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Last updated February 20, 2020. 6 minute read

Vampire facials or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) facials explained

A Vampire Facial (also called the PRP facial or blood facial) is a treatment that starts with microneedling, which creates tiny punctures in the skin, or microdermabrasion, a procedure that removes the top layer of skin, followed by an application of platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

Linnea Zielinski Written by Linnea Zielinski
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Everyone seemed to agree, at least for a while, that vampires are sexy. Maybe that was thanks to the decidedly sexual innuendo of biting someone’s neck, or maybe it was just Robert Pattinson. Though vampires seem to have mostly disappeared from pop culture, there’s one area where they’re hanging on: in your dermatologist’s office. The “Vampire Facial” is a trendy treatment that has been tried by none other than Instagram queen herself, Kim Kardashian, and was recently covered in the controversial Goop Lab series on Netflix.

Back to those vampires for a second. Part of their appeal had to be that they didn’t age, and youth is synonymous with sexy in pop culture. And that’s along the lines of what the Vampire Facial (which is a trademarked name) promises to deliver. The main selling point of the treatment is its supposed ability to rejuvenate the face and restore a youthful look.

Vitals

  • The Vampire Facial is one trademarked form of the PRP facial.
  • All of these treatments use platelet-rich plasma taken from the client’s own blood.
  • The Vampire Facial uses microneedling or microdermabrasion to increase the absorption of the PRP.
  • Studies show PRP helps with tissue repair, and microneedling reduces the appearance of scars from acne or burns.
  • The biggest risk is infection from improperly sterilized equipment.

What is it, and how does it work?

A Vampire Facial (also called the PRP facial or blood facial) is a treatment that starts with microneedling, which creates tiny punctures in the skin, or microdermabrasion, a procedure that removes the top layer of skin, followed by an application of platelet-rich plasma (PRP). But though that sounds relatively straight-forward, it’s not quite so simple. The PRP they use is from blood—your blood. To get that, they need to kick off the whole procedure with a blood draw, something you probably associate more with going to the doctor than an elective cosmetic treatment.

Once the dermatologist takes your blood, they spin it in a centrifuge to separate the blood cells from the platelets. You’ll then get microdermabrasion or microneedling done on your entire face—microneedling is standard for the trademarked Vampire Facial procedure—before your platelet-rich plasma is slathered all over your face. Microneedling is pretty much what it sounds like, and though you’ll get thousands of tiny pinpricks, the needles used are incredibly thin, and most people report that it’s not actively painful. If microneedling is used, a numbing cream is applied to the treatment area before the procedure begins, though people report that there’s still some feeling, especially in areas where the skin is taught, like right above the eyebrows.

Kim Kardashian West turned heads with her social media post about the procedure, but it’s worth noting that you probably won’t get the same shocking bloody splatter effect on your own face. Since the time Kim got hers done, the procedure has changed. The treatment used to use all of the patient’s blood instead of spinning it to get to the serum alone. The change to the process separates out the red blood cells, which is how Kim’s face in her now-famous selfie got the Halloween horror look that people couldn’t stop talking about.

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Benefits of a PRP facial

There are two potential sources of benefits for your skin here: microneedling and PRP. PRP is rich in growth factor, which is why dermatologists have been so eager to use it in treatments. PRP is actively used in the treatment of acne, alopecia, and skin ulcers. Less frequently, it is used in treatments for melasma (a pigment disorder that causes brown or grey spots on the skin and primarily on the face), hyperpigmentation, and burns because it stimulates tissue repair and regeneration (Merchan, 2019). But multiple researchers note that better ways of measuring its effects and controls are needed, such as split-face comparisons since skin can vary so widely from person to person (Leo, 2015; Merchan, 2019).

Research has also noted that PRP can help speed wound healing. And though the researchers note that it shows promise in improving depressed acne scarring, much of its promise is in how it may change the color, tone, and texture of surgical scars. But more work is needed to gauge its potential in scar management, especially research looking at long-term outcomes (Alser, 2018).

Microneedling devices have benefits of their own for the skin. Past research, for example, shows that needling does hold promise for lessening the appearance of acne scarring, one meta-analysis found (Harris, 2015). And this benefit appears to hold true in patients with darker skin, lessening acne scars, and the pigmentation that comes along with them. But researchers did note that some people may need multiple treatments to see the same results (Qarqaz, 2018). It has also been shown to improve the appearance of scars caused by burn injuries (Suca, 2017). And this treatment also encourages the creation of new collagen, which can support skin tone.

Are vampire facials safe?

If you do choose to get a Vampire Facial, you may want to schedule it right before a long weekend. Many people experience redness for one or two days that looks like a sunburn. And though the redness may not bother you, your dermatologist will also recommend staying away from all makeup for those days, which may make going to work hard for some. You should avoid acid skincare treatments for a full week, however.

But since you cannot be allergic to your own blood, there’s little risk in applying your own serum to your face—as long as all the equipment used throughout the process is sterile. This was the concern with a spa in New Mexico that was shut down by the New Mexico Department of Health after two customers contracted HIV after getting the trendy treatment. After inspection, it was found that the business in question wasn’t licensed and was improperly handling and disposing of needles (Baca, 2019).

Microneedling, which is typically part of the blood facial, has its own potential side effects. This is where sterilized equipment, and equipment that prevents backsplash, is of the utmost importance. Other potential side effects include scarring since tiny wounds are being created in the skin and, especially for people of color, pigment abnormalities. This was seen in one study that looked at microneedling on Asian patients. Of the 30 participants, five experienced pigmentation associated with inflammation after the treatment (Dogra, 2014).

If you have any condition that requires your blood levels to be monitored (such as myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera), talk to your healthcare provider before undergoing any cosmetic procedures that require a blood draw. People with clotting conditions may also want to talk with their healthcare practitioner before this type of procedure.

How much does it cost?

Costs for the Vampire Facial range and are dependent on your service provider, but estimates given by dermatologists hover around $1,000 for one treatment. What you’re paying for is the expertise of the practitioner—and please do go to someone experienced, qualified, and certified—but also the amount of equipment used, since the Vampire Facial combines multiple procedures into one treatment. It’s also worth highlighting that, in some cases, your dermatologist will advise more than one treatment.

Is it worth the cost?

This depends heavily on your situation, including the state of your skin and your bank account. Though anecdotally, people report radiant and glowing skin after this facial treatment, people with dermatological concerns such as scarring may find the most value in the Vampire Facial. Studies back the treatment’s success in diminishing the appearance of scarring. However, there’s a need for improved methods for measuring and quantifying the skin rejuvenation effects of this treatment.