The Vampire Facelift® is actually not a surgical facelift at all, but rather a type of skin treatment using the body’s own natural healing and growth factors that are derived from your own blood (hence the name The Vampire Facelift®), combined with a hyaluronic acid dermal filler. The procedure is a near painless series of injections into strategic areas of the face to reduce wrinkles, add youthful volume, and improve the quality of your skin.
With my face completely numb and my platelet-rich plasma ready to go, I hopped onto the table. From there Rhiannon and I discussed the microneedling I had been bracing for. She explained that she would adjust the pen to penetrate my skin anywhere from .5 mm to 2 mm deep depending on the area of my face. On parts with less fat, like my forehead and around my nose, the pen would go just .5 mm deep. On the rest of my face she would bump it up to 1 mm. Once all of those details were squared away I felt confident to start the treatment. Bring it on!
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.
Some dermatologists I talked with did offer plasma injections, but not exactly in the way Kardashian got hers. Anthony Sclafani, a facial plastic surgeon at the New York Ear and Eye Infirmary, performs single-needle injections for wrinkles and acne scars. Sclafani also authored one of the only actual studies about platelet-rich plasma for wrinkles, a small study of 15 people published last year. The study was supported by Aesthetic Factors, the Pennsylvania-based company that makes the technology for separating plasma from the blood in the doctor's office, a procedure that previously had to be done in labs.
"The term “vampire facial” may throw some people off, leading to a misconception that this is a quick, easy treatment," Hah said. "However, PRP therapy is a medical procedure that should always be performed by a physician who has specific experience with the technique. In addition to blood needing to be drawn safely and with sterile instruments, micro-injuries are created in the facial skin during the microneedling process—which can leave room for infection if the proper care is not taken."
Spread of toxin effects. The effect of botulinum toxin may affect areas away from the injection site and cause serious symptoms including: loss of strength and all-over muscle weakness, double vision, blurred vision and drooping eyelids, hoarseness or change or loss of voice, trouble saying words clearly, loss of bladder control, trouble breathing, and trouble swallowing.
"It’s rare for an incident like what happened in New Mexico to occur with PRP therapy, though it can be avoided by working with a qualified properly licensed physician provider," Hah said. "The spa operating in New Mexico did not have the credentials to perform this kind of medical procedure. Since their license expired, there was no oversight of the spa’s safety and cleanliness practices. Per the Department of Health’s findings, it appears the spa in question did not properly store, handle, or dispose of used needles."
The procedure has been around for several years, but became more widely available after Kim Kardashian posted a blood-slathered selfie on Instagram in 2013, after filming the procedure for an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians spin-off Kourtney & Kim Take Miami. Earlier this year, Kardashian reflected on the experience in a post on her blog; the text is only available to paid subscribers, but honestly, the bloody photo, headline (“The Skincare Treatment I’ll Never Do Again”) and caption (“So Not Worth It!”) – not to mention the mysterious infection in Albuquerque – just about sums it up.
So, what is it and how does it work, exactly? Don't let the name fool you. In fact, "It's usually done in full light of day," says Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Ava Shamban. In all seriousness, the treatment is a "combination of a microdermabrasion, followed by the application of PRP (platelet-rich plasma)," says Shamban. "The PRP is derived from the serum portion of the blood, which contains platelets. The platelets contain high levels of growth factors, which, when applied to the skin, will stimulate cell turnover."