Vampire 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.
The 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 skincare 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 pinpoint 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 a reduction in scars, pore size, and stretch marks.
Now, let’s 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 known as platelet-rich plasma or PRP.
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. This 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 as sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles, as well as acne scarring. (3)
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 than any conservative laser “resurfacing” modality. And even less than 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 makes this procedure ideal to perform on occasion for skin health maintenance, or in a treatment course for more targeted correction.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hou A et al. Microneedling: A Comprehensive Review. Dermatol Surg. 2016 Oct 13.