What is Platelet-Rich-Plasma (PRP) Therapy?
PRP has become increasingly popular in recent months, after several high-profile celebrities have talked publicly about the benefits they have had from the treatment. It has also been nicknamed ‘The Vampire Facelift’. PRP has been used in other medical fields for many years – orthopaedic surgeons use it to treat ligament injuries. The best way to summarise PRP is that it is a new form of regenerative medicine that utilises nothing but the patient’s own blood.
What are platelets?
Platelets are a crucial part of the body’s ability to stop bleeding and to repair damaged blood vessels and cells in the body. A good way to think of them is as ‘little powerhouses’ which release proteins (called growth factors) when they become activated by contact with the body’s tissue. This activation promotes tissue repair and collagen production.
What is involved in a PRP treatment?
Initially you will have a consultation to determine the indications you have for treatment, your background medical history and also to explain the treatment fully to you. We will also take photographs of you as a record of your appearance before starting treatment.
For your actual treatment appointment you should allow around 90 minutes in total. Initially we will apply a local anaesthetic cream over the face and any other treatment areas. We will then take a small blood sample, usually from your arm. This is exactly the same procedure as you would have done at your GP surgery if you need a blood test. This sample is then put into a machine called a centrifuge which spins the blood very quickly for 10 minutes, separating it into its component parts.
When you remove the tube from the centrifuge it looks like this:
We will leave the local anaesthetic cream on your face for between 45 minutes and an hour. Whilst each injection is very tiny the procedure does involve multiple injections and we want you to be comfortable.
Part of the Platelet Poor Plasma (PPP) is kept to one side for use at the end of treatment. The PRP is mixed well, and then injected using extremely fine needles into the areas we have identified during our consultation. We will finish by cleaning the face, before applying a layer of PPP. Our recommendation would be to combine this treatment with a Genuine Dermaroller at this point. This allows the PPP to penetrate deeper into the skin, maximising the results.
Which areas can be treated with PRP therapy?
The following diagram summarises the areas best suited to PRP treatment
- Fine lines & creases on the forehead
- Hair loss
- Crepiness of the upper eyelid
- Dark circles & crepey skin under the eye
- Smile lines & open pores
- Nasolabial folds
- Poor skin texture
- Back of the hands
- Necklace lines & turkey neck
- Crepiness of the decolletage
- One of the real strengths of PRP is for rejuvenation of the under-eye area. This is a notoriously difficult area to treat and there are very few effective treatments available. PRP can improve the skin quality and decrease dark circles in this area.
- You can inject PRP into any areas where you would inject a dermal filler. It won’t have the same effect as a filler, as the two treatments work in different ways. However it will stimulate collagen production in this area which will plump and volumise this area with time.
- Open pores bother many people and are again a very difficult problem to treat. PRP helps to tighten these stubborn pores as well as improving the overall skin quality.
- With age many people notice the texture of the skin on their chin changes and looks quite coarse, which can be greatly improved with PRP.
- Hair loss is a very exciting area for treatment with PRP. Provided the hair follicles are intact PRP can stimulate new hair growth. This is particularly noticeable with treatment around the eye areas, where patients report increased lash growth. It can also be injected directly into the eyebrow and into the scalp to treat hair loss in these areas.
- PRP can be used to firm a turkey neck, and can be injected into the lines that run horizontally around our neck (necklace lines), for which there are very few other treatment options.
- The backs of the hands and décolletage can be plumped and the skin quality improved with PRP.
- There is increasing evidence for PRP as a treatment for stretch marks, with patients reporting decreased size of their stretch marks.
- PRP can be injected into any scars and will improve appearance by stimulating collagen production.
Is PRP therapy painful?
Because the local anaesthetic cream is left to work for a long time, most patients don’t find the treatment painful. Some areas can feel more uncomfortable than others, with injections directly into the lip border probably feeling the most sore.
Who should avoid PRP therapy?
Because PRP doesn’t involve injection of a medication there are very few patients who are not suitable for treatment, and most of the criteria listed below would actually be conditions meaning a patient would require hospital admission.
- Critical thrombocytopaenia (a low number of platelets in the blood)
- Haemodynamic instability (an unstable blood pressure)
- Infection at the site of injection
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding mothers
Who will benefit from PRP therapy?
Patients of any age can benefit from PRP therapy. Younger patients will notice an improvement in their skin quality, as well as targeting any early concerns they may have. As patients get older and show more signs of ageing there will be more specific areas to target.
How many PRP treatments will I need?
Treatment protocols will vary from patient to patient. We generally advise that patients over the age of 40 will need a course of 3 treatments spaced 4 to 6 weeks apart. Younger patients may only need 1, and some patients may require more dependent on their indications.
Will I notice results immediately?
Most people start to notice results themselves around 3-4 weeks with continuous improvements upto 6-12 months after treatment.
Are the results of PRP therapy permanent?
They are long-lived but not permanent. We advise people to have a maintenance treatment once a year after their initial course.
What are the pitfalls with PRP therapy?
PRP is a more subjective treatment than some of the other procedures we offer. It is impossible to predict the degree of response an individual person will have to treatment, and as such some patients will have a more dramatic result than others despite the same procedure being followed.
What are the side-effects of PRP treatments?
Because the treatment involves only injection of your own blood with nothing added to it, it is very safe. Side-effects, if they occur at all, are usually mild to moderate.
- Immediately after treatment most patients look a little puffy, particularly around the eyes. This is because the product is sitting within the skin and will settle over the next few hours. In some cases there can be mild swelling persisting for a few days after treatment.
- Many patients also complain of mild itchiness for the first 24-48 hours after treatment.
- Bruising is reasonably common around the eyes. This is because the under-eye area is very rich in small blood vessels and it is virtually impossible to avoid them.
Do I need to do anything to prepare before PRP treatment?
Ideally come to your appointment without make-up on, but otherwise there are no specific preparation instructions.
Is there anything I should avoid after my PRP treatment?
- Routinely, we apply a layer of PPP to the face as a serum at the end of the treatment. This means that you will be leaving with this on your skin. Try to avoid touching your face for the rest of the day, and avoid cleansing or moisturising your skin until the morning after treatment.
- Avoid applying make-up until the morning after your treatment.
Is PRP treatment like a facelift?
Although PRP therapy has been nicknamed the “Vampire Facelift” this is in our opinion a little misleading. Whilst PRP can produce dramatic results it does not physically lift the face and cannot be compared with the surgical techniques used during a facelift. PRP improves the quality, texture and volume of your skin. A facelift physically repositions tissues to the position they were in when a patient was 10-15 years younger.
Can PRP therapy be used together with other treatments?
PRP can be successfully combined with all other rejuvenating treatments offered at Illuminate Skin Clinics. We can discuss an individual treatment approach that addresses your needs, combining whichever treatments are most appropriate for you. PRP is even used by some surgeons in conjunction with a facelift.