Want to look younger? If you do, then you may want to consider platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments for a more youthful face and fuller head of hair.
What is Platelet-Rich Plasma?
Over the past two years we have discussed the potential use and benefits of stem cells to treat a variety of medical conditions. Stem cells contain a number of chemicals and molecules that enable the body to repair itself. These include growth factors, anti-inflammatory factors, and antibacterial factors.
Stem cells are very much at the center of the rapidly evolving field of Regenerative Medicine. But, stem cells are not readily assessable. Invasive procedures are necessary to harvest one’s own stem cells. Platelet-rich plasma represents a potentially less expensive alternative though platelet-rich plasma does not quite possess the fire power of stem cells. But for some medical conditions it possesses enough to get the job done.
Platelet-rich plasma have been described as poor man’s stem cells. They contain anywhere from 30 to 200 growth factors (not nearly as much as stem cells) that can be used to treat tendon and joint problems. Platelet-rich plasma is being used more and more in orthopedics both in the office setting as well as being used as an adjunct to surgical repairs. And, its uses are expanding.
What Happens as Skin Ages?
We may not know how to describe it, but we all recognize aging skin when we see it. Aging facial skin is characterized by:
- A loss of color. Skin becomes more gray and loses that pinkish hue.
- Loss of shape. We lose collagen, fat, and even some bone as we age. This is most pronounced in the cheeks leading to the skin under the eyes to sag.
- Loss of texture. Skin becomes rough, pores become larger, and wrinkles occur.
Plastic surgery will remove excess skin and remove wrinkles by making the skin tighter. But, it does not address the loss of volume (from loss of collagen, fat, and bone) especially in the cheek areas. In and of itself, it does not restore the loss of shape that occurs with aging.
Fillers that contain hyaluronic acid like Voluma and Juvaderm will restore loss of volume and indirectly tighten the skin by expanding volume but may not remove wrinkles entirely and does not fully address the loss of texture.
So when it comes to aesthetics there really is not one good treatment option. Even plastic surgeons offer more than just surgery to obtain a more natural and complete aesthetic restoration.
So where does platelet-rich plasma in the list of aesthetic options?
PRP addresses the loss of skin color, the loss of shape, and loss of skin texture but it may not address all of them adequately enough if skin shows too much wear and tear. It is a treatment that is more effective during the early stages of aging of skin and then periodically repeated to maintain results.
Platelet-Rich Plasma for a Better Appearance
Platelet-rich plasma is being used to restore a more youthful appearance. There are two ways PRP is being used in the field of aesthetics. PRP can be injected into problem areas involving the face and forehead or it can be applied directly to the skin following micro needling. PRP therapy to enhance the appearance of the face is sometimes called the vampire facial.
In both procedures a small amount of blood is taken from the arm and collected in a tube. The tube is placed in a centrifuge and spun down. This separates the plasma which contains platelets from the white and red blood cells. The plasma is then collected in syringes and injected either directly into problem areas. Or, in the case of the vampire facial the PRP is applied topically to the face after a micro needling procedure.
Micro needling has been done in aesthetic medicine for years. The rational for its use is that micro needling causes micro trauma to the skin. This then triggers a healing response by the body activating growth factor and setting off a cascade of events that leads to healing response making the skin look more youthful. Full benefit may take four to six months for this healing response to occur and mature.
This healing response has two phases. In the first phase epidermal growth factors, fibroblast chemotaxis and fibroblast proliferation and matrix production occur. In the second phase collagen I, III, and IV, elastin, proteoglycans, and GAG are deposited. Collagen gives skin its integrity and firmness while elastin gives skin it stretchability as the name implies.
All of these actions from PRP create volume, lessens wrinkle lines, and restores a more youthful color and texture to the skin.
How is micro needling performed?
A pen with small needles is tracked over the skin creating the micro trauma. This brings blood to the injured area and stimulates growth factors into action. By applying plasma-rich platelets to the traumatized skin a more robust healing response is activated with better results than from micro needling alone.
Platelet-Rich Plasma and Thinning Hair
PRP is also being used to treat thinning hair. Places like Bosley Medical which has pioneered hair transplantation now offer PRP injections to thwart hair loss.
As in the case for the face, a small amount of blood is obtained from the area and spun down in a centrifuge to separate out the plasma containing platelets which are then injected into the scalp. PRP will then trigger existing hair follicles to produce thicker hair in the ensuing months. The treatments can then be repeated on a periodic basis to maintain a thick head of hair (three to six months to annually depending on results desired). Platelet-rich plasma will not work on areas that are already completely absent of hair.
One possible side benefit of PRP for hair loss is some patients reports at least a partial return of their graying hair to its original color.
What is the Cost for Platelet-Rich Plasma?
The cost of platelet-rich plasma varies throughout the country. An average cost for the vampire facial is in the $1,000 to $1,500 range per treatment. When used for hair loss expect to pay around $750 a treatment. Insurance does not cover the cost of PRP.