"A few years ago, I heard about a 'vampire facial,' and I was so intrigued," Kardashian West wrote. Right before she signed up to try the treatment, she found out she was pregnant, which meant that she couldn't use the a numbing cream or painkiller before the treatment as doctors typically recommend, she says. That made for a super uncomfortable experience. "It was really rough and painful for me. It was honestly the most painful thing ever! It's the one treatment that I'll never do again."
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.
With incidents like the one at the Albuquerque spa making headlines, it is increasingly clear that there’s a need for more oversight and more standardization in the industry. Each state currently has different rules about how med spas can be run. Often, they don’t require a medical doctor to be on the premises, as long as one is available on call. These spas market themselves like salons but are actually offering potentially life-threatening procedures requiring knowledge of proper infection control practices.
The facial, which is technically a Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment, is, according to some skin care experts one of the best anti-aging procedures out there. “PRP is created from your own blood. It involves a simple blood draw into a special test tube, which is then spun in a centrifuge so that the plasma, with millions of platelets, floats to the top,” says Willowbrook, IL, dermatologist Jessie Cheung, MD. The PRP solution is then used in tandem with micro needling, creating hundreds of microscopic holes in the skin (the solution is applied to the skin after the holes have been made).
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."