By Dr. Emilia A. Ripoll, M.D.
If the title of this article sounds like the plot of an episode from the HBO series True Blood, I assure you it’s not.
The title refers to a relatively new form of skin care called Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP.
PRP is derived from your own blood and has been used successfully for over 30 years in countless procedures around the world — including dentistry, orthopedic surgery, and sports medicine.
The list of professional athletes who have benefited from PRP treatments reads like a who’s who in pro sports: Rafael Nadal, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Troy Polamalu, Andre Johnson, Nelson Cruz, Ray Lewis, Hines Ward, Fred Couples, Cliff Lee, Takashi Saito, Michael Young, Jonathan Bornstein, Tracy McGrady … the list goes on.
In addition the “headline grabbing” world of professional sports, the benefits of PRP have also been applied very successfully to anti-aging and skin-rejuvenation procedures. In this application, PRP injections cause the skin to produce more collagen and keratin and repair everything from acne to scars to wrinkles — even stretch marks.
The results are incredible and typically last between 12 to 18 months, and there is also a cumulative effect from these procedures. In addition, PRP therapy is 100 percent natural (autologous), and it is performed in doctor’s office in about an hour.
What is PRP and where does it come from?
Blood is made up of four major components: red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma (lymph), and platelets. The “cellular” portion of blood is composed of 91 percent red blood cells, 6 percent platelets, and 1 percent white blood cells. Plasma is the straw-colored medium within which all the other components are suspended. Plasma is what allows blood to be fluid. Without plasma, the heart wouldn’t be able to pump the remaining slurry of cells, platelets, proteins, hormones, waste products, and other molecules.
Platelet rich plasma is exactly what the name implies: plasma that contains a higher-than-normal concentration of platelets. Injecting plasma that contains 4-8 times the normal amount of platelets into and around ageing or injured tissue promotes rejuvenation and healing — regardless of when the problem is or when it started.
How Does PRP Eliminate Wrinkles?
Platelets accelerate healing by releasing several different classes of bioactive molecules such as growth factors and glycoproteins, which jump-start tissue repair and regeneration. When it comes to healing injuries, platelet-derived growth factors and glycoproteins do the heavy lifting.
These bioactive molecules initiate tissue repair and rejuvenation on a cellular level by activating local stem cells. The stem cells, in turn, stimulate the growth of new collagen and keratin by signaling the fibroblasts and keratinocytes in the dermal layer of your skin to produce more collagen and keratin respectively. Once the underlying support structures in the dermal layer have been sufficiently repaired, it smoothes the peaks and valleys in this deeper skin layer.
The net effect of this rebuilding process is that PRP heals scars, acne, pockmarks, wrinkles, lines, burns, stretch marks, and skin folds from the inside out. This healing occurs regardless of the area of concern: face, neck, hands, arms, legs and so on. PRP injections even improve the healing of diabetic ulcers.
PRP also enhances blood flow to the in and around the injection site(s) through the formation of new capillaries and blood vessels (angiogenesis), which enhances and accelerates the wound-healing process.
The science behind PRP
My patients often ask me if I think PRP will work for their cosmetic and aesthetic issues. My initial answer is almost always “yes.” And I make sure they understand that the exact level of restoration/regeneration depends upon the individual.
What gives me the confidence to say “yes” is that while PRP therapy has been used successfully for many years in wound healing and skin rejuvenation. Also, numerous medical scientists, dermatologists have studied PRP’s effect on wound healing and aesthetics — and the data is compelling.
For example, a 2010, study published in the French Journal Le Journal de Médecine Esthétique et de Chirurgie Dermatologique reviewed the data from three international studies of PRP on facial rejuvenation (in Japan, the UK, and Israel). Despite their differences, all three studies demonstrated convincing results.
As the articles’ author, Dr. S. Zenker concludes, “Both superficial and deep dermal applications can result in skin rejuvenation and global facial volumisation. PRP is a form of biostimulation that is safe and creates an immediate, long lasting volumetric effect with natural looking results. The technique is easy to perform and has virtually no side-effects.”
The key words in Dr. Zenker’s quote are: safe, immediate, long lasting, and no side-effects.
If you are thinking about some form of facial rejuvenation of wrinkles, skin folds, crow’s feet or the regeneration of new tissue to erase acne, pockmarks, or facial lacerations Dr. Zenker’s words ought to be music to your ears.
Although PRP is an amazingly effective form of therapy, it does have its limitations. It won’t make an elderly woman look like she did in her senior prom pictures. However, it can dramatically diminish the appearance of wrinkles, acne scars, and facial lines. The degree to which the wrinkles, lines, and scars disappear depends upon a number of factors including age, overall health, number of treatments, and how each person’s body responds to treatment.
When evaluating whether PRP is right for my patients, I ask them to consider the alternatives. Facelifts are very invasive, quite expensive, and often effective. Fractional laser treatments are also expensive and leave you looking like you spent the night in a tanning booth; however, the results can be quite effective. Botox® and volumising facial filler injections create striking results and are relatively inexpensive per treatment, but as with Cinderella, the clock strikes midnight all too soon, and then it’s time for another round of injections. Over time, Botox® and facial filler injections can also weaken the collagen and keratin in your skin; whereas, PRP injections, strengthen the skin by rebuilding the collagen-keratin matrix and stimulating the local stem cells to produce more of these and other vital tissues for healthy skin.
Because PRP uses your body’s own tissues (platelets suspended in plasma), it is inherently safe. It is relatively non-invasive (the injections are given with very fine needles), and the only side effects are at the injection sites (tiny spots of blood and perhaps some minor bruising). The cost is a fraction of more invasive procedures, and you walk out of our office in about an hour.
For the first 12 hours, the only way anyone would know that you had a procedure done is that your face is rosier than usual. The effects also take shape gradually over the first three weeks as your skin rebuilds itself. It’s so gradual that people will wonder what you’ve done to look so much younger.
If the information I have provided here sounds promising, I recommend that you make an appointment for a consultation and see if PRP skin rejuvenation is right for you. I can be reached at Great Alchemy at 303-554-4444.