You may remember a certain Kardashian touting her vampire facial on Instagram a few years back. Her bloody picture certainly caused a stir, but vampire facials are more than just a fad, there’s actually sound science to back up the treatment, otherwise known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP).
PRP treatments have proven successful for treating sagging skin, fine lines, wrinkles, scarring and evening skin tone, and while it doesn’t entail undergoing any type of surgical procedure, it does use your own blood as part of the cocktail to promote collagen growth underneath skin.
“PRP refers to growth factors located in the platelet fraction of human blood,” explains Dr. Gerald Imber, plastic surgeon and director of New York City’s Youth Corridor Clinic. “A small amount of one’s own blood is drawn and the platelet fraction containing the growth factors is isolated. This sterile substance is either injected into the skin or applied with microneedling or both. It’s all-natural and allergy-free and must be performed by physicians or specially trained nurses.”
Like many popular treatments, PRP was not originally intended for cosmetic use. “It was first used to treat orthopedic injuries, like rotator cuff and tennis elbow, where it helps dramatically rehabilitate the injury and improve healing time,” says Imber. The fast-acting, rejuvenating results are why PRP has entered the esthetic and plastic surgery fields.
While it may sound like there would be at least 24 hours of downtime when blood is getting injected into your face, that’s not the case. Whether injected, microneedled or both, there is no downtime beyond a few minutes of ice application. The exception, Imber says, is when deeper microneedling is used. “This results in redness and superficial bleeding, but skin is usually ready to be seen in 24 to 48 hours.”
Unlike that post-facial glow, however, you won’t see an instant improvement with PRP; results usually start showing after a few days and continue to build over time. “The growth factors kick-start collagen production and skin becomes firmer, smoother, more evenly textured and fine wrinkles and lines begin to disappear,” says Imber. While one treatment yields improvement, he suggests three treatments a month apart for the best, longest lasting results. Women and men of all skin types benefit and Imber suggests starting to consider PRP in your late 20s as a preventative measure. “As you get older, it can only help correct signs of aging.”
Don’t think of PRP as a replacement for facials, peels or exfoliation. Those should all be continued, as they have different goals. PRP should be seen as a replacement for laser wrinkle removal and skin tightening, which is why prices are certainly higher than your run-of-the-mill facial. According to Imber, microneedling with PRP starts at $1,000 and PRP injections begin around $1,750. Microneedling with PRP injections costs around $2,250.
While no prep is necessary and it’s generally fine for everyone, make sure to discuss the treatment and your medical history with your doctor beforehand to ensure you are a candidate for this treatment. And if you’re the kind of person who gets queasy when you get a simple blood test, this “noninvasive” treatment is not for you. It’s also worth mentioning that the best way to keep skin looking young is to prevent rather than treat, so always use sunscreen — it’s the easiest and cheapest way to prevent skin aging.