Microneedling and the Vampire Facial


vampire.jpgVampire facial, what the heck is that?  The name certainly sounds intriguing.  Who doesn’t want to be a vampire these days, am I right?  Well, the term vampire facial is actually a nickname for a skin rejuvenating procedure involving micro-needling and platelet rich plasma.  The treatment is so-called primarily because it uses the patient’s own blood (platelet rich plasma) to make improvements in the skin.  But also when combined with micro-needling, because the many fine needle punctures in the skin leave the patient looking rather bloody immediately afterward.   

kardashian-vampire-facial.jpgThe vampire facial has gained significant popularity over the last year or so, as it is something that certain celebrities (ie Kim Kardashian) have been known to apparently undergo regularly as part of their skin care regimens. 

The procedure itself is quite straightforward.  After applying a good thick layer of topical numbing cream and letting that absorb for an hour or so, the skin is then cleansed and a device with multiple fine needles that rapidly punctures the skin is passed over the treatment zone.

The needles are used to puncture the skin to a precise depth, creating controlled skin injury, and are passed over the skin until pin-point bleeding is noted from hundreds of micro injuries.   

How does it work?  Each puncture creates a channel that triggers the body to fill these microscopic wounds by producing new collagen and elastin.  New collagen and new elastin are essential for youthful healthy appearing skin.  Through the process of healing and new collagen growth, there is improvement in skin texture, tone, and firmness, as well as reduction in scars, pore size, and stretch marks.

Now, lets go back to the first.  How does one’s own blood get used to rejuvenate the skin?  Well, before removing the numbing cream and cleaning off the skin, the patient’s blood is drawn, just enough to fill up a small tube.  Then while the micro-needling is being performed, that blood is being spun down and separated into what is know as platelet rich plasma or PRP.

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PRP contains a wealth of growth factors and cytokines, chemicals that signal healing to the body.  Thus, PRP works on the simple principle of utilizing your own natural platelets to instruct the body to create new collagen for tauter, smoother and better toned skin.  

Once this golden yellow platelet rich portion of the blood is obtained, and the completed micro-needling has created many fine fresh channels into the deeper layers of skin, it is then applied and absorbed into the dermis where it can be of most benefit.   

While both PRP and micro-needling are effective rejuvenating therapies on their own, the combination is synergistic, with greater improvement achieved by combining them together.  (1,2)

On a slightly more scientific note:

While there are some detractors from this procedure online, it is only when the procedure is labeled the vampire “facelift” that I agree with them. Calling it a vampire “facelift” is misleading and frankly incorrect.  It is not a facelift, nor does it take the place of dermal filler.  Which means it is the wrong choice for patients that have volume loss and skin laxity as their primary problem.  However, it has been extensively studied in the treatment of various skin textural and color issues, such sun damage, fine lines and wrinkles, as well as acne scarring. (3)


B&A MIcroneedle tx.png

The above pictures show before and after results of micro-needle therapy alone, without PRP.

On a more personal note:

My experience has been overwhelmingly positive.  The downtime associated with this procedure is extremely small. Mild redness lasting for 1-2 days for most people is the average healing time, and makeup can be worn the next day.  No swelling, no peeling.  This is less downtime then any conservative laser “resurfacing” modality.  And even less then most chemical peels which do much less collagen production by comparison.

In my experience, It is this great blend of results and minimal downtime which make this procedure ideal to perform on occasion for skin health maintenance, or in a treatment course for more targeted correction.


  1. Asif M et al. Combined autologous platelet-rich plasma with microneedling verses microneedling with distilled water in the treatment of atrophic acne scars: a concurrent split-face study. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016 Jan 8.
  2. Chawla S. Split Face Comparative Study of Microneedling with PRP Versus Microneedling with Vitamin C in Treating Atrophic Post Acne Scars. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2014 Oct-Dec;7(4):209-12.
  3. Hou A et al. Microneedling: A Comprehensive Review. Dermatol Surg. 2016 Oct 13.


The Cosmeceutical

What skin creams will be best for keeping away signs of wrinkles and aging? Cosmetic dermatologists warn that not all skin creams are created equal and to investigate and research fully the claims of your skin care routine before committing time and money to a product.Cosmeceutical is the term currently used among dermatologists to refer to the area between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The FDA defines cosmetics as articles intended to be topically applied for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness without affecting structure or function. Whereas pharmaceuticals are defined as compounds designed to be used as medicinal drugs. As you can imagine the requirements and FDA regulations place on the manufacturing and marketing of new drugs is dramatically different than the regulations placed on makeup.

The cosmetic industry is a vibrant and growing market, and this is a bit of an understatement.   Revenue from the cosmetic and skin care industry is over $ 50 billion annually in the US alone, and nearly a third of that is defined as facial skin care. The US is not unique in its cosmetic inclinations. In fact, global industry sales reach close to $200 billion annually with the largest consumer being Asia.   In short, the skin care market continues to grow on an impressive international scale.

As this occurs, the sophistication of raw materials, compounds, and formulations used in this arena increases. In conjunction, a greater appreciation of the top layer of the skin, called the stratum corneum, has been achieved through the use and basic study of these non-invasive bioengineered creams.

Research clearly demonstrates that non-prescription topical agents can dramatically influence the stratum corneum, and that these agents can indeed penetrate the stratum corneum and influence skin function. Thus cosmetics and skin care products are assuming an increasingly important role in clinical dermatology.

One of the foundational dermatologic texts defines a cosmeceutical as “a scientifically designed, useful product intended for external application to the human body that has desirable aesthetic effects and meets rigid chemical, physical and medical standards.”  But it also readily recognizes that “there is no regulatory description that acknowledges the current scientific sophistication of these formulations”. Which means that cosmecuetical products currently do not need to rigorously demonstrate that they are what they say they are, or do what they say they’ll do. And consequently, in many physicians’ minds walk a fine line between evidenced based medicine and snake oil.

What this means for you? You need to get your product from a trusted source and beware of online fraudulence. Also take the products claims with a grain of salt and a healthy degree of skepticism. You can think of the industry oversight as being similar to that of vitamins and supplements. A company’s claims about the product do not have to be rigorously substantiated through scientific study. They only have to prove safety, not efficacy, and not even content sometimes. You may want to seek real, sound, evidenced based medical advice. And even more importantly, beware of online fraudulence.Cosmetic dermatologist advice on skin care products

Counterfeiting and theft are real issues with medical grade skin care products. A quick Google search will show you high-end cosmetic skin care products for only a fraction of the cost. Products like SkinCeuticals, Biopelle, EltaMD, SkinMedica, TNS, and Neocutis found online are perhaps the most suspect, as these skin care lines are principally sold in medical clinics and spa settings, any online distribution should be seriously scrutinized. But the fraudulence is not limited to these brands. Even impure Botox is cheaply purchased online.

Shipments are stolen and sold to consumers, products are counterfeited with different creams and sold in identical packaging, or expired products can be repackaged or sold that won’t give you the full benefit you expect.

Keeping that in mind, there are plenty of great companies making cosmeceuticals out there that are high in quality with good scientific evidence to back their efficacy in helping to rejuvenate and maintain skin tone and texture.