This Anti-Aging Treatment Is Testing My Fear of Holes

Instagram is a weird place. My explore page is a motley crew of rescue puppies, Chris Evans stan accounts, a concerning amount of Halloween-inspired special effects videos, and extreme beauty treatments. The latter is how I found out about plasma fibroblast, an anti-aging treatment in which the skin is cauterized via electrosurgery, a widely used surgical technology that uses a high-frequency electric current passing through tissue. Yes, you read that correctly: the skin is lightly burned, and the result is firmer, lifted skin.

The photos and videos of the process, also known as plasma skin tightening, are equal parts traumatizing and mesmerizing. For anyone who has trypophobia, or a fear of holes, this might make you queasy. The tiny burn marks are made in rows, so they all look uniform — giving the illusion of tiny little holes all over the area treated. The term "plasma" comes from the light emitted — there is no blood taken for this treatment.

Plasma fibroblast initially caught my eye for obvious reasons (holes!), but also because it's touted as an alternative for lip filler. It's applied to the upper lip area, and as it heals over a few weeks, it lifts your lip upward, giving the appearance of a fuller lip sans injections — what many refer to as a "lip flip."

According to Plasma IQ's website — a popular plasma pen brand — it's a "medical device that uses microbeams of plasma working only on the epidermis level, without damaging the skin, therefore, with a limited downtime, allows to eliminate first signs of aging and restores a young look." The idea of having fuller, larger-looking lips without the need for injections is what's taking this treatment mainstream.

Treatments can range between $250 and $1,250, depending on where you live and what area you're getting treated.

Nathalie Nellange, a registered nurse based in Sweden, posted the videos that I found initially, but the treatment is offered all over the world. I reached out to learn more about the process, benefits, and what to be wary of. Keep reading to see more photos of plasma skin tightening and to learn about who it works best for, what to know before you get it done, and how long the results last.

What Is Plasma IQ?

"Plasma IQ is a brand of plasma pen equipment," said Nellange. "Plasma IQ can be used for various treatments; the most common ones are to remove old scar tissue and to tighten up loose skin. It's also popular to get a plasma treatment to rejuvenate the skin and get rid of stretch marks."

How Does Plasma Fibroblast Work?

"Plasma IQ has a tip that converts power into an electrostatic impulse," she said. "When the needle comes close to the skin layer, a mixture of oxygen-nitrogen occurs, which emits a flash of plasma light. For a tenth of a second, a microchannel opens in the skin layer, the heat from the plasma flash causes the excess fluid to evaporate out of your skin. This results in an immediate tightening. The superficial wound that occurs stimulates the skin's own regeneration of fibroblasts, and this is an important part of the skin's healing process and collagen production. When the skin heals, the skin edge pulls together and creates additional tightening.

"The treatment is very kind to the skin with no damage on the surrounding tissue and therefore has a limited downtime. It simply eliminates the first signs of aging and restores a younger look."

What Areas Can You Treat?

"We look over where the treatment fits the client best due to the problem they want to treat. But favorite areas are loose skin on the stomach, eyelid lift, stretch marks, lip lift, and of course scar treatments."

What Training Is Involved?

"I have a background as a registered nurse, and I did the plasma education at a local provider, which I am still in cooperation with today," she said. "To go through plasma training, you first need to look over your local laws and rules. Then I recommend you find a provider where you can learn both theoretically about the skin's healing process and get hands-on experience with real models under supervision. In my experience, this type of education is what works best. I've been educating for Plasma IQ, and my advice is to always take into consideration the background knowledge of the participants."

Who Can Get This Treatment?

Nellange says clients are anywhere between 18 and 65 years old. "I cannot say there is a more common age on clients that do the plasma treatment because it's a treatment that fits everyone."

How Long Is Recovery?

The dots disappear within one week in the face area and about two weeks on the body. "Then a slight redness can be seen where the dots have been," she said. "Full results will appear after eight to 12 weeks and sometimes the recovery takes even longer before the skin is completely healed. During the healing process, it is important to avoid the sunlight and use SPF 50. During the first two days you should also avoid makeup on the treated area, and no alpha-hydroxy products the first week."

What to Look For in a Technician

Nellange is registered by the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden; it appears that many courses in Europe require students be in the medical field. This particular service, similarly to microblading, is unregulated and differs by state. (In California, the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology does not regulate microblading, for instance.)

Looking into certification courses in America, most do not require students to be a medical professional to be trained in or administer plasma skin tightening. Currently, there is a $3000 certification course that takes place in Beverly Hills that requires one day of online training and a second day with professional supervision while student train on models.

With any aesthetic procedure, it's important to research who will be doing the treatment and how long they have been practicing. For plasma fibroblast, if you're going to see someone outside of a dermatologist or plastic surgeon's office, ask them to provide proof of when they were certified and if they are a licensed esthetician, registered nurse, etc. Typically certifications and licenses should be displayed for clients to easily see. (This is also helpful for treatments like microblading, micropenning, chemical peels, etc.)

Does It Hurt?

"No, it doesn't hurt if you use the right method," Nellange said. "Some can experience tenderness, but that is highly subjective. I always use local numbing cream for 60 minutes on the area before the treatment starts. I also cover the numbed area with a plastic film so the numbing cream is not dried out."

How Do You Prep Your Skin For Treatments?

You should adopt a solid skincare routine and "avoid NSAID-medication (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) a week before and after the treatment," she said. "You can also boost the healing process by eating vitamin C the week before. Smoking is never a good thing, and it can also slow down the healing process."

How Long Do Results Last?

"The results are long-lasting, although it doesn't prevent the natural aging process," Nellange said. "With that said, there are some areas that are more sensitive to the aging process, for example, the face. Besides the aging process, it's connected to how you treat your skin in general. The results will last a minimum of four to six years, but most times even longer depending on your habits.

"The scar and stretch mark treatments are permanent, although you can of course create new ones. The best thing with plasma treatment is that you can repeat the treatment up to three times on the same area for more effect if needed."

Who Should Avoid Plasma Skin Tightening?

"We always let the client fill in a health declaration in advance to clarify whether the client is approved to go through with the treatment without any risks of bad healing," she said. (Editor's note: this is similar to the paperwork you fill out in the doctor's office here in the U.S. ) "There are some red flags to look out for: If you know that your skin in general heals badly when you get wounds, then plasma treatment is not recommended for you. Also, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding at the moment, you should avoid the treatment. If you are unsure whether you can get this treatment or not, you should always reach out to your provider to make sure.

"When it comes to different skin types, we follow the Fitzpatrick scale to measure. Skin types 1-3 are recommended to do the treatment while skin types 4-6 can result in hyperpigmentation if treated with plasma. Skin types 4-6 have a higher level of melanin production and can therefore react badly to the treatment while healing."