The basic PRP treatment has been used for almost 20 years to accelerate the healing of wounds and burnt skin, and help athletes - including, reportedly, tennis ace Rafael Nadal - recover from injury. But it was when Dr Charles Runels from Alabama trademarked the name "Vampire Facelift" in 2010, during the craze for the Vampire Diaries and Twilight Saga, that the procedure became attractive for A-listers.
A "blood facial" or "vampire facial" is a cosmetic procedure during which a doctor draws a couple vials of blood from your arm, centrifuges the blood to separate out the plasma and platelets from the red blood cells, and then adds the platelet-rich plasma back into your face. For extra absorption, the doctor pokes your face all over with a bunch of micro-needles before applying the plasma. Reminds me a little bit of making a Jell-O poke cake.
While your face will look red, swollen and bloody immediately after the treatment (it can last a few hours to up to three days after), the results (you’ll see glowing skin immediately but it can take a month or so for the full results, which last about three months, to surface) it provides for cellular rejuvenation are unparalleled because it shortens healing time and stimulates collagen. “Athletes have used it to heal sprains, and now dermatologists are using the technique for hair restoration,” says Dr. Cheung.
The idea is that this will cause skin to appear younger — and for skin care nerds, this makes the few-hundred-dollar price tag and non-minuscule amount of pain worth it. The prevailing attitude toward skin care these days seem to be, “Even if there haven’t been loads of studies about whether or not this one product will erase all my wrinkles, it still might, and also it’s probably not going to harm me.”
The procedure would be done by Beverly Hills surgeon Dr. Brent Moelleken and not an actual vampire, so I knew I would be in good hands. Dr. Moelleken says that the treatment has become more popular in recent years especially with patients who are looking into more natural ways of rejuvenating their face or body, without using Botox or fillers. It is also used for hair loss.
Vampires are known for their red eyes, alabaster complexion and sharp fangs. Vampire injections don't promise any of these outcomes. Instead, they reduce fine lines and wrinkles, restore volume and get rid of that gaunt, anemic look. Facial plastic surgeons who perform this procedure often overfill the area by 20 percent, because much of the PRP will be reabsorbed by your body. In general, the procedure takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.
“In medispas, you can have untrained people doing procedures without proper supervision in unsafe settings,” explained Dr. Michael McGuire, communications chair of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, to Prevention. There was the Pennsylvania woman in 2001 who went to a medical spa for laser hair removal and ended up with second-degree burns, and in 2004, a college student died from brain damage caused by a numbing gel applied at a medical spa in North Carolina. Other horror stories involve infections from tattoo removal services, counterfeit Botox, and dangerous allergic reactions from microdermabrasion.
"Platelet-rich plasma therapy, particularly when combined with other anti-aging treatments like microneedling, can help soften the appearance of common signs of aging, such as fine lines and loss of skin tone," he said. "Because it enhances your natural collagen production, it can also firm and smooth the skin for a more youthful complexion and reduce sun damage and scarring."
Your surgeon draws blood from your arm (not your neck, as many a movie vampire has been known to do) and spins it to separate out the plasma, which contains platelets. These are the proteins and growth factors that may stimulate collagen production and thereby promote skin regeneration and rejuvenation. There are several kits available to isolate these growth factors, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP). Once collected, the PRP is injected back into your face.
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Isolating PRP: The drawn blood is placed in a centrifuge for 5 to 10 minutes. This equipment spins the blood at high speed to separate the lighter plasma from the rest of contents of the blood. This isolated platelet rich plasma is “activated” with calcium chloride to begin releasing growth factors that, once injected into the body, will increase collagen production and have other healing effects.
If the procedure is carried out properly, the risks are low, except for people with blood-related medical issues, especially those which require blood-thinning medication. The microneedling causes temporary bleeding—hence the name "Vampire facial". Meanwhile, bruising, swelling, redness and pain may persist over the injection site, but these side effects usually disappear within a few days.
Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, including: plans to have surgery; had surgery on your face; have trouble raising your eyebrows; drooping eyelids; any other abnormal facial change; are pregnant or plan to become pregnant (it is not known if BOTOX® Cosmetic can harm your unborn baby); are breast-feeding or plan to (it is not known if BOTOX® Cosmetic passes into breast milk).
Do not use LATISSE® if you are allergic to one of its ingredients. If you use/used prescription products for eye pressure problems, use LATISSE® under doctor care. May cause brown darkening of the colored part of the eye which is likely permanent. LATISSE® may cause eyelid skin darkening which may be reversible. Only apply at base of upper lashes. DO NOT APPLY to lower lid. Hair may grow outside the treatment area. If you have eye problems/surgery, consult your doctor. Common side effects include itchy and red eyes. If discontinued, lashes gradually return to previous appearance.
Most likely, says Shamban. Those with "premature wrinkles, high levels of solar damage, or anyone who wants an even tone and fresher appearance to their skin," is an ideal candidate for the procedure, she says. However, Zeichner warns that if you have a history of blood diseases, including clotting or bleeding disorders, you should not seek PRP treatment.