The use of platelet rich plasma (PRP) in medical aesthetics has increased significantly since Kim Kardashian had the procedure known as the vampire facial and posted her bloody face (literally) all over Instagram. The buzz was out there, and medical aesthetic practices were quick to add this treatment to their lineup of sought-after services.
It is important to note that PRP technology is not only used in the vampire facial. For years, PRP treatments were used in sports medicine to heal injuries. Now, it’s the treatment of choice to improve the appearance of wrinkles, scars, stretch marks, sun damage, dark circles under the eyes, and even hair restoration.
WHAT IS PRP
So, what is PRP exactly? Platelet rich plasma is a primary component found in the blood and is made up of many other elements, including red blood cells and platelets. The most important component found in PRP is vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs). They increase blood flow, oxygenation leading to increased collagen growth, tissue healing, and skin rejuvenation, making them ideal for cosmetic enhancement.
In any PRP treatment, the professional starts by drawing the client’s own blood and using a centrifuge to spin and isolate the platelets in the blood from the other components. The resulting substance, platelet rich plasma (PRP), contains three to five times the number of platelets as regular blood. The PRP is then injected by making multiple tiny punctures under the dermis, usually with application of a topical anesthetic. When injected, it stimulates the tissue, causing a mild inflammation that triggers the healing cascade and, as a result, new collagen develops. Improvement in skin tone and texture is noticeable within three weeks, with full collagen regeneration in three months. Minimal swelling, bruising, and redness are common for the initial 12 to 24 hours after the injections. A good treatment strategy is usually three treatments done within six months, with effects lasting up to 18 months.
By strategically reintroducing this platelet rich plasma to specific areas of the body, one can harness the benefits of cellular growth and regeneration to an aesthetic benefit. It is an advanced antiaging and healing treatment – the client’s own blood is used as a natural filler and skin booster solution that induces synthesis of collagen. This stimulation aids in the overall firming and toning of the skin, resulting in a more youthful and rejuvenated appearance. Its popularity is due in part to its organic nature and because it really works.
In medical aesthetics, PRP can be used to treat many of the symptoms of aging, including acne, scarring, and thinning hair in women and men. It’s also effective for skin rejuvenation and tightening around the eyes for thin, crepe-like skin and fine lines. Other popularly treated areas include the cheeks and mid face, thinning skin on the neck, the jawline and submalar regions, the backs of hands, and the décolleté. PRP has also proven effective in treating skin laxity in the knees, elbows, upper arms, and post-pregnancy abdomens.
PRP can also be combined with hyaluronic acid fillers injected in the face. The procedure is not a surgical facelift, but rather a liquid facelift. First, a hyaluronic acid filler is injected to sculpt and contour the face and, then, the PRP is used to polish the face by improving its color, shape, and texture. The results can last upwards of 18 months to two years. Other combination therapies using PRP include skin resurfacing procedures, like carbon dioxide and fractionated laser treatments. Clinical studies also demonstrate that the application of PRP boosts efficacy of these treatments and produces superior results.
PRP AND HAIR GROWTH
Another promising indication for PRP is hair restoration. The platelets secrete growth factors, including platelet derived growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor, both of which have positive effects on hair growth. Platelet derived growth factor is one of numerous growth factors or proteins that regulate cell growth and division. In particular, it has a significant role in the formation of blood vessels (angiogenesis) and the growth of blood vessels from already existing blood vessel tissue. Vascular endothelial growth factor is a chemical signal produced by cells that stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. It’s part of the system that restores the oxygen supply to tissues when blood circulation is inadequate. Often, calcium chloride is used to activate the growth factors, turning PRP into platelet rich fibrin matrix (PRFM).
Though PRP can be used for all skin types and tones, screening patients is of paramount importance. Factors such as smoking and alcohol intake can diminish stem cell release, so it is critical, as with any procedure, to get a thorough and accurate history from the patient. Platelets work by causing an inflammatory response, so if inflammation is diminished, the outcome will be significantly compromised. Thus, use of anti-inflammatory drugs is not recommended for about one to two weeks. Additional contraindications include, but are not limited to, sepsis, cancer, chemotherapy, a history of a blood dyscrasia, acute or chronic infections, metabolic or systemic disorders, and autoimmune skin diseases, such as Lupus.
Linda Vecchione, RN, MSN, MEd CANS, is a master’s prepared registered nurse and certified aesthetic nurse specialist (CANS). She co-owns RN Esthetics (Lynnfield, Newburport, and Salem, Massachusetts) and is the business leader of the practice. Vecchione brings over four decades of nursing experience to her role, having received her BSN from Northeastern University, her master’s in nursing from Salem State, and a master’s in education from Framingham State. She is an advanced injector and a master in the art of the cannula. Her primary focus is on injecting and teaching.