Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and the Evidence for Acne Scarring – What Does Science Really Say?

Ever hear of the “Vampire Facial” or someone having their own blood used as a treatment for acne scarring? Originally used by cardiac surgeons and orthopedic surgeons as far back as the 1980’s, this procedure has hit the limelight in dermatology and rejuvenative medicine. You have heard about it from Kim Kardashian and seen it on Dr. Oz…. but what does the evidence really say? In particular, does it really help for acne scarring?

Before getting into the evidence, let’s first learn more about this procedure.

What is PRP?

This procedure uses a component of your blood, called platelets. This platelet rich fluid is filled with tons of growth factors and anti-inflammatory agents. When it is applied to your skin, it induces healthy collagen growth and helps to place new stem-cell agents in the skin. Basically, it helps to enhance facial and skin appearance using your body’s own products. PRP stimulates proliferative processes and healing phases. Since it is from your own body, this greatly reduces the risks for infection and allergic reactions.

How is it done?

The process first starts with your physician obtaining a blood sample (typically from your arm like when you donate blood or have to have blood tests done). This blood is then processes in a specialized centrifuge to maximize the amount of growth factors and platelets into a syringe. This plasma is now packed with platelets and injected into the skin using a small, thin needle into areas that need improvement. While there is no downtime from the procedure, you may have some redness and mild swelling or bruising at the site of the injection. Some patients say that it felt like a mild sun-burn, but nothing painful.

How many treatments?

This varies based on the patient – however, we normally recommend a course of 1 to 3 sessions, at a monthly interval. This will be determined with your physician at your consultation.

Does it really work for acne scars?

PRP has many clinical studies showing improvement in acne scarring in both case-series and case-control clinical studies. The difficulty in looking at the evidence is that there is no standardized method of processing the blood into PRP, there are many different methods of applying PRP to the skin (microneedling, injections, lasers, etc), and many different time durations between treatments. Hence, it is very difficult to compare every study with another study.

Nonetheless, the evidence has overwhelmingly shown great promise for the use of PRP for acne scarring when combined with another modality such as microneedling, chemical peeling, or ablative laser therapy. This allows the PRP to enter the skin and effect the collagen formation deeper in the skin.

At the Chicago Skin Clinic, we are a strong believer in the power of PRP for acne scarring when combined with other treatments. Not all patients are ideal candidates for PRP and results vary. But PRP highlights a great safety record, ease of treatment, and improvement of scarring.

We encourage you to learn more about this innovate therapy by reading the resources below. Also, come into the Chicago Skin Clinic for a consultation – we would love to teach you more about the procedure and see if you would be a good candidate.

For further reading, see these resources: