What are Vampire facelifts or facials?
The Vampire Facelift is a procedure which involves drawing a small amount of your own blood to obtain platelet-rich plasma (PRP) which is then injected back into the face to boost collagen and plump up the skin. In the case of the Vampire facial, made famous by Kim Kardashian, micro-needles are used instead of injections. The micro-needles, make a multitude of small punctures allowing the PRP to penetrate the skin barrier.
PRP therapy was developed in the 1970s to help with wound healing after surgery and went onto be used for sports injuries, burns and dentistry.
It has been used in the UK since 2006 for anti-ageing and facial rejuvenation. And some people have had positive results in treatment for androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness).
Most commonly used on the face it can also be given on the backs of the hands, on scars, the décolletage and even the knees to rejuvenate the skin.
The term ‘Vampire Facelift’ was trademarked by Dr Charles Runels from Alabama in the USA who coined it to describe his procedure which combines PRP with Juvederm filler.
What’s it like?
PRP is obtained by drawing about two teaspoonfuls of blood from the arm which is put into a centrifuge for 10 minutes to separate the platelets out.
Makeup is removed and antiseptic is applied, followed by an anaesthetic cream, which is left on the skin for 30 minutes.
The platelets are reintroduced to the face during micro needling or single injections during a procedure which normally takes between 30-40 minutes.
Most people have up to three treatments spaced four to six weeks apart for the best effect and you are advised to eat and drink lots of fluid before the appointment to help the practitioner withdraw the blood more easily.
How does it work?
When re-injected into the skin it is thought these growth factors trigger surrounding cells to multiply boosting facial volume and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It is also believed the treatment diminishes the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.
Platelets stimulate the fibroblast cells which produce collagen – the protein linked to elasticity, suppleness and firmness in skin – and they also activate the pre-adipocyte cell which can convert to a fat cell helping to fill out lines and provide volume to the face.
How good is it?
It can take at least a few weeks for the ‘vampire facelift’ to work and maximum results may not be seen for three months but effects are said to last for up to 18 months.
Studies have found that PRP stimulates fibroblasts – the cells which produce collagen – but sceptics say but there is still insufficient evidence to support the value of PRP.
However, an increasing number of clinics offer it as a staple treatment and many people have reported pleasing improvements in skin tone and lustre as well as fine lines.
What is the recovery time?
The treatment area can look bumpy and red for a few days. Straight afterwards people are advised to use cold compresses to treat swelling and are asked to avoid touching or applying any cream or makeup for six hours after to prevent risk of infection.
What are the risks and side effects?
As the PRP is a natural substance extracted from your own body there is no danger of any adverse events such as an allergic reaction.
You may experience some minor pain for a short period afterwards, along with bruising, swelling and redness but these side effects all dissipate within a few days.
Who can perform the procedure?
The procedure should only be performed by a trained doctor, nurse or cosmetic surgeon.
How much does it cost?
Depending on where you live a single treatment can cost anything from £100 to £900 but the average cost tends to be between £350 and £500.
So is it worth it?
This might be a good option for people who don’t like the idea of surgery and are looking for a natural alternative to Botox or fillers.
Some studies have found an improvement in skin after having this procedure. A small study of 22 Korean women in 2012 found an improvement in skin elasticity when combined with a fractional laser. And 10 women involved in a 2014 study reported an improvement in firmness, wrinkles and general skin appearance after three PRP treatments.
But patience is needed as it can take up to three months to see improvement and often multiple sessions are required.
Canadian dermatologist Dr Barry Lycka says PRP can enhance the effects and longevity of other treatments like lasers, chemical peels and fillers and describes it as ‘a natural filler which lasts for years’.
But Dr Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, states in the American Academy of Dermatology that further research is needed into treatments like this and argues fillers are a better alternative as they give immediate results.
Is there anyone you shouldn’t do it?
The procedure is considered fine for everyone in good health. But you shouldn’t have this treatment if you have sepsis, cancer, an infection of any kind, acute or chronic liver condition or are having anti-coagulant therapy. People with platelet dysfunction syndrome, critical thrombocytopenia, hypofibrinogenaemia are haemodynamic instability are also not suitable candidates.
And it is not recommended if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, trying to conceive or have implants in the treatment area.