The PRP Facial or Vampire Facial shot to notoriety in 2013 when Kim Kardashian posted a picture of her bloodied face, post-treatment. Visceral reactions subsided as the procedure worked its way into the mainstream, and then out again as it was beset by a series of health scares and bad press. It’s still very much available, and in a professional and sterile setting has some benefit – but is it worth it?
A Vampire Facial introduces your own blood (or plasma) to your skin in a bid to kickstart cell growth and renewal. At the start of the procedure blood is drawn and put through a centrifuge to extract the platelet rich plasma, otherwise known as PRP. The plasma is then applied to the skin, with or without micro-needling. The PRP is theoretically able to encourage cell growth via topical application alone, but micro-needling allows a deeper penetration and is usually part of the treatment. There are other more invasive variations on the Vampire Facial such as injecting plasma (or even whole blood) into facial lines or mixing blood/plasma with dermal filler.
The proclaimed advantage of the Vampire Facial is the fact your own body’s cells will never induce an allergic or adverse reaction, limiting the chance of side-effects and downtime. But while intolerance is avoided there are other obvious implications when dealing with blood products. In 2018 a clinic in New Mexico came under fire for lax hygiene standards resulting in an infection scare. VIP Spa in Albuquerque was closed down after it emerged clients had been exposed to HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C – possibly as the result of crossed blood samples. The proliferation of unregulated and inexperienced operators had serious potential consequences in this instance. (Alarmingly, DIY Vampire Facials have seen an increase, with home kits including centrifuge machines in an attempt to bypass the treatment’s high price tag. Medical experts warn of injury, infection and even sepsis.)
The anti-ageing effect of PRP treatment is attributed to the increased rate of skin production it induces. Platelet rich plasma is high in growth factors which initiate collagen synthesis and skin cell turnover. This mimics the behaviour of young skin – minimising pores and lines and improving texture. However – these growth factor particles are not unique to blood and plasma. As a possible alternative to PRP, serums featuring EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) can deliver a cell generating effect with less of the attendant hygiene risk. Stem-cell based EGF treatments are available in both animal and plant derived formulations and are increasingly used for smoother, younger contours via skin cell growth. If you like the idea of a growth factor based anti-ageing treatment but would prefer to avoid PRP – or if you have a condition which precludes PRP treatment (blood clotting problems, blood disease, diabetes or acne) – talk to your practitioner about the full range of options on offer.