Lifestyle

Thinking of a Korean beauty fix?

Here's the low-down on therapy using stem cells, blood platelets

Korea's aesthetic procedures have become a big export. Some are innovative, some are questionable. Local doctors discuss their merit and the alternatives.

STEM-CELL THERAPY

What

Use your stem cells to generate new cells for brighter, firmer and younger-looking skin with improved elasticity and diminished fine lines and wrinkles.

How

There are two ways: Extract the cells from the bone marrow or from abdominal and thigh fat, using syringes.

The materials are processed and purified to separate the stem cells from the other stuff.

Sometimes, the stem cells may be further cultured to increase their numbers.

The concentrate is then injected into the targeted area.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of PRP therapy, but that hasn’t detracted from its popularity in Korea.

In South Korea, fat-derived stem cells are injected on the same day while bone marrow-derived ones are injected after a four-week culture, said Dr Kim Byung Gun, a plastic surgeon and director of BK Plastic Surgery Hospital in Seoul.

Local doctors say

Stem-cell therapy is not available in Singapore except in clinical trials approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

It is not offered for aesthetic purposes.

In its stead, Dr Low Chai Ling, medical director of The Sloane Clinic, recommended treatments using the fractional CO2 laser.

Compared with other lasers, it reaches deeper into the skin where the collagen fibres are, to immediately tighten skin and boost collagen production over the next few months.

Its depth also enables more effective treatment of deep-set wrinkles and scars.

PLATELET-RICH PLASMA (PRP) THERAPY

What

Inject your own blood platelets, which have proteins known as growth factors that contribute to wound healing.

This supposedly enhances the skin's repair process, thereby treating fine lines and wrinkles for a fresher, smoother complexion with fewer blemishes. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of PRP therapy, but that hasn't detracted from its popularity in Korea.

"Koreans are more willing to try new things earlier than others," said Dr Kim.

How

About 10ml of blood is taken from the patient and placed in a centrifuge, which separates the platelets from the rest of the blood. The platelet concentrate is then injected into the face.

According to Dr Kim, who offers PRP therapy in his Seoul clinic, patients can expect to see improvements after several days, with results lasting between six and 12 months.

Local doctors say

Like stem-cell therapy, PRP therapy is available here only in clinical trials approved by the MOH. Otherwise, it is mainly used in orthopaedic clinics to aid in the recovery of sprains and muscle tears.

Dr Low suggested an alternative, Sculptra, an injectable made from poly-L-lactic acid, which encourages collagen production.

Unlike hyaluronic acid fillers that create immediate volume to give the treated areas a supple appearance, Sculptra works gradually over a few months, reducing the severity of wrinkles and restoring facial contours as collagen levels increase.

This article is adapted from the February issue of Her World magazine.

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