Lately there has been a lot of discussion about platelet rich plasma, or PRP. It’s being used mainly in orthopedics and sports medicine to boost healing in bone grafts and fractures. So naturally, people in the world of aesthetics are jumping on the bandwagon.
Where the vampires come in.
Microneedling with PRP (platelet rich plasma) was widely publicized as a “vampire” procedure when Kim Kardashian had it done on her TV show. Yet, the science to support its use aesthetically is at best contradictory and at worst absent. Suffice it to say that I am on the side of Buffy with this one.
Let’s talk platelets and growth factors
Platelets are fragments of larger blood cells which are formed in our bone marrow. They have several important functions in the blood including helping the blood to clot, but they also contain seven fundamental protein growth factors.
Once activated, these growth factors attach to the membranes of cells, causing them to produce substances that help with tissue repair and tissue generation. Essentially they turn on the cells to help with healing and regeneration. So, it would make sense that trying to harness these platelets with their growth factors could be a good thing for anti-aging, right? Maybe, but not in the simplistic way it’s being done.
What’s being marketed as “PRP”
Many providers have started offering their version of PRP facials. In these, about 10 cc’s of blood is drawn, spun down in a special (and very expensive) tube in a centrifuge. This separates the plasma from the blood cells, and this plasma is then used instead of a hyaluronic gel during microneedling. Other practitioners are using this plasma with fillers with the thought that you will have a better, longer result (more vampire marketing). Again, this sounds good, right? Well, not really.
If that simple procedure seems too good to be true, it’s because it is.
I will say that we have tried this one-step process to get “PRP” for microneedling with our SkinPen. Aside from the issue of not being about to draw blood on one person (poor veins), we found that the product produced was thin, difficult to use, and did not give much of a result. Any respectable vampire would turn their nose up at this watery liquid.
What’s really involved in isolating PRP
To truly get PRP, several things must be done. First, you have to quantitate the platelet count in your blood – not enough platelets means not enough PRP. A larger volume of blood must be used, usually about 30 cc’s. Then two separate centrifugations, for different times and at different speeds, must be done to isolate real PRP. Then this PRP must be activated prior to use for the growth factors to actually do their thing.
Even with real PRP, the science is murky at best.
There are several reports about the use of PRP in the aesthetic literature. Many show varying results which cannot be truly quantified or reproduced. One report compared microneedling alone with microneedling with real PRP. Both had good results, but there was no real difference in the two. Some people have pointed to this study saying that it shows that PRP really works, when in fact this just shows that microneedling gives good results.
The results from other studies are even less clear. The authors of these studies all conclude that PRP works, but a detached look at their data does not seem to warrant the conclusions that are drawn from it. It seems that the different investigators are much more impressed with their work and their results than anyone else is.
Every time I think we have heard the last of this vampire stuff it comes back again to bite us. Can we please put a stake in it for once and for all? (Sorry, had to do it.) Seriously, if vampires never show their age, it’s not because of PRP Facials.
Where do we go from here?
We do believe that we are on the right track with the use of growth factors. As I wrote in my recent blog, I can really see a difference in the skin care products that contain them. So, we think that there is a real place for using growth factors specifically with our SkinPen procedure.
But how do we get the growth factors? Is there an easier way to produce or acquire a consistent and effective yield of growth factors? Hmmmmm. We think there may be. So, read on for Part 2.
Our Game-Changing SkinPen Procedure: Yay! No Blood Required. Part 2A better way to get your growth factors. I left off Part 1 of my last (vampirish) article with the question of whether there was an easier way to acquire and use growth factors for microneedling than drawing blood and using Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Could we find a product with a consistent yield of the growth … Read more
All the best,
David B. Reath, MD