A few years ago, Kim Kardashian made a splash during her family’s reality show by using her own blood for a “Vampire Facial.” But the effectiveness of the somewhat gruesome, non-surgical treatment has never been the subject of clinical studies, and it remained on the outskirts of the cosmetic enhancement world.
But even though little research exists supporting the use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy for facial rejuvenation, its popularity appears to be increasing. RealSelf, a website used by individuals considering cosmetic procedures, says it has seen a 25% increase in visits to pages that discuss PRP therapy.
“Among those users,” RealSelf reports, “63% of visits came from people aged 35 and older. That’s 15 percentage points higher than the typical traffic from this demographic to RealSelf.”
PRP therapy is most commonly used for helping athletes recover from injuries. It uses the platelets extracted from the patients’ own blood to rebuild damaged tendons or cartilage, jump-starting the healing process and relieving pain. Platelets contain a number of growth factors that can stimulate collagen synthesis, skin renewal, cell growth, and tissue regeneration. Those growth factors make platelets especially valuable for facial rejuvenation, according to cosmetic specialists such as dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
“A good analogy is to consider PRP as a fertilizer in which the growth factors found in your blood’s plasma are reinjected in your facial tissues to stimulate the local stem cells,” says Dr. Marc DuPéré, a facelift specialist in Toronto at the Visage Clinic, in blog post on his website. “So PRP is often added to our facial surgeries, including fat grafting.”
Combining fat grafting with platelet-rich plasma and stem cell transfer during facelift surgery can enhance the results. Fat grafting involves harvesting fat from a patient and then spinning it in a centrifuge to separate out healthy fat cells. This process also isolates stem cells from red blood cells and creates a serum which can be reinjected in specific areas of the face and lips.
Many aesthetic specialists, such as Dr. DuPéré, combine fat grafting and PRP therapy to enhance a surgical facelift, and they also say PRP works on its own as a non-surgical treatment.
This is what’s known as a “vampire” facelift or facial. Blood is drawn, then the PRP is either spread over the face during a microneedling treatment to help it absorb, or it’s directly injected. It also often involves combining hyaluronic acid (HA) fillers and PRP to soften wrinkles and refresh the skin. These procedures can target specific areas, such as the eyes or cheeks, or encompass the whole face.
So is a vampire facial or facelift right for you?
It really depends on your specific goals. People concerned about acne, melasma, or discoloration would be better served with a chemical peel, photofacial, or laser resurfacing.
“But if you’re looking for overall facial rejuvenation or for the treatment of targeted areas such as fine lines or volume loss in the cheeks or under the eyes or you’re weary of fillers or laser treatments,” says an article on PRP therapy published on Charlotte’s Book, “then facial PRP treatments might be a great alternative for you.”