- Plasma skin tightening is a nonsurgical skin tightening procedure in which plasma is used to heat and tighten the skin.
- The results of a plasma skin treatment are permanent, although the skin will continue to age.
- Plasma skin tightening can decrease skin laxity on any part of the body.
- There are minimal side effects and complications following plasma skin tightening, although recovery may take up to 1 week.
For many individuals, loose and sagging skin is an undesirable cosmetic concern that negatively impacts their appearance. Skin elasticity is caused by the breakdown of collagen and elastin, two proteins within the skin responsible for giving it its firmness and elasticity. Aging, overexposure to the sun (photodamage) and genetics all play a role in contributing toward skin laxity.
Plasma skin tightening, or plasma skin resurfacing, is a nonsurgical cosmetic procedure that uses plasma to tighten skin and combat the skin laxity caused by aging and photodamage.
How Does Plasma Skin Tightening Work?
Plasma skin tightening uses radio frequency (RF) energy to ionize, or convert, gas into plasma. When the plasma comes in contact with your epidermis (the outer layer of skin), it generates heat and removes oxygen from the surface of your skin without ablating, or vaporizing, the epidermis.
The process eliminates moisture from the treated area to form a layer of dried, or dessicated skin that aids in the healing process. The desiccated tissue also increases the skin’s resistance to the electricity generated by the resurfacing device, preventing it from becoming overtreated and guiding the plasma to areas not yet heated.
This generated heat also breaks down the collagen in the dermis, the layer of skin beneath the epidermis, and triggers fibroplasia, your body’s wound-healing response. During fibroplasia, fibroblast activity is increased, which produces new collagen.
During plasma skin tightening, the heat that comes into contact with the skin causes collagen fibers to immediately contract. This leads to visible improvements in skin laxity and a decrease in wrinkles, fine lines and crow’s feet.
Low-energy plasma skin tightening may require multiple treatments for more visible and effective skin tightening. In contrast, high-energy procedures require fewer treatment sessions, but the side effects are amplified.
Biopsies taken 3 months after a procedure demonstrate the continued formation of new collagen. Improvements to the tissue continue for over 1 year and result in firmer and more contoured skin.
Are You a Good Candidate for Plasma Skin Tightening?
Plasma skin tightening is an effective treatment for all skin types and skin tones.
You are not a good candidate for plasma skin tightening if you have:
- Open sores in the area to be treated
- Conditions that affect healing, such as oxygen dependence, poorly controlled diabetes or an autoimmune disease
- Excess skin or significant stretch marks, scarring, scleroderma or lupus
- Previously undergone a cosmetic treatment in the area
- A history of keloid (raised scar) formation
- Poor vascularization (blood vessels)
Additionally, you should not undergo plasma skin treatment if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What to Expect During the Treatment
Anesthesia is used prior to the start of a plasma skin treatment. For low-energy treatments, topical anesthesia is sufficient. Treatments that use higher-energy settings may require general anesthesia and an oral sedative.
The treatment area is then divided into different zones or segments. After 1 hour, the anesthetic cream is wiped away so that the skin can better absorb the plasma. The doctor will then treat each zone one at a time, holding the device 5 mm away from the surface of the skin and moving it as a painter would a paintbrush on a canvas.
The energy of the treatment device is set to different levels depending on the area of the body being treated and to control how deeply the heat is sent into the skin. This limits total dermal injury. Areas with thinner skin, such as around the eyes, are commonly treated with a lesser amount of energy than is used on other areas of the body, such as the forehead or cheeks.
A low-energy procedure of a single pass through each zone can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. Areas of the body that require higher energy treatment or multiple passes by the plasma skin tightening device in a single session may be completed within 45 minutes.
Patients may experience some mild discomfort from the heat as the device passes over the skin’s surface.
Downtime lasts about 7 days after a plasma skin tightening procedure. During this time, patients can expect their epidermis to peel away in a process called epithelialization. Re-epithelialization follows after the old epidermis sheds away to reveal the new, tighter epidermis.
Total recovery time depends on the amount of energy used during the procedure. Aftercare requires patients to protect their skin from sun exposure by wearing sunscreen.
Plasma Skin Tightening Results
The effects of treatment are visible immediately after the procedure. Fibroblast activity continues for up to 1 year later, stimulating the production of new collagen and further decreasing skin laxity.
The number of treatments plays a role in the efficacy of plasma skin tightening, particularly if low energy is used in the first treatment. Patients who underwent low-energy plasma treatments reported facial tightening improvements of:
- 35% after the first treatment
- 40% after two treatments
- 58% one month after three treatments
- 68% three months after three treatments
Plasma skin tightening has demonstrable effects on other parts of the body as well. Researchers recorded improvements in wrinkle severity, skin smoothness and hyperpigmentation of:
- 57% to the chest
- 48% to the hands
- 41% to the skin of the neck
More beneficial and quicker skin tightening results can be had by undergoing a procedure in which higher energy is used, though such treatments commonly increase patient downtime.
Before and afters
Are results permanent?
Results of plasma skin tightening are permanent, but do not stop your skin from continuing to age or any damage caused by the sun. Though your skin laxity is improved and tightness increased, your skin will still continue to go through the aging process, including the further breakdown of collagen, renewed skin laxity, the appearance of new wrinkles and visibility of other skin imperfections and blemishes.
Safety and Side Effects
The potential to experience severe side effects is rare following plasma skin tightening. As a nonsurgical procedure, there is little trauma to the body and no damage to the skin as a result of cuts or incisions. As a result, side effects are mild and clear up within 1 month. In fact, plasma skin resurfacing has an excellent safety profile.
When compared to other alternatives (specifically laser skin tightening), plasma treatments do not present the risk of visible demarcation lines, or lines that visually separate untreated skin from the treatment area.
Side effects following treatment include:
- Mild to moderate skin redness for about 2–3 weeks
- Skin peeling for up to 9 days
- Localized hyperpigmentation (darkening of skin) for up to 1 month (resolved with topical agents)
Plasma Skin Tightening Cost
As plasma skin tightening is an elective procedure, your health insurance isn’t likely to cover it. The cost of treatment depends on the treatment area, specific type of treatment and location of your doctor’s office
In general, plasma skin tightening costs about $3,000 for facial skin rejuvenation.
The average costs for treating other areas of the body are:
|Area of body
|Eye area (periorbital region)
|Belly or stomach (loose stomach skin)
|Skin tags and other blemishes
Plasma Skin Tightening vs. Alternatives
Plasma skin tightening is often touted as an alternative to facelifts and laser skin tightening, both of which deliver dramatic and immediate (or near-immediate) results. However, both alternatives result in harsher side effects and more significant recovery times.
Other alternatives may be a better choice for you depending on your budget, skin type, tolerance for side effects and severity of your skin’s laxity.
Skin tightening creams and lotions are available over the counter (OTC) or via prescription. Look for creams made with ingredients proven to be effective in stimulating collagen production, as well as moisturizing and shielding your skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.
|Pros vs. plasma skin tightening
|Cons vs. plasma skin tightening
Available OTC or via prescription
Can be used anywhere on the body
Require no downtime or recovery
|Effective only for mild to moderate skin laxity
Results are not immediate
Continued use of products are required for ongoing improvement
Noninvasive skin tightening alternatives
Noninvasive skin treatments are nonsurgical and do not involve cutting of the skin. As such, patients do not typically require sedation or anesthesia. Noninvasive cosmetic procedures include:
- Radio frequency skin tightening
- Ultrasound skin tightening (such as Ultherapy)
- Nonablative laser treatment
|Pros vs. plasma skin tightening
|Cons vs. plasma skin tightening
|Little to no downtime
Mild side effects
|Results are not permanent; visible for up to 3 years
Results are not immediate; becomes apparent within 6 months
Minimally invasive skin tightening alternatives
In a minimally invasive procedure, some damage to the skin is expected, although treatment is still nonsurgical. Minimally invasive procedures require sedation or anesthesia and downtime.
Minimally invasive procedures are:
|Pros vs. plasma skin tightening
|Cons vs. plasma skin tightening
|Methods are more familiar to doctors vs. plasma skin resurfacing
|Potentially more severe side effects and complications
Extensive aftercare required post procedure
Similar or longer downtime
Procedures such as facelifts and neck lifts are surgical, requiring sedation or anesthesia. Cosmetic surgery provides immediate and permanent skin tightening but carry more risk, side effects and downtime.
Provides the most dramatic results for tightening sagging skin and smoothing wrinkles
|Requires 2–3 weeks of downtime
Patients must maintain a post-treatment skin care regimen
Likelihood of severe side effects and complications
Most expensive treatment
While downtime following plasma skin tightening is lengthy compared to other noninvasive treatments, its efficacy is comparable to both minimally invasive and surgical alternatives—without the risks or side effects—making it a compelling treatment for effective, long-term skin tightening.
Plasma skin tightening uses plasma to heat the tissue beneath the epidermis, triggering fibroplasia and stimulating collagen production. The procedure has an immediate and permanent impact on skin tightness. Skin laxity continues to decrease for up to 1 year following the procedure.
The cost of plasma skin tightening is about $3,000, but varies depending on the part of the body to be treated.
Plasma skin tightening is an effective and nonsurgical alternative to more invasive or surgical procedures. Though there is some significant downtime following treatment and minor side effects, the procedure has an excellent safety profile.
- Loesch, M. M., Somani, A. K., Kingsley, M. M., Travers, J. B., & Spandau, D. F. (2014). Skin resurfacing procedures: new and emerging options. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 7, 231–241. doi:10.2147/CCID.S50367
- Duncan, D. I. (2019, March 08). Helium Plasma-Driven Radiofrequency in Body Contouring. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/helium-plasma-driven-radiofrequency-in-body-contouring
- Bogle MA, Arndt KA, Dover JS. Evaluation of Plasma Skin Regeneration Technology in Low-Energy Full-Facial Rejuvenation. Arch Dermatol. 2007;143(2):168–174. doi:10.1001/archderm.143.2.168
- Kilmer, S., MD, Semchyshyn, N., MD, Shah, G., MD, & Fitzpatrick, R., MD. (2005, March). A pilot study on the use of a Plasma Skin Regeneration device (PSR) in full facial rejuvenation procedures. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(04)02962-7/fulltext
- Pastar, I., Stojadinovic, O., Yin, N. C., Ramirez, H., Nusbaum, A. G., Sawaya, A., … Tomic-Canic, M. (2014). Epithelialization in Wound Healing: A Comprehensive Review. Advances in wound care, 3(7), 445–464. doi:10.1089/wound.2013.0473
- Alster, T. S., & Konda, S. (2007, November). Plasma skin resurfacing for regeneration of neck, chest, and hands: Investigation of a novel device. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17958582
- Foster, K. W., Moy, R. L., & Fincher, E. F. (2008, September). Advances in plasma skin regeneration. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18789051/
- Kilmer, S., Semchyshyn, N., Shah, G., & Fitzpatrick, R. (2007, June). A pilot study on the use of a plasma skin regeneration device (Portrait PSR3) in full facial rejuvenation procedures. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17342383