Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is used cosmetically as a skin rejuvenation tool, for supporting hair regrowth and regenerating skin. The concentrated platelets contain growth factors that stimulate tissue regeneration and renewal.
PRP skin rejuvenation was made famous by Kim Kardashian, with the ‘vampire facial’, but PRP can be used in many medical circumstances to improve the performance of regenerating cells across the body. PRP is being used for sports injuries and some degenerative diseases, such as osteoarthritis in the knee.
Beware, some clinics only perform a low-grade ‘swish’, which is not nearly as effective as the full PRP treatments we perform at ENRICH.
How we use PRP cosmetically
- Reduces healing time after laser treatments
- Rejuvenates skin
- Improves overall skin quality
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Smooths skin texture
- Improves uptake of fat transfers
- Promotes hair regrowth in hair loss
How PRP is used medically
- Accelerating surgical wounds and injuries
- Tendon injuries
- Orthopaedic surgery
- Dental surgery
- Cosmetic surgery
- Heart surgery
What is plasma?
Plasma is your body’s diamond and jewel (and junk) transportation system. You can think of plasma as the river, and your cells, nutrients, messengers – and platelets – as the precious cargo that gets carried around in the flow, dropped off where it needs to go.
What are platelets?
Platelets are disc-like cells (like a tiny plate) floating around in your bloodstream waiting for something ‘bad’ to happen so they can activate, and start the repair process. Your platelets are your body’s little paramedics, the local emergency response team.
Platelets swing into action (activate) when you damage your skin or tissue, binding together to form a clot and sending off a ‘got an emergency, guys!’ signal to other nearby cells. When platelets are just floating around your bloodstream, they are not activated and don’t do anything much.
Activated platelets secrete growth factors and produce a special ‘glue’ (fibrin fibres) that control the delivery of growth factors to damaged tissue and help the platelets stick together. Activated platelets also produce anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial elements, keeping inflammation down and microbes out.
This first response mechanism is why activated platelet-rich plasma – blood with lots of active platelets in it – can work well for use in regenerative medicine and cosmetic skin rejuvenation. It’s not just regular inactive platelets being injected – it’s ready-to-work, getting-their-hands-dirty, highly-concentrated activated platelets, primed and ready to regenerate.
How do we get activated platelet-rich plasma?
First, we draw blood (30-50ml or 2-4 tablespoons) from your arm for PRP treatments. Only your own blood is ever used, which means PRP is a very low-risk treatment.
To get the plasma to be highly concentrated with platelets (platelet-rich), the blood has to go through a special machine, a centrifuge, to remove the components we don’t need. The centrifuge takes less than 10 minutes to perform its separation task, while you watch in the clinic.
The heavy bits, like red blood cells, sink to the bottom of the vial in the spinning centrifuge, and the lighter bits – like platelets – rise to the top. This leaves us with the separated plasma with a high concentration of platelets in it: platelet-rich plasma.
Once we have the PRP, we add an activating agent into the PRP to make the platelets active. That is, to start secreting their high-octane growth factors that kick off the natural healing and regeneration process wherever we inject them.
PRP contains 5-7 times more platelets than normal blood, resulting in about 95 per cent platelets, compared with normal blood which has just six per cent platelets. At ENRICH, we use the highly specialised, state-of-the-art Angel PRP centrifuge to get more platelets out of your plasma, enhancing the results of our PRP treatments.
Be wary as some clinics or salons use a lower-grade centrifuge that may only give you minimal platelets which can mean an ineffective treatment. Always ask questions of you practitioners.
What are PRP growth factors?
There are some special growth factors found in platelets (PRP growth factors) that are beneficial for the regeneration of tissue, particularly skin. There are about 30 known growth factors in platelets, but the main four that we take advantage of are:
- Epidermal growth factor (EGF) – ‘epidermal’ means the outer layer of skin cells, and EGF stimulates cell growth and helps repair tissue
- Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) – makes new blood vessels
- Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) – fibroblasts are skin cells, so FGF encourages cells to multiply and turn into specialised cells, and supports wound healing
- Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) – encourages new blood vessels to develop
How well do PRP and PRP growth factors work?
PRP is a relatively new cosmetic treatment that is still undergoing rigorous scientific study, however initial studies on PRP and PRP growth factors have proved very promising. Across 14 reviewed studies, all reported positive aesthetic outcomes with PRP injections, with the most common reported benefits being:
- Increases in volume (creates more youthful-looking face)
- Improvements in texture (smoother skin)
- Improved tone (reduces redness/blotchiness)
- Decreased appearance of wrinkles
- Increased hair growth after male-pattern hair loss
- Improvements in the appearance of facial acne scarring
Read a scientific review on the beneficial use of PRP for facial rejuvenation.
How many PRP treatments will I need?
The number of PRP treatments you get will depend largely on what your skin or hair-growth goals are. PRP for skin rejuvenation or hair loss usually requires three treatments at 4-6-week intervals, but you can expect these results to last for up to two years.
Does PRP work instantly?
The nature of using your body’s own healing systems means seeing the visible results of PRP treatments takes a little time. Collagen production takes about three months, but the first thing you’ll notice is an improvement in skin elasticity and firmness. This will start relatively soon after your first treatment, and increase over time and with further treatments.
Factors that decrease the effectiveness of treatments include smoking, stress, and being generally unwell.
What to expect after PRP treatments
There will be some mild to moderate swelling in the treatment area immediately after the injections, which goes down quickly – within days. The area might feel hot and be red, which is the immediate reaction of the activated platelets in your skin.
The blood injection itself is fluid, so some extra fluid (swelling) will be present for a few days until it is absorbed. Any bruising will be short-lived – those activated platelets set up a great clean-up job!
If you have a big event coming up, we recommend planning your treatments well in advance, to accommodate the 4-6 weeks between the three typical treatments. For more information on PRP treatments, read our patient information and FAQ.
Please note this blog was written in 2019, and whilst still effective for hair growth, there may be treatments specifically for skin rejuvenation that are more suitable. Contact ENRICH Clinic to discuss.
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