Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP): Current Applications in Dermatology

Jason Emer, MD


Skin Therapy Letter. 2019;24(5):1-6. 

In This Article

Skin Rejuvenation

Several reports demonstrate improvements in traumatic scars and acne scars with PRP treatment. Increases in collagen density and dermal elastic fibers are notable benefits when using PRP in aesthetic dermatology. When PRP is used in combination with other therapies, such as laser treatments, microneedling, and hyaluronic acid fillers, further improvements in skin appearance are achieved (Figure 3). Autologous fat grafting combined with PRP to enhance long-term fat survival has preliminarily shown positive results. Furthermore, cosmetic improvements in striae distensae have been noted when combining radiofrequency, laser, and ultrasound therapies with PRP.

Figure 3.

Female full facial rejuvenation, notice the significant improvement in texture, color, and tone of the skin. Combination approach of: fillers to improve the lateral lateral cheeks, chin, and lips; internal radiofrequency (InMode FaceTite™) and liposuction to the lower face and neck; Botox® Cosmetic for chemical brow lifting (glabellar "11" lines) and eye wrinkles (crow's feet); microneedling radiofrequency (InMode Fractora™) with PRP in a series of three treatments in a 12 month period.

Acne Scars & Traumatic Scars

Multiple studies indicate significant improvement in appearance of acne scars, as well as traumatic scars, when using PRP[13,14] (Figure 4). Cutaneous injuries may result in scar tissue, presenting aesthetic and functional issues. Optical coherence tomography revealed improved acne scar depth when PRP was used with fractional laser therapy, compared to laser alone.[3]

Figure 4.

Acne scar improvement, laser resurfacing plus topical PRP.

A decrease in erythema and edema is observed when treating acne scars with PRP. Improved skin elasticity and increased collagen and fibroblasts are also noted when treating scars.[15]

Combination Therapies: Lasers & Microneedling

The use of PRP in conjunction with laser therapies and microneedling is increasingly popular in aesthetic dermatology. Fractional laser resurfacing and microneedling treatments create small holes in the skin, which act to enhance uptake and delivery of PRP.[2] Combining PRP with laser therapies and microneedling procedures improves wound healing and shortens recovery times, as well as reduces erythema and melanin index of treated areas.[14,16,20] Transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and inflammatory hyperpigmentation are also found to be significantly lower when combining PRP with device treatments. Patients treated with PRP after CO2 or erbium fractional resurfacing have improved skin elasticity, increased fibroblasts, and notably thicker collagen bundles when compared to laser treated sites without added PRP.[20] Furthermore, there is anecdotal evidence of improved healing times with PRP combined with laser therapy, as well as earlier granulation, decreased erythema, and improved outcomes.

Dermal Augmentation

Combining PRP with hyaluronic acid-based fillers has been popular and widespread in cosmetic dermatology for several years. The "Vampire Facelift" was coined after combining PRP and dermal fillers; this technique has become well-known via social media. The numerous growth factors in PRP are thought to rejuvenate the skin, improving texture and smoothness, while also decreasing rhytids.[22,23] Hyaluronic acid fillers or other dermal augmentation agents serve as a scaffold to which PRP can bind and enhance skin rejuvenation, as well as enhance soft tissue augmentation[2] (Figure 5). Lasting cosmetic improvements are seen when treating nasolabial folds, horizontal neck bands, skin homogeneity and tonicity, and facial rhytids with dermal fillers combined with PRP. Studies have also indicated significant improvements in rhytids and skin tone in the infraorbital region.[24]

Figure 5.

Substantial improvements in texture and color of the skin along with dark circles and ocular hollows (i.e., tear troughs) with topical and injectable PRP combined with fractional CO2 laser resurfacing at 1 month.

Augmented Fat Injections

Combining PRP with autologous fat grafting is thought to bolster survival of the injected fat. Autologous fat injections have gained popularity for facial rejuvenation and dermal augmentation, as the fat grafts are deemed safe and free from potentially transmissible blood-borne pathogens due to the autologous origin of the fat. Pure PRP preparations with a fibrin matrix (P-PRFM) binds and traps growth factors contained within PRP, releasing them more slowly, ensuring prolonged survival of injected fat.[7] Reports have indicated considerable potential for the use of PRP with augmented fat injections, while some investigations indicate no significant improvement was observed. Patients with HIV-associated facial fat atrophy treated with PRP fat grafting did not experience a significant difference in cosmetic appearance when compared to fat injections alone.[17] However, results from other studies indicate PRP enhances volume retention of injected fat, maintains volume overtime, and reduces revision rates.[7,18,19] In the author's opinion (JE) there is a substantial improvement in fat viability and retention with the use of PRP in a high enough ratio of PRP to fat; although that "ratio" is not defined based on the current studies in the literature and in practice at least 4–8:1 (fat to PRP) is utilized for a noticeably improved long-term outcome.

Striae Distensae

Continuous stretching of the skin often leads to atrophic dermal scars, known as striae distensae. Reports indicate beneficial cosmetic outcomes when combining intradermal radiofrequency and ultrasound devices with PRP.[21,25] Ultrasound therapies often follow radiofrequency treatments, as ultrasound assists in transepidermal penetration of PRP. Abdominal biopsies posttreatment have indicated increases in collagen density and elastic fibers, and the majority of patients report good or very good improvements in cosmetic appearance of their striae distensae.[21]