Vampire Facial: What is it & The Risks Involved
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. The PRP 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.
If you recently saw a headline and you’re wondering what a Vampire Facial is, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got the skinny on what the treatment is, how it’s performed, and the risks associated with it.
What is a Vampire Facial?
A Vampire Facial, or a Platelet-Rich Plasma Facial, is a procedure done on the face to help promote the healing and regeneration of injured tissues by utilizing the growth factors found in platelets.
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.
“Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is widely used in regenerative medicine because of its high concentrations of various growth factors and platelets,” says this research study from Japan. Platelets contain more than 30 different growth factors, and according to VampireFacial.com, the official site of Vampire Facials, “These growth factors activate multipotent stem cells already in the skin (tricking them into thinking there’s been an injury and new, younger tissue should [be] generated).”
So, basically, a Vampire Facial takes platelets from your blood and re-injects them into your face to encourage the growth of new tissue. Ah, the beauty industry.
How is a Vampire Facial Performed?
So now that you understand the benefits of PRP, you might be wondering how this unorthodox medical treatment is performed to make skin look as fresh as a newborn baby’s skin (and about as bloody too).
First, blood is drawn from the arm and is placed in a centrifuge which separates the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. The growth-factor-rich platelets are then injected into the face using microneedling (a process that uses tiny needles to puncture holes into the first layer of skin).
Microneedling itself stimulates the skin to produce more collagen, but the added addition of the platelets is meant to amplify the process.
“When we inject the platelets into the face, it tricks the body into thinking that there has been an injury and hence, bring growth factors to aid new collagen formation,” said Dr Munir Somji of MediSpa
On VampireFacial.com, it states that a provider will also paint these growth factors onto the face so that they “…soak into the tissue for further stimulation of tightening and skin rejuvenation.” This is what creates the Insta-famously bloody look that you’ve seen.
Are there any Risks?
Yes! There are always risks when it comes to using needles, especially when the needles are not used by trained medical professionals. The three main infections that can be obtained from unclean needles are Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV, all of which can be passed on to sexual partners.
An example of this is the recent scare that occurred at a spa in Albuquerque, NM. The spa lacked the proper licensing, and two clients were found to become infected with HIV, linking their HIV to the spa.
That’s why it’s imperative that when you receive treatment (whether medical or for physical changes), you ensure that the needles used are either new or were properly sanitized. Before beginning a procedure, be sure to ask about their sanitizing procedures. Ask if you can watch them open a new needle or sanitize a used one. If they don’t use disposable needles, ask to watch the needle undergo its sanitization, and check that their sanitizer has been recently inspected. This may feel awkward at the time, but a true professional will understand your concern and the risks that are involved.
Medically Reviewed by J. Frank Martin JR., MD on October 1, 2018
Author: Lauren Crain
Lauren Crain is a writer, designer, and joke-teller. With an academic background from Texas State University in communication and education, Lauren works tirelessly to find the best way to transform hard-to-grasp concepts into straightforward information. She's been a writer her whole life, but she began writing professionally in 2014. In 2018, she joined the STDcheck.com editorial staff because of her passion for communicating information about public health and destigmatizing sexual health. Before becoming a member of the STDcheck.com team, Lauren worked as a communication skills teacher, marketing coordinator, and freelance writer and designer. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Muse, Insider, Clutch.co, Her Campus, and Business News Daily. When she's not researching, writing, or trying to communicate authentically, you can find her sitting outside.