By now you’ve probably heard about PRP (aka “vampire” facials) popularized by certain celebrities on Instagram a few years ago. The now-common in-office treatment consists of drawing one’s blood and then spinning it in a centrifuge to isolate the platelet-rich plasma, which is then injected back into the skin. These platelets are packed with growth factors that can help regenerate and heal, making them ideal to use not only for facials but for hair rejuvenation and even sports injuries.
Now, the door to the ways these platelets are used in skin care is opening a little wider. A few pioneering skin-care companies are using human-derived platelets (also referred to as platelet-derived exosomes) in topical skin care, which may make getting the benefits of the invasive (and expensive) PRP treatment easier and less painful.
Azza Halim, MD, a board-certified physician and anesthesiologist in Boca Raton, Florida says that the news about human-derived platelets in topicals is exciting because our platelets include a “mega” amount of growth factors that can benefit skin rejuvenation like little else. But is this an industry breakthrough, or simply a great idea in a jar? “The question is, how do we maximize the benefits of the products by delivery method?” Dr. Halim posits. “Because delivery is key.”
We spoke to doctors, nurses, and industry leaders to learn their thoughts on this new frontier.
How platelet-derived exosomes are being used in skin care
While the current research shows promise in the efficacy of using topical platelets, it should be noted that so far, the studies have all been backed by Rion Aesthetics, the owner of Plated Skin Science. Plated Skin Science is currently the only brand to use non-individualized human-derived platelets in skin care (i.e., platelets from a stranger).
Alisa Lask, the brand’s CEO, says platelet-derived exosomes are the ideal topical skin-care ingredient because they deliver clear and effective messages to the body to rejuvenate and renew skin. “Other cellular-derived exosomes, like MSCs—or stem cells—require extensive manipulation to obtain the exosomes and may require refrigeration to ensure the effectiveness of a product,” she explains. “This is the first and only shelf-stable skin-care solution that harnesses the power of platelets to truly combat the signs of aging."
For those who don’t like the idea of putting someone else’s blood on their skin, Some offers another way to achieve similar results. Much like a PRP treatment, the brand uses extracted plasma from one’s own blood and mixes it into a custom serum. But unlike Plated, which can be purchased online without refrigeration, Some requires a participating physician to administer the treatment and send a three-month supply of the refrigerated mixture home with patients. If this a bit sounds familiar, it’s because you may recall how years ago, the now-famous facialist Dr. Barbara Sturm sent editors and celebrities home with “blood cream,” a moisturizer that was infused with their own spun plasma. While it was considered over-the-top at the time, she may actually have been ahead of the curve.
Are human-derived platelets safe?
Safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to using anything on your skin, especially if it’s derived from humans. Lask says that Plated sources their platelets safely and ethically from FDA-regulated blood banks to ensure clean extractions. “We purchase unused platelets prior to expiration, then purify and pool them to harness a high volume of stable and consistent rejuvenating exosomes,” she says, adding that Rion’s patented manufacturing process can yield over 1 trillion exosomes in every bottle.
Kristina Kitsos, RN, a registered aesthetic nurse in Los Angeles, stresses the importance of learning about sourcing through your practitioner if you are going to use exosomes topically (or do your research if you are purchasing products online). “This includes not only the type of bodily tissue from which they are harvested, but also the country of origin and how the donors are screened to ensure there is no contamination of the biological material,” she says. “Another variable to keep in mind is the storage and transportation of the exosomes, since they can be susceptible to degradation from the elements.”
Amy Wechsler, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist in New York City, has other concerns about the use of platelets in topical skin care. “They can’t use actual platelets because that is a blood product that is highly regulated,” she says. (Anything derived from humans is considered a drug.) “Plus, there is no science on topical platelets that I am aware of.” (Lask counters that Plated uses platelet extracts, not whole platelets).
Does it work?
Lask says that Plated's “Renewosome” technology is a proprietary process that yields a high concentration of intact, platelet-derived extract from exosomes. She says that Plated is so game-changing because the potent antioxidants and growth factors pretty much address every skin concern — from supporting the natural production of collagen and elastin to improving red and brown spots and increasing hydration for a more balanced complexion. They point to their own clinical research as examples of how much skin can improve after only six weeks. (The results are impressive).
But some experts echo Halim’s curiosity as to how much platelet-rich skin care can really benefit one’s skin. Kitsos questions its ability to make much of a difference, as platelets' molecular size presents a challenge when it comes to penetration (an issue that often calls other actives in topical products into question). “Most scientists agree that although these kinds of exosomes are nanoparticles, they cannot penetrate the skin on their own and need to be injected or micro-needled in order to penetrate,” she says. Halim says that actives need to break the stratum corneum in order to properly make a difference, and that is typically done by creating micro-damages through needling.
What is the future of platelet-derived exosomes?
The jury’s still out on whether skin care packed with platelets will revolutionize the anti-aging market. The science looks promising, but there are still some uncertainties when it comes to using anything from humans in a topical way. And if the idea of patting human-derived ingredients into your skin is simply not for you, there are other options on the market.
Jason Diamond, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, recently launched Metacine, a skin-care product duo that uses bioidentical human growth factors that mimic the effects of PRP when it’s micro-needled into skin (a treatment he performs in his office with patients' actual blood plasma). Not only do his bioengineered growth factors have the same chemical structure as those derived from humans, he says that bioengineering makes the process more controlled and predictable. After years of testing, he determined that his lab-derived ingredients are the most stable combination when it comes to being bottled and shelved for extended periods of time (he says that real platelets cannot live in a bottle that sits on a shelf and be viable for an extended period of time) and it eliminates the need to delve into harvesting and sourcing questions.
No matter your preference, if non-invasive skin rejuvenation is important to you, this new category of skin care might be worth your attention.
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