Beauty enthusiasts learned long ago not to be afraid of needles. Now, they’re taking it a step further with platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatments, commonly known as the “vampire” facelift and “vampire” facial. Patients may start out looking like Dracula’s latest victim, but plastic surgeons say these increasingly popular though little researched treatments leave clients with smooth, plump, and rejuvenated skin.
And while it’s been several years since Kim Kardashian’s infamous on-screen treatment, popularity for vampire treatments is only picking up. RealSelf has seen a 25 percent increase in visits to the topic compared to last year. Among those users, 63 percent of visits came from people aged 35 and older. That’s 15 percentage points higher than the typical traffic from this demographic to RealSelf.
What is platelet-rich plasma (PRP)?
Platelets are the blood’s emergency responders, says Dr. Kevin Sadati, a facial plastic surgeon in Orange County. “They contain growth factors and healing properties that boost the immune system,” he explains.
To harness those platelets, doctors start with something common at many medical visits: a blood draw. That blood is then spun through a centrifugal processing system to separate the platelets from the red blood cells, creating a serum from the remaining plasma. The resulting plasma is injected back into the skin.
The facial vs. the facelift
Both the vampire facial and vampire facelift use PRP to plump skin. The difference is in the delivery.
The vampire facial is done through microneedling, says Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Nassif. A microneedling device punctures the skin with tiny needles to inspire collagen production. Then PRP is injected to boost the skin’s natural healing process with plasma’s rockstar properties. For best results with the vampire facial, Dr. Nassif suggests an initial course of treatment of three to four visits every four to six weeks.
The vampire facelift is done through injection (so no microneedling) and is often combined with another dermal filler like Restylane or Juvéderm. Injections may target the eyes, cheeks, or entire face. “Patients will see immediate results with PRP injection plus fillers,” says Dr. Nassif. Similar to any hyaluronic acid injection, the results last up to nine months and can be repeated indefinitely.
What to expect
Despite making for a great Halloween selfie, vampire facials and facelifts are only as painful as a round of Botox (which is to say, not very). “The worst part for me was getting the blood drawn,” one RealSelf user wrote in her review.
Don’t worry too much about immediate after effects either, says Charlotte’s Book expert and New York dermatological surgeon Dr. Mitchell Kline. “Most patients can return to normal activity the following day,” he says. “Some feel comfortable resuming normal activities even later that day.”
RealSelf user Annie* reports the same: “Just one day later, the redness is almost gone and I feel and look great.”
“Just one day later, the redness is almost gone and I feel and look great.”
Is it worth it?
More than 80 percent of RealSelf users who have tried them recommend the treatments.
That aligns with what Charlotte’s Book expert and dermatologist Dr. Amanda Doyle sees at her New York City practice. Dr. Doyle regularly administers the vampire facial and has noticed marked improvement in her patients.
“Benefits build over time with each additional treatment,” she says. “Results aren’t usually noticeable until after a few treatments, but based on my experience, improvements can be noticeable earlier in some patients.”
It’s when only PRP is used that RealSelf users report mixed results. “I never saw ONE BIT of difference in my skin,” writes one 64-year-old in North Carolina. Compare that to this glowing review from a woman in Georgia: “My face looks so refreshed and rejuvenated and the fine lines and wrinkles have diminished.”
If you’re researching PRP, keep in mind that the treatment has only been FDA approved for sports medicine and, Dr. Nassif points out, there are no clinical studies that explore how effective PRP is when used alone.
For this reason, many doctors prefer to enhance PRP, if they perform it at all. Dr. Sadati, for example, typically combines PRP with fatty tissue before injecting it into the face. “I don’t personally believe that PRP refreshes the skin on its own,” he says, pointing to a clinical study he conducted in 2006. Of 580 patients, all showed “greater graft volume retention” (a.k.a. fresher, fuller results) when fat was used in the treatment.
Here’s the takeaway: a vampire facelift or facial can tackle specific wrinkles, provide an alternative to injectable fillers, and, perhaps most importantly, provide an all-around facial boost. Now, just to brave the needles…
Have you tried a vampire treatment? Share your experience.
*Name has been changed to protect user’s privacy.