Ever heard of the Platelet-Rich Plasma Facial? If not, maybe you’ve heard of its more Instagrammable moniker “The Vampire Facial.” And we know, we’re STDcheck, so you might be thinking this has to do with Twilight and erotic fan fiction, but it doesn’t. This treatment first came to public light in 2013 when Kim K famously posted a bloody selfie after undergoing the procedure. Since then, celebrities, bloggers, and civilians alike have praised the good name of the Vampire Facial, citing it as the source of their dewy skin and radiant complexion. But recently, the publicity surrounding this mythologically-named derma treatment has turned negative after a spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico urged its Vampire Facial patrons to get tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
"It's one of the most popular treatments at my practice," says Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. "We use it to treat acne, acne scarring, melasma, surgical scars, and fine wrinkles and lines." (PRP can also be used on your scalp to treat hair loss because it can stimulate hair growth.)
I was nervous to look in the mirror during and after the procedure because I was expecting my face to be covered in blood à la Kimmy K. Each time I snuck a peek I saw that the bleeding was minimal and it seemed to stop whenever fresh plasma was applied. Rhiannon explained that she tries to use all of the patient’s nutrient-rich plasma during the procedure to ensure the best results. By the end of the treatment, she had made many sweeps across the different sections of my face with the pen and my skin was happy to soak up all the plasma it could get.
Going in for a vampire facial, only to see a few drops of blood on the apples of my cheeks, the area surrounding my nostrils, and where the Dermapen abruptly burst a particularly stubborn period pimple on my chin, was disappointing. Not that I’m a super-gory human, but I love me some My Favorite Murder and the idea of going under the pen to come out equally as bloody (and beautiful) as her royal Kim-ness.
In between microneedling different sections of my face Rhiannon continuously applied more plasma. It’s hard to explain how soothing this felt. Since the “serum” came from my own body it literally felt like it was coming home. Each time it touched my face my skin immediately felt calmed in a way I am 100% sure no product could ever reproduce. My face was pretty much in the middle of a battle with a microneedling pen so I’d like to think each application of plasma reassured my skin that this was all going to be over soon and everything was going to be okay.
The incredible healing power of the blood was discovered in the 1960s when scientists found the hematopoietic stem cells hiding there. Research into the power of these and many other stem cells has made ground-breaking strides in the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases ever since. As we learn more about what stem cells can do and how we can use them to treat a wider array of conditions the procedures have most often been up to the task making headway in degenerative and chronic conditions that previously had no other treatment but management and coping. As they grow in popularity, procedures focused on using stem cells and growth factors already present in our bodies have expanded to including cosmetic procedures like hair loss and beauty treatments. The Vampire Facial, also known as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Facial Treatment, surged in popularity when Kim Kardashian braved the procedure on her reality show. The pictures circulating of her sporting a bloody face sparked conversation among beauty influencers everywhere asking is this treatment effective and how does it work?
PRFM has been available on the U.S. market since 2009. It was developed and is marketed by the Aesthetic Factors corporation. While a platelet extraction centrifuge was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 As of March 2011 platelets extracted in this centrifuge have not been cleared or approved by the FDA for facial rejuvenation. Nonetheless, Selphyl has been described as a "FDA approved dermal filler" in YouTube videos and trade publications.
The Vampire Facial requires little recovery time. There may be redness and some tenderness on the first day that appears much like sunburn. Occasionally some bruising may occur. The initial redness will subside on the second day, and some patients then notice some swelling and a sandpaper texture to the skin the day after treatment. By the third day, the swelling should diminish. The sandpaper texture to the skin may persist for up to a week.
Once the treatment was complete my face was covered in Aquaphor to protect it from the dirt and grime that is NYC and I made my way back onto the subway where I received many sideways glances. It’s a rare thing on a packed train during rush hour to have some personal space, for some reason people didn’t want to sit next to the girl whose blood-speckled face was covered in goo.
The evidence isn’t clear for either of those assumptions in this case. PRP has been studied in a variety of medical settings to assist with healing, but evidence that shows it helps with skin rejuvenation are still relatively new. Dermatologists do seem to agree that PRP can improve pores, acne scars, and fine lines, which have caused vampire facials to become very popular, especially at med spas like the one in New Mexico.
The first step of the Vampire Facelift Treatment is defining the treatment area. This typically consists of the cheeks, under the eyes, or another area of the face that the patient wants to augment. Similar PRP therapy procedures such as the Vampire Breast Lift, Vampire Facial, and Vampire Hair Growth are used for treating other areas of the face, hairline, and breasts.
As a result, skin spas and dermatologist offices like Skinfluence have seen more requests for PRP facials than ever before. Dr. Peredo explained that while the skin tightens after just one vampire facial, the more frequently you undergo the Dermapen (as in, once a month), the better your results will be. In other words, if you want a quick mini face-lift that leaves your skin looking refreshed and refined, drop $800 and give it a go. But, if you’re looking for more noticeable results in terms of fine lines, wrinkles, scarring, and pore size, get ready to dedicate a bit more time to your overall transformation—not to mention a pretty chunk of change.
Once the treatment is complete, Chang applies a soothing cream that contains stem cells and then sunscreen to the patient’s face. She compares the treatment to a chemical peel or a laser in terms of inducing local trauma to boost collagen. To further accelerate the healing process for patients, Chang often uses an LED light. For about 20 minutes post-procedure, patients remain on the treatment table under a tri-paneled lamp. Infrared light is known to accelerate skin recovery and red light is known to reduce inflammation.
Using numbing cream and a very small needle (for almost no pain), the patient’s own growth factors are injected back into her face in a particular way. These growth factors then activate multipotent stem cells already in the skin which is tricking them into “thinking” there’s been an injury and new younger tissue is generated. The multipotent stem cells then develop into new collagen, new blood vessels, and new fatty tissue trying to “repair” the skin that was never injured!
Platelets, Zeichner explains, are rich in growth factors, which essentially act as energy boots for our skin. This helps our skin function optimally, increasing everything from collagen to elastin, while also bringing antioxidant and hydrating properties. "Platelet-rich plasma is now commonly used topically as part of a regular facial, used along with microneedling to enhance penetration into the skin, and is even being injected into the skin in the same manner as dermal fillers," says Zeichner.