Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP): Is the “Vampire Facial” Hype or Is it the Real Deal?
No doubt many of you reading this article have heard the term “Vampire Facial”, even if you don’t know what it really means.
Truth-be-told, I don’t really know what it means. And, I think it’s a really silly name for a medical treatment. So, for the rest of this brief article explaining what PRP is and how it works in cosmetic medicine and surgery, I’m going to refer to it by the Boring, Not-Very-Catchy name “PRP treatment”.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP, for short) has been around for decades in medicine. It has only been recently, though, that it has found its place in aesthetic medicine and surgery. PRP is “made” from a sample of your own blood, which is placed in a high-speed centrifuge. The centrifuge separates the red blood cells which are responsible for carrying oxygen to every part of your body (and give the blood it’s red color) from the blood plasma – the “liquid” part of blood which is the color of very dilute iced-tea. This plasma is the PRP, and it’s this liquid that we use for topical and injectable facial treatments.
What is in PRP?
The primary component in PRP is, not surprisingly, platelets. Platelets are tiny cell-fragments in your blood that primarily function to stop bleeding from a cut or wound. These little particles have proven to be much more than just a temporary patch on a leaky blood vessel, though. As we have learned more about them, we have come to realize that they play a key role in the inflammatory and wound healing process. They secrete a number of growth factors and chemicals called cytokines which attract other of the body’s “repair” cells to the area. For lack of a better term, platelets are the body’s little “Super Healers”.
How does PRP work?
I can already hear what you’re thinking: “If we have these little “Super Healers” running around in the body already and you’re telling me you use it for skin rejuvenation, why doesn’t it just keep my skin youthful to start?” Remember, these little cells are everywhere in the blood, but only really spring to action when there has been an injury, in an attempt to clean-up and repair the damage. You just doing your day-to-day thing isn’t going to recruit these cells to where we’d like them to do their work (specifically, the facial skin and/or scalp). We have to trick these cells into using their “Super Healer” powers for good…and the way we do that is to cause a Very Controlled Injury to the tissues we would like to rejuvenate, and then applying the concentrated PRP directly to that area.
Very Controlled Injury? Now I’m Worried…
As a plastic surgeon, the basic science of wound healing is drilled into our heads from day one of training. Just writing those words “basic science of wound healing” harkens back to long nights spent reviewing for tests and board exams, wondering why I was studying this and when I’d ever use it again. However, much of what we do in aesthetic surgery is based on an intimate knowledge of how the body heals itself and using those healing mechanisms to help turn back the clock. All skin rejuvenation procedures (at least, all of the procedures that work – chemical peels, laser treatments, and microneedling, to name the big ones) take advantage of the body’s healing mechanisms to refresh and rejuvenate the skin in different ways. Once we create a Very Controlled Injury with one of our procedures, we must rely on the body’s normal healing response to not only heal, but heal in the way that affects a positive cosmetic change. One reason that cosmetic misadventures occur is that the person providing the treatments isn’t well versed in wound-healing science and is too aggressive, which leads to problems from abnormal or over-aggressive healing.
PRP – the Game Changer
With PRP, we are able to apply a concentrated serum of “Super Healers” directly to an area we have just treated. This helps improve our outcomes in a number of ways. First, we don’t have to rely only on the body’s “normal” response – we can apply a super-normal amount of healing cells directly to the site of injury. This “super-normal” application of the body’s own healing cells drastically speeds up the healing process. It also minimizes discomfort and swelling, since the body senses that the “Super Healers” are at the site of injury en-masse and can quit directing blood flow and other cells there (which are the cause of much of the inflammation, pain, and downtime). Also, the body begins rebuilding itself almost immediately, which shortens downtime and allows you to realize the benefits of the treatment much earlier than before we were using PRP.
Tell Me More!
In my office, we combine PRP with fractional laser treatments (Scition Joule), as well as using it to stimulate hair growth in both men and women. It has become a “go-to” treatment for almost all rejuvenation procedures based on the science behind it and the results we have seen.
Call us if you are interested in learning more or would like to schedule an evaluation at (865) 973-9500.