PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma)
- What is PRP?
- What the treatment involves
- How the treatment feels & skin looks afterwards
- Potential skin benefits
- Potential hair benefits
- Reliability of the effects
- Are there any contraindications?
- Number of treatments needed
- Combining PRP with other treatments
What is PRP?
PRP (or Platelet Rich Plasma) is a technique where a small amount of the patient’s own blood is used to extract the platelets and the patient’s own natural growth factors and then re-introduced into the area to be treated. It is thought that when these are re-introduced to the patient’s body, these natural platelets and their growth factors can stimulate the body’s own healing and regeneration. The growth factors that are thought to play a role include Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF), Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF), Transforming Growth Factor group (TGF), Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and others. These molecules are shown to regulate the body’s own natural wound healing. PRP has been used in several branches of medicine including orthopaedics, wound care, ophthalmology, cardiac surgery, oral surgery as well as in treating hair loss and dermatology.
What does the treatment involve?
A small amount of blood is taken into a special tube that contains a gel using a small needle. The blood is spun down using a centrifuge, and the combination of the gravity from the spinning and the gel separate the blood into different layers. The layer which we are interested in is the layer above the separated red blood cells, which contains the platelets. This is removed from the tube and then re-introduced into the skin either with injections using a very fine needle or after making tiny holes in the skin with our microneedling pen. Usually when treating the scalp for hair loss we use a very fine needle and when treating the skin we usually use microneedling, but either method can be used on either site.
What does the treatment feel like and what does the skin look like afterwards?
When the PRP is re-introduced into the skin with a very fine needle there will be a small puncture mark from the needle(s), which usually heals within a few hours. When microneedling is used there may be some minor pinpoint bleeding for a couple of hours and pinkness for approximately 24–48 hours. Local anaesthetic (numbing) cream or spray can be applied beforehand. The platelet rich plasma itself is a clear, slightly yellowish liquid which can be easily injected or rubbed into the microneedling holes.
As the PRP originates from the patient’s own blood it is usually very well tolerated and one would not usually expect any adverse or allergic reaction to the plasma. The scalp or skin is cleaned well before the injections to minimise the chance of infection with a gentle but powerful antiseptic cleanser.
What are the potential benefits to the skin?
The platelet rich plasma that is introduced into the skin contains the body’s own growth factors. These growth factors are capable of stimulating collagen and elastin product and blood vessel growth, so the hope is that they will stimulate production of these in the skin and thereby improve the appearance of the skin. PRP has also been suggested to enhance the benefits of scar treatments.
What are the potential benefits to the hair?
It has also been proposed that the body’s own growth factors and signals within the PRP may promote the development of hair follicles from stem cells and stimulate the anagen (growing) phase of hair growth. It is therefore hoped that they can help improve the types of hair loss where the anagen phase is impaired (e.g. male and female pattern alopecia—formerly called androgenetic alopecia—and telogen effluvium, which is hair shedding often caused by an underlying nutritional, vitamin or medical issue). There are a number of published studies which suggest that PRP can be beneficial in these situations.
How reliable are the effects of PRP?
The use of PRP in dermatology and hair loss is still a new area and the scientific world still needs to do more studies to establish the best methods and protocols. Like all new treatments, the results will vary from patient to patient and some individuals may see better results than others. However, there are a number of anecdotal reports and early published studies to suggest that this treatment can give pleasing results in some individuals, and as the method uses the body’s own blood, it is a very safe procedure.
Are there any contraindications?
It can be done all year round and in all skin types and all ages. It is wise not to perform PRP at a site where there has been a previous skin cancer or if you are taking chemotherapy drugs.
How many treatments will I need?
The exact number of treatments depends on your individual needs and requirements. In most cases of hair loss, skin rejuvenation and acne scars, the PRP sessions are done monthly for 4 months. It can then be “topped up” every 3–4 months as a maintenance.
Can PRP be combined with other treatments?
Yes, PRP works well alongside other treatments and may enhance the benefit of those treatments.