At this point, you’ve probably seen photos and videos circulating on Instagram and Snapchat showcasing blood-splattered selfies, all taken in the name of beauty. What sounds (and looks) like an absolute nightmare is actually one of the industry’s most-requested treatments: the vampire facial. And, as with many seemingly crazy beauty habits and trends, we have the Kardashians to thank for it.
In case you don’t remember high school biology, “Platelets are the cells that circulate within our blood and bind together when they recognize damaged blood vessels,” says Dr. Marlene Williams of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. When the body is wounded, platelets come to the wound site and stick together to create a clot and stop bleeding. They also encourage the growth of new tissues. This new tissue growth is what scientists, doctors, and spas that use Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy are after.
PRFM is an outpatient procedures that, as of March 2011, costs about $900 to $1,500 in the U.S. and takes less than half an hour. Blood is drawn from the patient's arm and spun in a centrifuge to separate out the platelets, which are then injected back under the patient's facial skin. It can also be combined in a specific way with other fillers. A procedure using this combination has been marketed as the "Vampire facelift"."
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The vampire facial was only supposed to sound scary. Sure, it involves extracting the patient's own blood, isolating the platelet-rich plasma by spinning it in a centrifuge and then re-injecting it into the face. But the results are touted to be rejuvenated, smooth and supple skin, not an HIV or hepatitis scare, as clients of the VIP Spa in Albuquerque, N.M., are now facing.
Chang begins the 90-minute procedure with a deep cleansing of the face and the application of numbing cream. During the numbing process, Chang draws blood from the patient’s arm and then places two vials of blood in a centrifuge for 10 minutes to isolate the PRP. Chang then removes the numbing cream from the patient’s face, applies some PRP to the face and then injects the plasma into the skin with a microneedling machine.
A vampire facial is a combination of microneedling and PRP. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is a concentrate of platelet-rich plasma protein derived from the whole blood after it has been processed by spinning in a centrifuge to remove the red cells. The PRP has a greater concentration of growth factors than the whole blood. And growth factors are what our cells make that can help tissue heal and repair, which means it can help with all sorts of skin issues.
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."