Plasma Pens, also called Fibroblast Treatments, have become increasingly popular. Anyone who scrolls through aesthetic treatments on TikTok or Instagram has likely been flooded by images and videos of Plasma Pen treatments. A little device creating multiple layers of tiny dots and visible tightening and shrinking of the treated area. So, what's the problem? Sounds and looks pretty good, right? Lets explore the issues with Plasma Pens.
Plasma Pens actually have nothing to do with plasma or platelet rich plasma/PRP as some might believe. A Plasma Pen is a device that targets the layer of the skin containing fibroblasts which produce skin tightening elements such as collagen and elastin. When described this way, it sounds similar to the idea of microneedling. You are causing trauma to the skin to induce a collagen and elastin cascade. However, the concern here lies more with the mechanism of action being utilized with the Plasma Pen: burning.
Ultimately the modality of action of the Plasma Pen is burning of the skin. Some medical providers have actually compared this to "cooking" the skin. Burning the skin, even when this procedure is performed properly, can result in long-term scarring, discoloration, and texture disturbances. These unintended effects can leave the skin looking worse than prior to the treatment. Some would argue, well couldn't the same issues occur with microneedling? Sure, but microneedling has been studied for a long time. The issues that are being seen more and more often with Plasma Pens are not seen with properly-performed microneedling.
Many Plasma Pens claim to be FDA approved. But beware! Most of these devices that claim to be FDA approved are approved as tools for cauterizing during surgical procedures (NOT for the use discussed above). The FDA has sent warning letters to some of these companies and even put out alerts to the public warning against this false advertising. Just because a device is FDA approved does not mean that it is approved for the use intended by those marketing or utilizing the tool. On the otherhand multiple microneedling devices, such as SkinPen, are FDA approved for the reduction of acne scarring and fine lines/wrinkles.
At the end of the day, Plasma Pens can absolutely tighten the skin. But using burning to tighten can result in much worse issues. My advice would be: stay away from this trend. There are plenty of other ways to tighten the skin or reduce the appearance of wrinkles/lines, that don't hold these risks (Botox, microneedling, RF microneedling, laser resurfacing, filler, and PDO threads). Make sure that you have a reputable medical provider doing your aesthetic procedures. Don't be afraid to talk to your provider and get educated before you fall for a trend that could end in damaged skin.