and now vampire scalp treatments, too?
It’s actually not as morbid as it sounds. The term “vampire” has been used to describe the use of platelet-rich plasma, PRP. This component of the patient’s own blood is increasingly being used to treat facial aging, acne and hair loss. Much of this stems from headlines of celebrity use such as reality TV stars Kim Kardashian and Keira Maguire, model Bar Refaeli and actor Rupert Everett. These are just the ones that have gone on record.
What exactly is PRP? The majority of blood is the liquid portion termed plasma. There are a number of cellular components that typically reside in the plasma, including platelets. The platelets are best known for their role in clotting blood. However, they also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors, which are naturally occurring proteins that signal pathways within neighboring cells to grow, create new cells or specialize in a certain job.
Growth factors play an integral part in maintaining healthy skin structure and function, primarily through fibroblasts. As skin ages, levels of natural growth factors and fibroblasts (cells responsible for creating collagen and maintaining skin integrity) decrease, leading to unwanted skin laxity and sagging. We can all see the signs of this as we age, when we start losing skin tone, texture and tightness.
The “vampire” facelift consists of withdrawing a patient’s own blood and processing it with a centrifuge to isolate the concentrated growth factor-rich plasma and platelets. These growth factors can now be placed back into the skin to stimulate fibroblasts and other skin rejuvenation pathways. This can be done with multiple small injections over the face or by topically applying PRP in combination with an in-office procedure called microneedling. Microneedling alone has been used for years to increase a patient’s own collagen growth within the skin. Now with the addition of PRP, it is my procedure of choice to offer patients.The microneedling works synergistically with the growth factors from the PRP to recreate the collagen formation needed for young, healthly skin. An added benefit of the PRP, is the decreased downtime associated with microneedling due to the growth factors accelerating healing time. I recommend it for patients anywhere from the late 20s to address acne, acne scarring or early sun damage, all the way to patients in their 60s for addressing the signs of facial aging.
Now, there is a similar procedure for thinning hair in both men and women. By injecting the PRP into the scalp and stimulating the activity of hair follicles with your own growth factors, you can stimulate the growth of hair. A number of scientific studies have shown how well this procedure works to decrease hair loss, increase the thickness of hair, and increase the number of follicles in the growth phase. My patients have been very happy with the results of this procedure, especially patients who have been struggling a long time with thinning hair and hair loss, who have tried multiple other interventions that have failed. Adding PRP to their treatment regimen can make a dramatic difference, and I have heard of people driving all the way to Pensacola to have it done when it is available from a board-certified plastic surgeon right here in Shreveport.
PRP therapy for hair loss involves the same procedure of withdrawing a patient’s own blood, processing it so that only the platelet-rich plasma portion is injected into the scalp. This treatment can also be combined with some of those prior modalities such as hair transplant surgery, microneedling or medications such as Propecia and Minoxidil to further improve the outcomes.
Optimal results usually require an initial series of injections over three to six months for skin or scalp, and then maintenance injections for hair-loss management one to two times yearly. That being said, I have had patients notice a personal difference that is then confirmed in before and after photos with just one session. Overall, the procedure is tolerated very well with minimal risk. If you have concerns over facial aging, acne scarring or thinning hair, you should be evaluated by a board-certified physician who specializes in facial aesthetics and hair-loss management.
Dr. Pennington is a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon. She offers complimentary consults to discuss any procedures or questions patients may have. Her office is located at 6030 Line Ave., Suite 110 in Shreveport. Phone (318) 216-5366. Before and after photos can be viewed in office for patient privacy, and some are available online on Istagram and Facebook @penningtonfacialplastics.