Thanks in part to celebrity influencers touting its benefits as well as an eye-catching name, the “Vampire facial”, or microneedling procedure in combination with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, has been growing in popularity in the quest of skin rejuvenation. The PRP part of this treatment first involves a blood draw from the patient which is what the platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is extracted from using a centrifuge. The PRP contains growth factors that is supposed to help with collagen stimulation and faster healing when needled into the skin. Given the fact that microneedling greatly enhances the absorption of any substance topically applied during and immediately after the treatment, it makes sense to give careful consideration to the products being used. And all the more in light of recent incidents where clients at a spa in New Mexico contracted HIV after getting Vampire facials that had been performed by unlicensed personnel.

Even without such dangerous risks, does microneedling with PRP actually yield better results?

While doctors, especially in sports medicine, have used PRP in a bid to soothe inflamed tissue and help injuries recover faster , the scientific evidence supporting its efficacy when combined with microneedling is limited. PRP does contain growth factors that can theoretically stimulate collagen production and promote tissue regeneration, but studies demonstrating its superiority over microneedling without using PRP are lacking. Many of the purported benefits may be attributed to microneedling’s standalone ability to trigger the skin’s natural healing response resulting in enhanced collagen production, improved texture, and a youthful glow.

The perceived safety and naturalness of PRP therapy as it is derived from a patient’s own blood may give clients a false sense of security regarding its risks. As demonstrated by these recent incidents involving unlicensed technicians, any invasive cosmetic procedure can carry significant risks such as disease transmission if proper precautions are not followed.

Like any medical procedure, vampire facials also involve the risk of other temporary side effects including pain, bruising, swelling, redness, and infection at the injection site.

PRP therapy combined with microneedling is generally costlier than the microneedling without the blood draw.  Depending on where it is offered, prices can be upwards of a thousand dollars for each treatment. Considering the limited evidence supporting its effectiveness and the potential risks involved, individuals may want to weigh the cost of these treatments against their perceived benefits.

Patient receiving “vampire facial” whereby platelet-rich plasma is isolated from the blood and then reinjected into the face.

Courtesy of Johnce/Getty Images

There are numerous skincare treatments that have a proven track record and established safety profile that are a decidedly more cost-effective and reliable approach to achieving healthy and youthful skin. Standalone microneedling treatments, in particular, have been proven to offer comparable or superior results to PRP therapy combined with microneedling  – all without the associated risks, side effects, or down time. However, for those who nevertheless enjoy seeking the fountain of youth from their own blood, it’s highly advised to conduct thorough research about the establishment offering PRP therapy.