We are all about the latest and most innovative ways to take care of our skin here at Byrdie HQ, so when Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections became popular courtesy of Kim Kardashian West and other notable industry influencers, we took notice. One of our editors even tried the treatment for herself.
So, what are PRP injections, you ask? Well… it’s complicated, though we’re sure you’ve seen the “vampire facial” photos circulating the internet. To break things down, we spoke to three top dermatologists, who let us in on what all the fuss is about. Turns out, the scary-looking treatment may just be a modern miracle. Keep reading to find out more.
What Are PRP Injections?
PRP has been used for decades for wound and soft tissue healing by orthopedic surgeons and wound care physicians. However, more recently, there has been a large amount of research and clinical evidence demonstrating PRP’s regenerative properties for the treatment of scars, minimizing pores, fine wrinkles, volume loss, hair loss, and skin rejuvenation. “Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a preparation of platelets in concentrated blood plasma with regenerative growth factors used to stimulate skin healing, collagen production, other important proteins that support the skin,” says Melissa Levin, MD.
There are many clinical applications for PRP—it’s used for the treatment of hair loss, acne scars, surgical scars, stretch marks, pigmentation, volume loss, wrinkles, fine lines, and crepey skin texture. “In our skin, fibroblasts are the cells responsible for making important proteins such as collagen and elastin, both of which are important proteins in keeping the skin supple and youthful,” explains Levin. “Fibroblasts also play a key role in the aging process beyond making collagen and elastin, but also its interactions with other skin cells as well as the overall matrix underneath the skin. Since PRP is laden with growth factors from a patient’s own platelets, dermatologists are taking advantage of its regenerative properties in order to treat many skin conditions and particularly, aging of the skin.”
What's the Process Like?
“Blood is drawn, it’s spun down to concentrate and isolate platelets and other healing factors, and then resuspended into a platelet-rich solution, which is then applied to the skin after laser and micro-needling procedures,” says Jennifer Herrmann, MD. “It can also be injected into the skin with or without traditional soft-tissue fillers.”
Apparently, the less you manipulate the material, the better it works. “You want to stay away from an overcomplicated preparation that involves multiple spinning methods, multiple straining, etc.," notes Harold Lancer, MD. When it comes to the actual injections, he says, it’s incredibly technique-sensitive: “You have to be at a 90-degree angle, making sure the needles penetrate the skin uniformly.”
“The process takes about 30 minutes, can be repeated every four weeks if needed, and aside from bruising, has little to no negative side effects. The benefit for many people is the option to use their own natural body’s pathways to improve their skin, rather than injecting fillers," notes Rachel Nazarian, MD.
What Are Pre- and Post-Care Like?
Since PRP relies on platelet function, it is important to discontinue all medications that interfere with platelet function, says Levin. “I have my patients discontinue all blood thinning medications and herbal supplements one week before the procedure,” she notes. “Things like aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, and Aleve. If the patient is taking blood thinners such as Coumadin and Plavix, it is important to notify your dermatologist beforehand."
After the procedure, there is temporary redness, swelling, tingling, bruising, tenderness, and a feeling of fullness or pressure at the injection sites, Levin adds. “Gentle skincare post-procedure is absolute necessary,” she suggests. Since combining PRP injections or PRP with micro-needling makes small micro-wounds in the skin, repairing the lipid barrier function is important with gentle skincare products. “I recommend moisturizers without any potentially irritating ingredients. Look for products packed with healthy lipids like ceramides and humectants—they hydrate the skin. Hyaluronic acid is a favorite, dermatologist-recommended ingredient; it’s one of the most powerful and effective humectants used in moisturizers. Dermalogica Calm Water Gel ($48) has two different HA molecules: one sits on the upper layer of the stratum corneum giving an immediate effect while another penetrates deeper allowing for more long-term effects."
Lacci KM, Dardik A. Platelet-rich plasma: support for its use in wound healing. Yale J Biol Med. 2010;83(1):1-9.
Merchán WH, Gómez LA, Chasoy ME, Alfonso-Rodríguez CA, Muñoz AL. Platelet-rich plasma, a powerful tool in dermatology. J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2019;13(5):892-901. doi:10.1002/term.2832
Iriarte C, Awosika O, Rengifo-Pardo M, Ehrlich A. Review of applications of microneedling in dermatology. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:289-298. doi:10.2147/CCID.S142450