what are platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments?
Our blood is made up of a mixture of liquid and cells:
- plasma (a liquid that carries the cells)
- red blood cells (to carry oxygen)
- white blood cells (to help fight infections)
- platelets (help the blood clot and heal wounds)
If we get injured (for example we cut our finger), the platelet cells become activated. As part of this process, they release substances known as 'growth factors' - these are unique proteins that stimulate healing. Under normal conditions, our blood only is only made up of around 6% platelets.
PRP treatments utilise a technique where we take advantage of this healing process. It's actually very simple - we do it by increasing the concentration of platelets using simple technology. Because it involves blood, a variant of the PRP technique became known as the 'Vampire Facial' and was made famous by Kim Kardashian a few years ago.
PRP treatments aren't a spa-treatment or a gimmick, they are a well established technique that has been used for many years in other non-cosmetic branches of medicine including orthopaedic surgery (for the bones and joints) to also help healing.
what areas are typically treated?
PRP treatments are used for five main indications:
the under eyes
- for darkness, fine lines and crepey skin
the rest of the face
- for skin texture improvement
the neck/chest areas
- to improve skin texture and the 'necklace' lines
- to improve thinning hair (this can't be done for bald areas)
- to improve sexual function in both women & men
(more commonly known as the 'O-shot®' or 'P-shot®')
how do we increase the number of platelets?
The concentration of platelets varies depending on the method of extraction and brand of equipment being used. But published studies* have shown that a statistical benefit can be obtained if the PRP used has an increased platelet concentration of x 4 or more greater than normal blood.
*Platelet rich plasma injection grafts for musculoskeletal injuries: a review. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2008 Dec;1(3-4):165-74
*Dental and craniofacial applications of platelet- rich plasma. Carol Stream: Quintessence Publishing Co, Inc.; 2005
*A new technique for hemodilution, preparation of autologous platelet-rich plasma and intraoperative blood salvage in cardiac surgery. Int J Artif Organs. 1987;10:47–50
how do we do a PRP treatment?
We take a sample of your own blood - this is known as 'venepuncture'. It's quick, painless and is exactly the same method that your GP would do for a routine blood test.
The tubes of blood taken are put into a machine called a centrifuge. This separates the plasma and platelets from the red and white blood cells. This liquid is golden-coloured and is now called platelet-rich plasma'
The platelet-rich plasma is then drawn up into a small syringe with a very fine needle - this allows us to inject it back into the skin delicately
Platelet rich plasma treatments only use the plasma and the platelet cells of the blood. The red and white blood cells are separated from the plasma and platelets in the centrifuge. This simple technique spins the blood sample tubes collected at high speed - the heavier red blood cells sink to the bottom of the tubes, leaving the lighter plasma and platelets at the top. (Imagine cream floating to the top of the milk, this is the platelet-rich plasma)
PRP treatment protocols
It depends on what area of the body we are treating but as a rough guide a minimum of:
under eyes - 3 treatments (1 per month)
face - 3 treatments (1 per month)
thinning hair - 4 treatments (1 per month)
sexual function - 1 or 2 treatments
Each session is spaced apart by around 4 weeks. You will then want to repeat it once or twice a year for maintenance.
It's important to state that you'll still need to take care of your skin & body and shouldn't view PRP treatments as a quick or definitive fix. It's absolutely essential to use factor 50 sun cream everyday in the Australian climate, to be mindful of drinking enough water every day (2.5L or more), to stop smoking and to use medical grade skin care products to optimise your skin.