What is platelet rich plasma (PRP)?
The Vampire Facelift (trademarked in 2011 by Dr. Charles Runels, inventor of the O-Shot) is a combination of hyaluronic acid fillers and platelet rich plasma (PRP). It came into the spotlight in 2013 when Kim Kardashian posted a photo of herself getting a treatment.
In this post I’m going to talk about PRP (not the Vampire Facelift), how it works and why it’s a great treatment.
First, let's talk about how PRP works.
During PRP, a small amount of your blood is drawn. It is spun in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets, then plasma, which is rich in platelets, is drawn off. The plasma is activated then re-injected into the area you are having treated.
Once injected into the body, the platelet rich plasma releases growth factors which start the natural healing process – including increased cell turnover, collagen production at the site, and cell activity. When plasma is from the patient’s own blood, it is called autologous PRP. Autologous PRP is considered non-allergenic and very safe because it comes from your own body, so the risk of a reaction or infection is very low.
“PRP is the future,” says dermatologist Dr. Doris Day in an interview with New York Social Diary. “It will become a mainstay of our rejuvenation treatments. But, buyer beware because in this country, we’re still figuring out the different techniques and protocols,” she cautions. “Expectations have to be realistic. PRP won’t tighten up your skin, but it should improve its quality and result in long lasting hair growth if that’s what you’re after.”
Platelet rich plasma has been used since 1985 to treat wounds by stimulating tissue repair and regeneration. These platelet gels are especially useful in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. They have been associated with decreased operative time, lower use of drains and pressure dressings, and fewer post-operative complications.
PRP is currently being used in dentistry, trauma, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, spinal surgery, heart bypass surgery, dermatology and in the treatment of burns. It is easy to produce and can be prepared as needed using sterile technique in a medical office.
- Leg ulcers
- Diabetic foot ulcers
- Skin graft donor sites
- First and second degree burns
- Superficial injuries, cuts, abrasions and surgical wounds
- Hair loss – PRP injections can stimulate new hair growth and increase blood circulation
- Skin rejuvenation – PRP injections can treat wrinkles, sun damage and discoloration alone or in combination with other types of skin rejuvenation treatments.
- Scars – The look of scars has been improved with PRP mixed with centrifuged/spun fat tissue, followed by skin resurfacing with fractional laser, micro-needling, or non-ablative laser.
- Healing of traumatic and vascular wounds, diabetic and chronic ulcers with a combination of PRP, autologous fat, and hyaluronic acid
- Healing of open and chronic wounds of the heel and ankle with a combination of PRP and hyaluronic acidHealing of dehiscent, infected sternal wounds
How safe and effective is platelet rich plasma?
PRP appears to be a very safe treatment, but because it is relatively new, few studies have been done to test its effectiveness in humans.
Previous PRP studies used many different devices for the preparation of the PRP, but not all these devices are approved for use in humans. There are some case control studies and some non-controlled clinical trials, but only one randomized, controlled clinical trial (considered the gold standard in clinical trials) on treatment of diabetic foot ulcers was reported.
In the chronic and acute wound studies that have been done, complete wound closure was more likely, with a 25% to 50% faster healing rate in wounds treated with PRP. It was also found to lower infection rates and reduce pain.
For over 20 years, PRP has been considered advanced therapy in the treatment of wounds. But not all PRP is created equal. This is because not all PRP harvesting devices concentrate viable platelets and growth factors in the right quantities to trigger healing – causing criticism of PRP.
The most effective PRP has at least one million platelets per microliter. A higher concentration hasn't been correlated with a better result.
One study by Rappl et al (2011) found platelet concentrations closer to the body’s natural concentrations showed better wound healing results than higher concentrations. Additionally, speed and spinning duration should not damage the platelets.
RegenLab PRP has proven in 53 clinical studies that their system delivers effective concentrations and consistent results. Platelets within their serum are not activated until after they’re injected into the skin. They release growth factors over a period of 7 – 10 days for the best long-term result.
What can you expect at a platelet rich plasma skin treatment?
Platelet rich plasma can be used alone to rejuvenate skin or it can be combined with other treatments to get even better results.
The treatment is done with topical anesthetic and takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the area being treated.
PRP injections can be superficial or deep dermal injections.
Treatment should be tailored to the patient. Usually, a series of 3 – 4 treatments, spaced 4 – 8 weeks apart, is recommended to get the best result.
After treatment, it can take 2 – 3 days for redness and swelling to fade. Any bruising may be covered with makeup.
You’ll see an improvement in skin tone and texture about 3 weeks after treatment, with continuing improvement for 6 – 9 months as new collagen forms.
Yearly maintenance treatments are recommended.
Despite lots of clinical studies, there are still unanswered questions about PRP.
We need to learn the optimal dosing, timing, and the frequency of injections, just to name a few. And as mentioned earlier, the quality of PRP is greatly affected by the quality of the centrifuge and collection process. Then there's the individual blood component characteristics, etc., etc. etc.
What I'm trying to say is that the effects of PRP are variable, to say the least. And until we've learned what methods work best, all of these questions about PRP make consistent outcomes unlikely.
PRP is often used with micro-needling. Learn more about micro-needling in our post, What Is Micro-Needling? | 3 Ways It Improves Your Skin!
Thanks for reading!
Amy Takken, RN
Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery.
Masterpiece Skin Restoration is your online resource for all things medical aesthetics, skincare, beauty, and wellness. We keep you up to date on leading edge technology and the services available to help you restore your natural beauty.
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If you like this post, you'll LOVE these:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3565396/ Evaluation of the Effects of Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy Involved in the Healing of Sports-Related Soft Tissue Injuries
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11823930 Current applications of platelet gels in facial plastic surgery.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844688/ Platelet-Rich Plasma: Support for Its Use in Wound Healing
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174862/ Use of Platelet Rich Plasma Gel on Wound Healing: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811365 Platelet-rich Plasma in Skin Ulcer Treatment
https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00648 Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23648195 Growth factor content in PRP and their applicability in medicine.
Rappl LM et al. Effect of platelet-rich plasma gel in a physiologically relevant platelet concentration on wounds in persons with spinal cord injury. Int Wound J 2011; 8:18.7–195.
McAleer JP, Sharma S, Kaplan EM, Persich G, Adv Skin Wound Care. 2006 Sep; 19(7):354-63.
The Information provided on our website is not medical advice and should not be viewed as such. By law, only a medical doctor can diagnose or give medical advice. As a registered nurse, my goal is to educate, so I provide information on skin care, skin care products, and skin care treatments. If you have any condition that concerns you, please see a medical doctor. While most skin conditions are benign, some - like melanoma - can be deadly. If there is any doubt, please, please consult your physician. Thank you!