I’ve come across this question often in my practice and I would love to clarify what exactly platelet rich plasma regeneration is— and what it isn’t. PRP has been used for years to heal wounds, repair joints, enhance dental surgery, and for various other purposes. Today, PRP therapies are also available for facial rejuvenation, hair re-growth, stimulating female orgasm (whaaat?), improving urinary incontinence, and other areas of aesthetic medicine. Here I will discuss the ones I use in my practice for facial rejuvenation.
Our bodies naturally produce stem cells that help us heal by stimulating the growth of collagen, as well as blood vessels that deliver oxygen to bodily tissues. Platelets and growth factors found in the blood stimulate stem cells, and platelet-rich plasma contains three to five times as many of these substances as normal blood. This means that we can draw a couple tubes of your blood, spin it down via centrifuge, and harvest out those precious cells in a highly condensed plasma (platelet rich plasma).
PRP Microneedling versus PRP Deep Dermal Stimulation
There has been much conflicting and scary information on the internet about how exactly we can use this amazing, autologous (meaning from our own body) resource to stimulate collagen and improve our skin texture and tone. In order to deliver PRP to the tissues, we can go about doing it one of two ways. (You may have seen Kim Kardashian’s over-dramatic portrayal of her own treatment— this is why I write about it. You can’t get any accurate info on the stuff without researching peer-reviewed journals.)
The first way is to deliver PRP to the epidermis (outer layer of skin) via microneedling. Microneedling involves using a handheld device that uses multiple tiny needles to puncture the skin and creates controlled micro-injury to the epidermis and superficial dermis— allowing for stimulation of the healing properties of the skin. There are many microneedling pens on the market and no one in particular does much more or less than the others (trust me, I’ve used at least four different ones). Injecting the PRP topically via microneedling provides for many channels (itsy bitsy teeny tiny holes) through which the PRP can be pushed through the top layer of the skin.
When you get a microneedling PRP facial, you should expect to have your face cleansed, sometimes there will be a cooling mask or anesthetic applied, and a small amount of your blood will be drawn and spun down in a centrifuge to harvest the PRP. The portion of your blood that contains the highest amount of platelets and growth factors is found in the gold plasma layer. This portion of the plasma layer is extracted and painted across your skin. You can treat many areas including face, neck, decollete and hands. Once the PRP is on your skin— I will microneedle over the top of it to push the PRP into your skin.
Overall it is a fairly comfortable, low risk procedure— some liken it to a microdermabrasion. The effects of the microneedling with PRP are pretty awesome— it’s one of my favorite low-budget treatments.
*(Side note: Sometimes practitioners will deliver the PRP via micro-injections to the face via a needle the size of an acupuncture needle [note Kim K.’s procedure]. While this is a reasonable treatment, I find that the risk of bruising and overall discomfort of this technique is not desirable.)
The microneedling technique has minimal downtime, improves fine lines, texture and tone, and it creates a fantastic glow that you will notice for days to follow. It also works very nicely on superficial acne scarring. Generally you will go home with instructions to apply a gentle cream and follow up with a cool compress mask. It is important not to take ibuprofen/naprosyn following the treatment, as it will blunt the exact healing and inflammatory response you desire. You will notice that you are a little red the night of the treatment and maybe a little pink the following day— nothing dramatic.
Microneedling alone will provide you with a nice glow and is advantageous when done every four to six weeks. However, microneedling with PRP is not necessary more than every four to six months. It takes time for the PRP to work it’s magic on your skin, so once the initial effects of the microneedling wear off, you may start to notice the effects of the PRP working at around six weeks. Read: more is not better— microneedle without the PRP in between treatments instead.
An additional way to stimulate collagen is via Deep Dermal Stimulation (DDS). This procedure is used to deliver PRP to the deeper layers of the skin called the dermis. While microneedling will deliver some PRP to the very superficial layers of the dermis, a deeper treatment is necessary to enhance PRP delivery. I achieve this in my practice by drawing a little more blood than with the microneedling facial and delivering the PRP to the dermis via microcannula. This technique essentially nullifies the risk of injury and bruising that many people will report with PRP treatments and only consists of about four needle pricks rather than 30!
Following a DDS treatment with PRP, you will find that your cheeks have a little lift, your naso-labial folds have improved, and your chin and mouth have a beautiful fullness that you might have had 10 years ago. This initial lift and fill will recede in a day or two as the PRP absorbs. Over the next eight to 12 weeks, the PRP will continue to stimulate growth. Slowly you will note improvement in skin laxity, quality, texture, and tone.
What PRP is NOT
Platelet rich plasma treatment is not a panacea. It is not the fountain of youth, though it has been found to have some pretty awesome anti-aging and regenerative qualities.
I like to compare all anti-aging treatments to a makeup case. In the bag will be various tools and products to highlight, contour and enhance various different areas of the face, yet no product will make you runway-ready on its own. It takes the combination of many treatments— some more dramatic in their outcomes than others— yet no treatment less valuable than the last. Rather than expect dramatic results from one treatment, use all the tools at your disposal to create, enhance, restore and rejuvenate!
(Side note: There are varying reports of how PRP is delivered as well as many different names for it such as the Vampire Facial, Vampire Facelift, Blood PRP lift, etc. It is important to note what exactly the treatment is doing for you and what your expectations should be.)
Hope you enjoyed the read and that I was able to answer some questions about PRP.