Saturday, November 7, 2015

Microneedling with PRP

By Delia von Neuschatz

If you’re looking for the fountain of youth you may not have to go far. The key to turning back the clock may very well be found in your own blood. More specifically, the platelet rich plasma (PRP) contained therein, called “liquid gold” by some doctors, is made up of fundamental protein growth factors which aid with cell growth, tissue repair and collagen production. PRP therapy, which has been popular in Europe for years, has been used by elite athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez to treat sports injuries. It has also been used to stimulate hair growth.
Bar Rafaeli and Kim Kardashian undergoing microneedling with PRP.
But what will it do for my crows feet, you wonder? When delivered via a microneedling process, it may very well diminish them, along with reversing the effects of sun damage and improving the appearance of acne scars and hyperpigmentation. The end result should be more resilient, thicker skin with fewer lines and wrinkles. And because it is your own blood from which PRP is derived, there is virtually no risk of allergic reactions.
The Rejuvapen, one of the microneedling instruments on the market, is capped with nine hair-thin surgical needles.
The minimally invasive microneedling technique involves a series of tiny, very fine needles which are passed over the skin, creating micro-injuries which trigger new collagen and elastin synthesis as the skin begins to naturally repair itself. These micro-injuries also create channels that allow various substances – serums or your own plasma – to penetrate deeper into the skin resulting in better product efficacy.
Needle depths of microneedling pens.
Appropriate for all skin types, celebrities have been jumping on the bandwagon for this so-called vampire facial which counts Kim Kardashian and Bar Rafaeli are among its devotees. Nor is the procedure limited to the face. It can also be used on numerous body parts including the neck, décolleté and arms.
Board certified dermatologist, Dr. Doris Day: “You have to respect microneedling as a medical treatment.”
“PRP is the future,” says dermatologist Dr. Doris Day. “It will become a mainstay of our rejuvenation treatments. But, buyer beware because in this country, we’re still figuring out the different techniques and protocols,” she cautions. “Expectations have to be realistic. PRP won’t tighten up your skin, but it should improve its quality and result in long lasting hair growth if that’s what you’re after.” In the wrong hands, it could lead to scarring. So, needless to say, going to someone knowledgeable and experienced is of paramount importance.
David Shafer, M.D., FACS
For my treatment, I went to the offices of Dr. David Shafer, a double board certified plastic surgeon. But before beginning the procedure, I was placed in front of a Vectra 3D imaging machine (with my hair pulled back) which captured the amount of sun damage and the structural condition of my face. The idea is to compare the before and after in 6 weeks’ time.
The Vectra 3D Imaging System takes ultra high resolution face, breast and body images revealing subsurface skin conditions and showing the results of simulated aesthetic procedures – i.e. what you would look like after liposuction, rhinoplasty or breast augmentation.
The alarming amount of sun damage I have incurred as revealed by the Vectra machine. This was an unpleasant surprise because at least outwardly, my pale skin is relatively smooth and also, I haven’t left the house in the last ten years without an SPF of 50 on my face, rain or shine. Medical aesthetician Graceanne Svendsen reasons that the moderate to high level of sun damage is probably a vestige of my sun-worshipping teens and twenties. The white, undamaged skin around the eyes is due to the fact that I always wear sunglasses.
This image shows the contouring of the face highlighting any structural weaknesses.
The procedure began with Dr. Shafer drawing a bit of blood. He then placed the blood in a centrifuge which spun it at a very rapid rate, separating the platelets from the red and white blood cells. In the meantime, my face was numbed with a lidocaine cream. As soon as the lidocaine took effect, Graceanne Svendsen, Dr. Shafer’s medical aesthetician, topically applied the platelet-rich plasma on a part of my face and passed the microneedling pen over that section.

The process was repeated until my entire face had been covered, including the under-eye areas. The procedure, which lasted approximately 45 minutes including the blood-drawing, wasn’t painful, but my skin stung a bit and felt tight in the immediate aftermath. I looked like I had had a sunburn and there was some swelling and bruising too. I was very thankful for the Oxygenetix breathable foundation which Graceanne gently patted on my face post procedure.
Graceanne Svendsen, licensed medical aesthetician.
The blood drawn for the PRP treatment.
The vial of blood is placed in the centrifuge and then spun around for 10 minutes. “The process of centrifugation concentrates the beneficial components of blood enhancing their effects,” explains Dr. Shafer.
After centrifugation, the red and white blood cells were separated from the plasma and platelets forming the cloudy substance in the center.
Dr. Shafer then withdrew the PRP serum from the vial. The unused remnants were discarded.
That night, I slept with my head in an elevated position and took a Benadryl to reduce the swelling (as per Graceanne’s recommendation). The next day, I was still quite red and had a little bit of bruising, but was less swollen. The day after that, my skin started peeling. All in all, it took about two days for the redness to go away and another two for the peeling to stop. It is important to note here that the reaction to treatment depends on the condition of your skin. I recommend that anyone who decides to undergo this procedure clear their social calendars for a couple of days afterwards.

And what about the cost? In New York City, prices range between $1,500 to $2,500 per treatment for microneedling with PRP. One to two treatments per year should suffice provided one stays hydrated and follows a good skin care routine at home according to Graceanne.

You want to give your skin a boost, but would prefer something that doesn’t involve blood drawing or is friendlier on the wallet? Then microneedling with a serum may be the thing for you. “It’s like microdermabrasion on steroids,” explains Donna Fay, Dr. Steven Pearlman’s resident Beauty Expert. As with the PRP procedure, the skin is numbed and a set of tiny needles is passed over the face, but a serum is what’s topically applied in lieu of your own plasma. After this procedure (administered by Donna), I looked like I had a mild sunburn for a day. When the redness cleared, I was left with soft, smooth, more evenly toned skin for the next several days. “This is something you can do 2-3 days prior to an event or before the weekend to achieve a nice glow,” says Donna. In New York, expect to pay about $500 per treatment.
Donna Fay, licensed medical aesthetician working with plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Pearlman. Donna is holding the MicroPen, one of several brand-name powered devices. The intensity of the treatment may vary depending on whether the microneedling instrument is cordless (battery-powered – like the MicroPen) or corded (plugged into the wall like Dr. Shafer’s Rejuvapen).
The hyaluronic acid serum used by Donna for my microneedling treatment.
The manually driven Aquagold device (on the left).
For something with even less downtime, there’s Dr. Shafer’s Aquagold procedure, which utilizes a manual stamping technique to deliver a solution (PRP, serum, Botox, etc.) via a series of very fine gold-plated needles. This “lunchtime microneedling” results in a temporary smoother, tighter appearance. “It’s great for Asian patients and for those with sensitive skin,” advises Graceanne. Patients availing themselves of this procedure will experience very slight redness and tenderness for a day or less. Costs start at $450 and go up depending on the solution used.

So, back to the microneedling with PRP – was it worth it? Ten days after my treatment, my skin is baby soft and smooth and my pores looks smaller. The pigmentation is more even and the under-eye area appears brighter. My skin feels a bit thinner though on account of the fact that the old collagen was broken down and the new collagen has not yet had a chance to form. The process of collagen synthesis takes time, however, so long-lasting results won’t be evident for 4-6 weeks after the treatment and final results may take 3-6 months to appear. I plan on returning to Dr. Shafer’s office and his Vectra machine in the next month or so to check on the condition of my skin. Stay tuned for a progress report. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the compliments I’ve been getting on my complexion.
Expert tip: “It’s important not to have a suntan when undertaking a microneedling treatment,” says Dr. Day. “Slowly is holy,” adds Donna Fay. “You don’t want to overdo it with products and treatments because you’ll strip the skin of its essential oils, thereby compromising its ability to withstand sun damage.”