The Rise of the Beard Roller

During the 19th century, beards were quite literally mandatory among adult men of all ages. 

Males capable of growing facial hair sported either a full beard, whiskers, or mutton chop sideburns. Beards were so popular in the 1800s that suppliers of wigs for women also offered fake whiskers, full beards, and mustaches to men who couldn’t grow facial hair.

Beards stopped trending during the Roaring 20s and didn’t return to the mainstream male face until the 1950s. Beatniks and the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s cultivated the popularity of the beard before and after the Vietnam War. However, by the mid-1980s, beards were no longer fashionable. Scruffy hippies of the previous decade metamorphosed into clean-shaven, well-dressed, Wall Street types. 

Surprise! It’s the 21st century and beards are back in style. We’ll leave the sociologists to determine why men’s facial hairstyles change from one decade to another and concentrate on the current passion for beard care products and tips for growing a beautiful, full beard.

What is a Beard Roller?

The typical beard roller resembles a handheld paint roller that you actually roll over your beard. But it won’t change the color of your beard. Instead, the roller contains rows of tiny, stainless steel or titanium needles that gently penetrate the outer layer of your skin. The science behind the ability of a beard roller to stimulate beard growth involves the same science behind microneedling–activation of skin cells and follicles to increase collagen production and phases of hair growth.

The term “derma roller” also refers to beard rollers. Initially used in the 1990s for reducing acne scars, derma rollers quickly came under scrutiny by dermatologists who noted the similarity between derma rollers and microneedling. As more men began using derma rollers on their facial skin to promote hair growth, the makers of derma rollers renamed them beard rollers for advertising purposes.

Developed years ago as a general skin improvement procedure, microneedling is now widely accepted as an effective method for treating androgenic alopecia (male and female pattern hair loss) and alopecia areata. When a beard roller is rolled over the skin, needles between 0.25mm and 0.5mm in size puncture the topmost layer of your skin, called the stratum corneum. Consisting of constantly shedding skin cells, the stratum corneum is almost as thin as eyelid skin and provides protection for skin layers directly underneath.

What Does Research Say? Do Beard Rollers Work?

While the efficacy of microneedling to treat hair loss is supported by clinical studies, research regarding beard rollers correlating with beard growth is ongoing. 

One study found that derma rollers improved hair growth in men with androgenic alopecia who failed to respond to treatment with finasteride and minoxidil. In this study, researchers refer to derma rollers as “scalp” rollers that contained titanium needles instead of stainless steel needles. They also suggested that scalp rollers could promote formation of new hair in men with male-pattern baldness after eight to 10 sessions with a derma roller.

Most studies investigating the effectiveness of derma rollers indicate that a combination of minoxidil (Rogaine) and microneedling may help increase beard growth slightly. 

Alternately, using derma rollers and minoxidil on 100 men with androgenic alopecia significantly increased scalp hair growth and was “statistically superior” to a control group who used minoxidil only.

FDA-approved topical minoxidil is frequently prescribed as an off-label treatment for alopecia areata, hair shaft disorders, and improving beard and eyebrow growth. Compared to placebos, minoxidil dramatically enhanced beard growth with minimal side effects, such as redness, itching, and minor inflammation.

Beard Hair and Scalp Hair: What’s the Difference?

Although minor differences exist between beard and scalp hair, both respond positively to minoxidil and derma rollers. For example, beard hair tends to be thicker and stiffer than scalp hair due to beard hair having more cuticle layers. Additional cuticle layers increase the diameter of beard hair, which is one reason why beards are sometimes difficult to shave off without irritating the skin.

The growth rate of beard hair and scalp hair is similar, averaging about 0.3 mm per day. However, hair growth rate also depends on genetics, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Also, did you know that some studies indicate white beard hair grows faster than brown, black, or red beard hair? Dermatologists aren’t sure why but think that natural pigmentation of beard hair somehow affects follicle health and hair growth cycles.

How to Safely Use Derma Rollers on Your Beard

Needle size determines how often you can use a beard roller. For example, only use beard rollers with needles that are 0.5 mm once or twice every seven days. Beard rollers with smaller needles can be used three to four times a week. Always give your skin at least 48 hours to complete most of the healing process necessary to stimulate collagen production.

Other tips include:

  • Don’t press down on your skin with a beard roller, regardless of its needle size. Making your skin bleed won’t make your beard grow any faster. Just apply enough pressure to allow needles to quickly and gently puncture the skin.
  • Start out using a derma roller with the fewest needles. This allows your skin to become tolerant of the microneedling process and reduces skin pulling.
  • Use a derma roller on a clean, dry beard.
  • When beard-rolling cheeks, puff out your cheeks to facilitate movement of the roller.
  • Move the beard roller in vertical and horizontal directions. Don’t go over the same section of beard more than two or three times.
  • Do not use a beard roller on skin irritated by acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis. It will spread bacteria over your face and worsen existing skin problems.
  • Clean beard rollers after every use with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Regardless of needle size or frequency of use, most derma rollers need to be replaced every three to four months.

According to studies, minoxidil may increase the ability of derma rollers to improve beard growth. Rogaine (5% minoxidil) and generic versions are available as a safe and effective over-the-counter medication for treating thinning hair and hair loss.