The human body has an incredible capacity to self-heal. It’s a principle celebrated in the medical field, of course, but it certainly applies to the beauty world, too. As skin care treatments get increasingly high-tech, one of the most popular and efficacious procedures combines all that newfangled equipment with one age-old element: your own DNA. Platelet-rich plasma facials, beloved by celebrities and everyday skin care aficionados alike, harnesses some of the body’s most powerful substances and injects it back into the complexion to help turn back the clock on fine lines and wrinkles as well as smooth out sun spots, overall discoloration, and even stimulate hair growth.
Sometimes known as a vampire facial, PRP all starts with a vial of your own blood. Kim Kardashian was an early adopter of what seemed like a shockingly extreme treatment when she posted an infamous blood-covered selfie back in 2013. In fact, the science behind PRP isn’t even necessarily that new. Dating back to the 1970s, the concept’s been employed for post-surgical recovery, to help with sports injuries and muscle inflammation, as well as treat osteoarthritis conditions. It was approved by the FDA back in 2009, which is when it started to gain momentum with the general public.
These days, PRP facials are routinely offered in dermatologists offices, medspas, and cosmetic surgeon clinics across the country. If you’re struggling with stubborn skin issues like melasma or volume loss that are often impervious to even the most powerful topicals, the solution might already be with you — quite literally. Ahead, everything you need to know about PRP facial treatments, straight from the experts who administer them.
What Are PRP Facials?
Platelet-rich plasma facials are, at their core, usually a form of microneedling. A certified professional will draw a small amount of blood in a sterile environment, then use an on-site, laboratory-grade centrifuge machine that uses (surprise) centrifugal force to spin the vial, separating out platelets and plasma from the patient’s red and white blood cells. Not all of your plasma is used, either. “There is platelet-rich plasma and platelet-poor plasma,” explains Dr. Laura Speck, board-certified dermatologist, of Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas. “The platelet-rich plasma is what I call the ‘liquid gold.’ It is packed with various components like growth factors that help to stimulate collagen growth, which leads to tighter, brighter, smoother, more youthful-looking skin.” Once all that liquid gold is extracted, it’s then injected back into your skin on the spot.
The PRP can be applied all over or strategically concentrated to target areas of highest concern — like if your undereyes are experiencing volume loss, Dr. Speck lists as one example. She qualifies that it’s not necessarily a one-to-one replacement for filler, but it is a solid alternative for those looking for a bit of an extra boost.
Who’s A Good Candidate For PRP?
One of the reasons PRP is exploding in popularity is thanks to how generally universal candidacy for it is. There are just a few disqualifying factors to look out for: active acne, eczema, cold sores, or psoriasis are all no-gos, but that typically applies to most skin care treatments. Dr. Speck also mentions that individuals with a platelet dysfunction syndrome or low platelet levels shouldn’t seek PRP. And because the practice is a form of microneedling, reconsider if you are someone who develops keloid scars easily.
Great news for expecting and breastfeeding mothers, however. Because PRP facials use your own blood, they’re totally safe for pregnant women, explains Madeline Stoffer, board-certified nurse practitioner and clinical lead at Skin Pharm’s Nashville flagship. As all medical professionals must, she does say to clear it with your individual obstetrician first — an always-critical step before any sort of treatment.
PRP facials are also equally safe and effective across a range of skin tones and melanin levels, Dr. Speck says. “Darker skin types can be at risk for hyperpigmentation with some resurfacing procedures, but this is not typically an issue with microneedling,” she assures prospective participants. “In fact, microneedling sessions can often help to improve hyperpigmentation and are also safe in patients with melasma,” she adds, both of which are more common in melanin-rich skin.
Getting Ready For A PRP Facial
Preparation for the treatment ideally starts before you even step into the office. Like so many other basic biological functions, platelet quantity — and therefore your PRP results — is informed by diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors, Dr. Speck says. To boost your platelet count before your facial, she advises high intensity exercise as well as a diet rich in folate, iron, and vitamin B12. She cites one example in which study participants took a 500mg papaya supplement one week prior to PRP treatments and found it increased their platelet count by 50,000. She also instructs to avoid aspirin and NSAIDS like Aleve or Ibuprofen for a full week prior to PRP, “and be sure to be very hydrated before your appointment,” she adds.
While the exact number of treatments needed varies depending on the patient, their individual biology, and the types of concerns they want to target, as many as six to eight rounds of PRP might be needed. From there, both Stoffer and Dr. Speck agree that quarterly follow-ups are recommended to maintain those results. “I am based in Texas, so for my patients who live out in the sun throughout the summer, I do advise that they skip the summer months,” Dr. Speck says, but she adds that if you’re careful about SPF and sun protection, it can still totally doable. While UV rays can stall or reverse the results, PRP doesn’t cause extra sun sensitivity the way some lasers or treatments can.
What To Expect At Your Appointment
No need to worry about pain from the treatment in general, though. “Some patients get nervous about having their blood drawn for PRP treatments,” Stoffer shares, “but this is just one tiny pinch, and then you’re done.” She says only about a tablespoon of blood is extracted, which takes very little time to draw — and as a distraction, the team gives patients a vibrating beauty bar and stress balls to play with. A topical numbing agent is also applied — and that’s where Kim Kardashian’s story comes into play again. She’s described her experience with PRP as a painful one, but that’s because she was pregnant and chose not to use a nerve-numbing cream for the treatment. You won’t have her bloody visage, either, don’t worry. The actual injections feel akin to plucking a brow hair, a split-second of mild sharpness.
PRP Facial Aftercare
The other major draw for the treatment is how minimal the recovery period is. The rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours before applying makeup, but if you can stretch that out by a few more days, all the better. “We recommend approximately three to five days of social downtime after treatment,” Stoffer tells TZR. “During this time frame, patients can expect to have some redness and sensitivity, often described as a windburn or sunburn look and feel. We also recommend avoiding prolonged exposure to direct sunlight for 48 to 72 hours post-treatment.”
Once you’re all healed up and glowing, Dr. Speck says the best way to maximize those results is to stick to a complementary skin care routine, proper antioxidants and a retinol at a minimum, plus a product packed with medical-grade peptides to further promote collagen growth.
With a doctor-approved routine and some platelet-boosted plasma, celebrity-quality skin just got a lot more accessible.