As a fan of all things spooky and strange, as well as skincare-oriented, I was immediately intrigued when I saw the now famous image of Kim Kardashian having a “Vampire Facial” back in 2013. Of course, being that it was Kim Kardashian — a woman not exactly known for her modest expenditures — I didn’t even bother looking into the procedure at the time, figuring it was too exclusive and too expensive for me.
But a decade later, Vampire Facials, also known as blood facials or PRP injections (platelet-rich plasma), have become more mainstream. A quick “vampire facials near me” search on Yelp rendered dozens of results (granted, I’m in Los Angeles). So, what exactly is a Vampire Facial, what does it involve and what are the benefits?
“A Vampire Facial is when someone is using PRP on your face to stimulate growth factors, collagen, elastin and cell regeneration,” said dermatologist Mary Alice Mina, M.D.
The procedure, which should be performed by a dermatologist, is perhaps best understood by describing what actually happens during it. Mina explained the following steps:
If you’re wearing makeup, it will be removed and your skin will be cleaned.
A topical numbing agent will be applied to your face.Next, comes microneedling. This is done with a device that looks like a pen with a lot of tiny needles on its head that moves back and forth. It creates micro-traumas to the skin — small, open channels.A phlebotomist draws your blood and spins it down in a centrifuge that separates out cells in your blood from the plasma.
The dermatologist then takes the blood platelet component mixed with the plasma and smears it on your face, rubbing it into the microchannels. Or they may inject the blood mix into the microchannels.
The Vampire Facial takes around 30 minutes to perform, but dermatologist Kseniya Kobets, M.D., asks patients to come in an hour before the procedure to answer any questions, go over paperwork and post-care, take pictures, and start topical numbing.
Charles Runels, M.D., who coined the term “Vampire Facial” and was the doctor who performed the procedure on Kardashian in 2013, said the longest part of the Vampire Facial is waiting for the numbing agent to take effect, which generally takes about 20 minutes.
Although this is not exactly a time-consuming procedure, you should plan for some down time after.
“This is not something you want to do on your lunch break,” Mina said. “You’ll be red and have some pinpoint areas, perhaps for a few days.”
Vampire Facials are not for the faint of heart — or for the faint of cash.
“The prices vary between geographic areas,” Mina said. “And you will need at least three facials — a series of treatments. I would say, expect to spend an average of at least $1,200 for three Vampire Facials.”
There is always a risk of infection with any procedure involving a needle, but PRP injections are considered safe because you’re using your own blood, so there’s no risk of developing an allergy.
“You’re just putting your own blood back into you at a higher concentration,” Mina said. “Essentially, you’re using your own body to heal itself. That alone makes it safe. Additionally, we know that microneedling is very safe in all skin types.”
Still, this is a sensitive procedure and prospective patients should treat it as such.
“It is important to go to a clinic that is familiar and experienced with doing cosmetic procedures, [and] has superior microneedling or laser technologies and quality PRP processing kits,” said Kobets.
“There are numerous benefits for your skin,” Kobets said. “It is a natural way to rejuvenate the skin, treat mild acne scars and other scars, improve pores and skin radiance, and lessen fine lines. It even helps rosacea and melasma in some studies by boosting collagen and promoting skin healing with your own growth factors found in your blood.”
Results will last one to two months for pores, skin texture and wrinkles. Multiple treatments are recommended for continued improvement, every four to six weeks.
“Results are seen as early as one to two weeks post procedure, and [you] continue to see improvement in pores, redness and wrinkles over weeks to months as collagen continues to be stimulated in treated areas,” Kobets said.
Mina, who admits to never having had a facial of any kind in her life, is less convinced of the benefits.
“I think the jury is still a bit out on the real benefits of the Vampire Facial,” Mina said. “We need better studies, larger studies. But if it makes you feel better and you like how you look after — there’s something to that.”
Twelve-hundred bucks for a few months of feeling fresh-faced is a lot of money. And the process of a Vampire Facial can be scary because, well, there’s blood all over your face. Fortunately, there are other, less intense and more affordable options that offer similar results.
“Alternative, less-invasive treatments that can be done for skin texture are laser photofacials,” Kobets said. “Light laser resurfacing treatments can be done and PRP can be applied immediately after to help heal and boost collagen. Also, light chemical peels offer a less-expensive ($200–$350) but also slightly less-effective option and [you] cannot use PRP after it. There is also more downtime with chemical peeling, whereas microneedling does not have skin peeling or major scabbing.”
As for me, well, my morbid curiosities and skincare fanaticism still have me obsessing over the Vampire Facial, but I’m too spooked by the price tag to go anywhere near it.