What Is A Vampire Facial? Experts Weigh In On The Spooky-Sounding Treatment
Would you slather on a face mask made of your own blood? Beauty fans have been dabbling for years (perhaps you've seen the famous Kim Kardashian selfie that went viral back in 2013), and it's actually not as horrifying as it may seem. Appropriately dubbed the "vampire facial," this treatment promises to smooth fine lines, even tone, and tighten crepey skin—with nothing but your own blood.
But hold on: Is this spooky-sounding facial actually worth the hype? We tapped experts for everything (and we mean everything!) you need to know.
What is a vampire facial?
"The vampire facial is a treatment where platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is applied to the skin, usually along with a microneedling device," says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D.
A little background info on PRP procedures: A professional will draw a vial of your own blood, put in a machine called a centrifuge, and spin it to separate the platelets from the rest of the blood cells (white and red). These platelets are considered "liquid gold" in the cosmetic dermatology field, board-certified nurse practitioner and aesthetic specialist Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC, owner of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa, tells mbg. They contain growth factors, which are in charge of recovery whenever the body is in need of repair (i.e., premature aging from oxidative stress or environmental aggressors, like pollution).
However, it can be difficult for those platelets to reach specific locations—that's why professionals inject a concentrated amount (or in the case of vampire facials, use it topically alongside a microneedling procedure), so they can hyper-focus on stressed and aging skin cells. That's why it's known as a "vampire" facial: "Your own blood is being drawn and then given back to you," notes Zeichner. Gnarly, no?
You can read more about PRP here, if you're curious about how it works.
You might be familiar with the benefits of microneedling, which uses a tiny rolling pin to create micro puncture wounds in the skin, which then kick-starts your skin's natural healing process and an increase in collagen production—this, in turn, can lead to a smooth, plump, rejuvenated complexion. Some people swear it leads to better product absorption, reduced hyperpigmentation, and a healthy glow. (Feel free to brush up on your microneedling knowledge here.)
"In a vampire facial, PRP is added to microneedling to boost the collagen induction for an accelerated and amplified response, resulting in smoother, more robust skin," says Coppola. The platelets essentially boost your skin's natural recovery process, which can supercharge your results.
In terms of the best candidate, anyone who has texture, tone, and overall skin aging concerns can benefit from a vampire facial. "The treatment is beneficial in addressing fine lines and wrinkles, crepey skin, sagging, and even acne scars," Zeichner adds.
How it works.
If this all sounds very technical to you, well, that's because it is—make sure you see a fully trained professional for a vampire facial. The treatment may slightly differ depending on the provider, but Coppola walks us through the general game plan:
- After cleansing and prepping your skin for the treatment, an esthetician will draw a vial of your blood and place it into the centrifuge to isolate the platelets. "The PRP will then be drawn up in smaller syringes for the application," Coppola explains.
- Next, the professional will apply the PRP to your face as they microneedle your skin. While you can inject PRP back into the skin, that''s a different procedure—with vampire facials, the PRP gets applied topically, then the microneedling enhances penetration thanks to the tiny puncture wounds.
- "The process is then repeated for a second pass, and whatever remaining PRP is left over is usually applied as a mask," Coppola adds. (This is where someone might snap a selfie of their face painted with their own blood.) "Your skin will be red and swollen, and you can often see pinpoint bleeding, which is how the procedure received its name in the first place."
Just know that you might not see immediate results post-facial. "Unlike some treatments which give an immediate home run, the results of vampire facials take several weeks to become noticeable since it involves the skin healing itself and slowly producing new collagen," says Zeichner. Coppola seconds the warning, noting that the more noticeable results usually happen after a series of four to six treatments.
Again, this is a mildly invasive procedure, so you should be well aware of the risks before booking a treatment. First things first: The procedure can be uncomfortable, notes Zeichner, especially during the microneedling step. You are creating tiny puncture wounds, after all, which might not be the most lovely sensation. Your doctor or esthetician may even apply a topical numbing cream before the treatment, depending on your pain tolerance.
As we mentioned, your skin may also appear red and swollen after the fact. According to Coppola, you may even feel itchy or see some small scabbing. "It is important not to pick at this—just continue to apply the aftercare balm as prescribed by your provider," she says (more on that later). "If the flaking and irritation persists, you should call your provider."
Although, you might want to steer clear of vampire facials (or microneedling in general) if you have any skin infections, sores, rashes, or open wounds. Those with active acne or sensitive skin conditions like eczema and rosacea might also want to avoid this treatment for the time being. If you're unsure whether or not you would make a good candidate, we suggest you speak with a doctor before booking.
Finally: Please avoid at-home devices. Vampire facials should always be done in a professional setting, and "make sure the facility is using an approved device, such as the SkinPen, with a disposable tip to avoid cross-contamination," says Coppola.
Prep & aftercare.
OK, so you've booked a vampire facial—sweet! For at least a week before and after your appointment, Zeichner suggests avoiding any exfoliating acids or retinoids and sticking to a gentle, nourishing routine. Think gentle cleansing balms, hyaluronic acid serums, ceramide-rich moisturizers, etc.
"Your provider will usually provide you with an aftercare balm or lotion that can be applied after the initial six hours," says Coppola. Feel free to slather that on if your skin feels tight or sore.
The skin should heal in between two and seven days, so downtime is pretty minimal—but you might not want to book this treatment right before an important event since you should avoid makeup for at least 18 hours. "You want to wait until the microchannels have fully closed to avoid any irritation or infection," Coppola adds.
And like any other type of facial, proper sun care is key: Make sure to protect your vulnerable skin from UV rays post-vampire treatment.
If you're looking to rejuvenate your skin cells, vampire facials can be a helpful treatment to try (although, there are less invasive avenues with similar benefits, if you don't want to invest in the procedure quite yet). Just know that you should always see a licensed professional for any kind of PRP procedure; without the proper training or safe, sanitized tools, vampire facials can become very, very spooky.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.