In 2005, nitrogen-based plasma burst onto the cosmetic procedure scene and promised to put the laser out of business for treating sun damaged skin. So, three years later, has it lived up to its promise and what the heck is it anyway?

Plasma is ionized gas. Fluorescent lamps are partly made up of it. However, Rhytec, the maker of Portrait Plasma, likes to point out that "99% of the matter in the universe" is plasma. So what could be wrong with a quick blast to the face of something so natural and ubiquitous?

Well, for a start, Rhytec is really simulating plasma by combining an ultra high frequency electricity (much like the energy source in a microwave oven) with nitrogen gas.

The advantage of Portrait Plasma is supposedly that heat stimulates the reproduction of collagen without ablating the skin, the surface of which remains intact. That isn't, however, the way a lot of people have experienced it.

There are a 185 comments on an article on Rhytec Portrait Plasma on the Medical Spa MD website. There are an awful lot of unhappy recipients of this treatment out there. Here's one:

"I personally had the high powered resurfacing performed last year and
it was a nightmare!!!!!!!!! Initially, the nerve blocks administered
pre-treatment caused bruising on several areas of my face. Secondly the
STENTCH of burning flesh and hair were nauseating, and the recovery was
similar to your experience - oozing of interstitial fluid that ran into
my eyes burned my eyes so badly I had to stay home, Also the wound care
was so involved it was reminiscent of patients in a burn unit, and oh
yes I almost forgot I not only had to sleep with my head elevated to
lower the edema but also I was afraid the skin on my face would stick
to my pillow and be ripped off when I lifted my head. The worst part of
the Tx ...the results were no better than a TCA peel!!!!!!"

This isn't uncommon. The word 'nightmare' comes up frequently and, specifically, people complain about burns, scars, infections, and worsened hyperpigmentation. Some even say that their wrinkles are worse after the procedure.

Although significantly outnumbered, there are a couple of patients who claim to be pleased with the results of Portrait Plasma.