If you’ve ever been mesmerized by a neon sign – quite the backdrop for a fun photo shoot – you’ve seen plasma at work: the glass tubes are filled with gas, and when the light is turned on, electricity flows through the tubes, charging the gas and creating plasma. Although platelet-rich plasma — “vampire facials” and PRP hair restoration — is what comes to mind when we hear the word, the in-office energy-based plasma skin resurfacing method is entirely different. And, while some dermatologists claim its collagen-boosting benefits are more effective than comparable tools in their arsenal, others consider the potential risk/reward ratio to be too high.
How it works
“As we understand it from physics, energetic plasma is essentially a ball of lightning,” says Ava Shamban, MD, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California. “Lightning creates plasma by energizing molecules in the air which generate a ball of energy.” In skin care, Nitrogen Plasma can be created by a device, usually a “pen”, such as the PlasmaPen, which delivers energy in a controlled manner to trigger the production of new collagen by skin cells called fibroblasts. . “Plasma resurfacing – it’s also called fibroblast therapy – is hotter than radiofrequency microneedling, and in my opinion, more effective, but the end goal is the same: to create tiny wounds in the skin that then stimulate a healing response, and ultimately result in collagen production and mild tissue tightening,” adds Dr. Shamban. “Radio frequency microneedling sends heat to the skin through tiny little needles, but the Plasma energy is like an oven – in one point.”
Who is it best for
Although energy-based treatments are often used for “pre-juvenation,” Dr. Shamban says plasma energy is for an older patient with signs of aging like frizzy skin, fine lines, and wrinkles that require a more powerful resurfacing approach. And, like many laser treatments, plasma is generally only used on lighter skin types – Fitzpatrick Types 1 to 4 – because, as Dr. Shamban notes, “theoretically it can cause skin lightening because it’s so hot that it can destroy the melanocytes”.
To minimize puffiness, hooded eyelids, and droopy bags under the eyes, plasma resurfacing can be performed on the upper and lower eyelids, which oculoplastic surgeon David Schlessinger says works well “because the skin is there. thinner and heals quickly” (although he prefers blepharoplasty for its predictability and long-lasting results). Patients can usually see improvement for up to 12 months, but some may need a second treatment after six months. Model Paulina Porizkova took to social media to give her followers an up-close look at the “polka dots” around her eyes after PlasmaPen treatment. “It doesn’t really hurt,” she captioned her photo (below). “They put on a numbing cream first and then burn off those little dots. Not bad at all. And afterwards, you feel like you have a sunburn the first night. The day after feels absolutely fine. But it looks interesting. Another area of the face where plasma treatments can smooth and tone is around the mouth for so-called “barcode lines”, the small vertical lines where lipstick bleeds. “These lines can be caused by sun damage, loss of volume, or movement – talking, eating, smiling, etc. – and I’ve found that plasma is most effective when caused by damage. caused by the sun,” says Dr Shamban. “We assess the patient’s skin to determine these factors before proceeding with the treatment.”
What to expect
Prior to plasma resurfacing, a topical anesthetic will be applied to the treatment area and left in place for up to one hour. “The procedure can be uncomfortable, but it’s tolerable,” says Dr. Schlessinger, noting that eyelids take about 15 minutes. As for downtime, Palo Alto, CA facial plastic surgeon David M. Lieberman, MD, adds that patients can expect swelling, scaling, and crusting. “All cosmetic treatments have some sort of downtime to get results, but plasma recovery is a bit longer than microneedling, around five to 10 days depending on the area.” And, like other collagen-boosting treatments, results can take up to three months. Managing patient expectations is also important for providers, says Palo Alto, CA, facial plastic surgeon Sachin Parikh, MD. “It’s always eye-catching when a new non-surgical skin-tightening treatment comes out, but the most robust and long-lasting results will always come from surgery. This procedure can save you time with subtle improvements, but I recommend talking to your doctor about your best option.
In March, the FDA warned against using a plasma device called Renuvion for skin resurfacing and tightening due to the risk of severe burns and other adverse effects. “The extreme heat can make plasma rejuvenation a dangerous treatment if performed by an unqualified provider,” says Dr. Shamban. “You have to be very careful because it’s such a hot form of energy – you can really burn a hole in your skin if you don’t know what you’re doing.” It is for this reason that Drs. Lieberman and Parikh do not include plasma resurfacing in their aesthetic portfolio. “While several physicians have found these treatments to be effective, we perform a high volume of radiofrequency microneedling and other skin resurfacing procedures – both deep and superficial – and for us these modalities have a great impact in terms of results, but also a very low risk profile.”
A new clinically proven plasma technology for acne, Plason is a professionally administered treatment that releases plasma ions and radicals on the skin, which attach to bacteria and break them down, producing a sterilizing effect. “Most people – it can be used on all skin types – start to see results after one to two treatments, which only take five minutes,” says UK-based dermatologist Dr Beatriz Molina. “It’s not painful and there are no side effects or downtime. In the clinical study, patients saw a 27% improvement in acne and a 25% reduction in sebum oil after six weeks.
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