Even if you only have a casual interest in beauty and aesthetics, you’ve likely seen the results of plasma fibroblasting on your social media feeds over the past few months. The procedure leaves a (selfie-ready) pattern of tiny dots on the areas that were targeted immediately after treatment. Even though you may have flipped through some before and after photos already, you might not know what plasma fibroblasting is or how it works. That’s where we come in. Below, top dermatologists and plastic surgeons break down everything you need to know about the trendy treatment — including how it stacks up to other non-surgical skin tightening and resurfacing procedures.
What Is Plasma Fibroblasting?
In simplest terms, plasma fibroblasting is a minimally invasive technology “designed to tighten and smooth skin,” says John Burns, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Dallas, TX. It does so by specifically targeting fibroblasts in the skin. “Fibroblasts are a type of cell that produce collagen and protein in the dermis,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, a board certified dermatologist in New York City. With age, these cells weaken, which leads to visible signs of aging (think: fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity). “Fibroblast skin tightening procedures — or plasma fibroblasting — target these cells in order to tighten and smooth the skin and improve wound healing,” she adds.
So, how does plasma fibroblasting work? “It uses a pen-like device and emits an electric current that creates micro-injuries,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board certified dermatologist in NYC. “It is thought to work as the thermal energy and heat damage causes denaturing, or protein breakdown, in the skin, tissue regeneration, fibroblast activity, and subsequent tissue contraction resulting in skin tightening.”
As you’re probably starting to notice, the name of the treatment speaks directly to how it functions. “Plasma technology creates dual zone micro-trauma using an arc of energy,” says Ava Shamban, MD, a board certified dermatologist in Santa Monica, CA. “Using the electrostatic energy, it creates and emits a positively ionized nitrogen gas arc in the air between its tip and skin.” This ionized plasma arc “works in resurfacing and controlled tissue injury stimulating the repair process,” she noets.
What makes the technology unique is its multifactorial approach to skin rejuvenation. “It targets the superficial zone of skin while simultaneously creating a thermal injury zone at deeper dermal layers, home to fibroblasts,” Dr. Shamban says. This is why you see both short- and long-term benefits from treatment.
What Are the Benefits of Plasma Fibroblasting?
Plasma fibroblasting is often referred to as a ‘skin tightening’ treatment, but that miniker doesn’t tell the whole story. “Plasma fibroblasting can be used to address multiple skin concerns on different areas of the face and delivers many skin benefits,” Dr. Engelman says. The treatment improves overall skin texture and tone, reduces the visibility of unwanted marks and scars (including stretch marks), and boosts collagen and elastin production.” That last piece is what “firms the skin and helps patients look younger,” she adds.
Based on all the post-procedure pics you’ve no doubt seen, you likely know that plasma fibroblasting is most often performed on the face (though it can also be used below the neck). Dr. Shamban says its “specifically effective” for treating areas like:
- Periocular area (think: eyelids and crow’s feet)
- Perioral area (i.e. around the mouth and above the lips)
- Neck and décolleté
“Fibroblast skin tightening is often used on areas with dynamic wrinkles, like crow’s feet around the eyes, and areas that tend to sag with age, like the neck and jowls,” Dr. Engelman says. You can also think about treatment areas in terms of aesthetic concerns. “It can help with skin laxity — especially involving the upper or lower eyelids — fine lines, wrinkles, acne scarring, and sun damage,” Dr. Garshick adds.
Who Is the Ideal Candidate for Plasma Fibroblasting?
As with its fellow non-surgical skin tightening treatments, plasma fibroblasting “is a good option for someone who wants to help with skin tightening without going to surgery,” Dr. Garshick says. An ideal candidate for plasma fibroblast treatments, according to Dr. Engelman, “is someone with mild to moderate textural skin concerns such as acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles, and creping.” Another beneficiary? “Any males or females who have thinner skin,” Dr. Shamban adds.
While Dr. Shamban says the treatment “can be used on all ethnicities and Fitzpatrick types” because “it does not target or affect melanin,” those who are prone to pigmentation concerns (common of melanated skin) should be mindful. “It should be used with caution in those with darker skin or those prone to hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Garshick notes. Additionally, “the patient should not have any serious medical disorders, pigmentation disorders, or active infections and should be in overall good health if considering receiving this treatment,” Dr. Engelman says.
What Happens During a Plasma Fibroblasting Treatment?
A topical anesthetic is applied before plasma fibroblasting procedures to minimize discomfort. The plasma pen delivers electric current to the skin, resulting in tiny, scab-like dots. “Depending on the treatment area, it can take 15 minutes to one hour to complete,” Dr. Garshick says. Generally speaking, Dr. Shamban says the treatment “is well tolerated by most patients without pain.”
How many treatments you’ll need depends on your anatomy and aesthetic goals. “The age, tone, condition, laxity of the skin, genetics, lifestyle and ethnic backgrounds can all play a factor in the final results,” Dr. Shamban explains. While the eyelids or perioral area may only need one session, “the neck and décolleté or knees might require an additional treatment to see a final result,” she says.
In Dr. Engelman’s experience, multiple sessions (think: one to three) are typically required to see “visibly noticeable results.” Even if you do see results after your first session, Dr. Burns says that “subsequent treatments do offer benefits also.”
What Does Recovery From Plasma Fibroblasting Entail?
If there is one main downside to plasma fibroblasting, it’s the downtime. “The recovery is longer than most non-invasive treatments,” Dr. Burns concedes. “Scabs are present and generally fall off at about a week with persistent redness for two to three weeks.” As a result, Dr. Shamban says “this is not done within a week or two before a red carpet, corporate presentation, TV appearance, or holiday party.” Instead, she recommends allowing “two full weeks for the tiny red dots that form in a pattern across the treated area and scab to darken and fall off.”
According to Dr. Burns, the most common side effects of plasma fibroblsating are “delayed healing, scarring, and skin pigment irregularities.”
How Long Do Plasma Fibroblasting Results Last?
Generally speaking, Dr. Burns says the results of plasma fibroblasting can last anywhere from six months to two years. At that point, it may be time to re-book. “Aging is a progressive condition, so reassessing the area and re-treating within two years for maintenance may be recommended,” Dr. Shamban notes.
With that in mind, you could call the results of plasma fibroblasting the gift that keeps on giving. “While some benefits can be noticed right away, some changes may take three to six months to be seen,” Dr. Garshick says. So, what will you see when? “Both resurfacing and tightening will be seen and felt as soon as the area heals, within a few weeks,” Dr. Shamban explains. Even still, the healing process (including that collagen boost), will continue to progress with a final result of improvements seen in about 12 weeks and sometimes even as far out as 12 months,” she adds.
How Does Plasma Fibroblasting Stack Up?
If you’re curious how plasma fibroblasting stacks up to other non-surgical firming and resurfacing treatments, there is much to take into consideration. “In comparison to radiofrequency (RF) skin tightening, plasma fibroblasting requires more recovery time and and overall discomfort due to the micro-injuries sustained by the skin,” Dr. Engelman explains. “However, plasma fibroblasting only requires one to three office visits and lasts a long time (up to two or three years), while RF treatments can take about five visits and need to be maintained monthly.”
As for lasers? “[Plasma fibroblasting] is a device used to remodel skin and tighten tissue similar to a resurfacing laser,” Dr. Shamban shares. “It will resurface to smooth texture and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, as well as tone and provide tissue tightening.” When it comes to downtime and longevity, Dr. Engelman also likens the two. “Plasma fibroblasting and laser treatments usually require similar downtime — about a week, give or take, depending on the patient, extent of the treatment, and post-care practices,” she says. “Laser treatments can also last several years, especially if the skin is well taken care of.”
There is currently no research comparing plasma fibroblasting to other non-surgical tightening devices, but Dr. Garshick notes that some studies have shown that plasma fibroblasting can lead to a 37 percent reduction in facial wrinkling and 68 percent overall improvement in facial appearance. Even so, it’s important to remember that everyone is unique and what works for one person might not be the best course of action for another. As Dr. Garshick says, “it is always best to discuss the best treatment option for your concern with your provider.”
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