doctor for advice and schedule an appointment using Zwivel’s free online consultation tool.
- American Academy of Dermatology: The Layers of Your Skin (n.d.) aad.org/public/kids/skin/the-layers-of-your-skin
- Doddaballapur, S. (2009). Microneedling with Dermaroller. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, 2(2), 110–111. doi.org/10.4103/0974-2077.58529
- Location-Related Differences in Structure and Function of the Stratum Corneum with Special Emphasis on Those of the Facial Skin (2008) ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19099543
- Scientific American: Why Does Skin Wrinkle with Age? What Is the Best Way to Slow or Prevent This Process? (2005) scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-skin-wrinkle-wit/