What the Bloody Hell Is a Vampire Facial?

Earlier this week, the New Mexico Department of Health announced the closure of a spa in Albuquerque after one of their clients reportedly developed an “unspecified infection” sometime after getting a “vampire facial.” During an inspection of the facility on Friday morning, health department officials became concerned about the way the spa was managing the storage, handling and disposal of needles.

“That’s concerning, because if needles aren’t handled appropriately, you could potentially increase the risk of a blood-borne infection,” Department of Health epidemiologist Dr. Michael Landen.

Landen advised anyone who received a “vampire facial” or other injection procedure from VIP Spa in May or June to get tested for HIV, and Hepatitis A and B. The Health Department is offering free testing for those who need it.

Pause.

What exactly is a vampire facial?

Also known as the Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Facial (which is not nearly as goth), the procedure can only be performed by a licensed medical professional – a regulation that VIP Spa in Albuquerque was allegedly violating. A “vampire facial” involves drawing blood from the patient, and then using a centrifuge to extract the platelet-rich plasma (PRP). After a round of microdermabrasion or microneedling – procedures which cause tiny injuries to the skin – the plasma is injected or slathered on the patient’s face like a mask.

The alleged science behind the “vampire facial” is based in regenerative medicine, according to cosmetic surgeon Dr. Munir Somji. “When we inject the platelets into the face, it tricks the body into thinking that there has been an injury and hence, bring growth factors to aid new collagen formation,” he told The Independent in February.

PRPs are one of the latest trends in beauty and skincare because of its ability to stimulate new cellular growth, purportedly improving skin tone and texture, smoothing fine lines and even promoting hair growth. Patients are advised to pop a pain pill or to apply numbing cream to diminish any pain from the initial blood draw, as well as the microneedling method.

“It sounds gory and mysterious, but in fact, it is central to our evolving understanding of the physiology of the skin and advanced techniques with which to improve the quality of the skin,” Beverly Hills dermatologist Ava Shamban told Allure last year.

The procedure has been around for several years, but became more widely available after Kim Kardashian posted a blood-slathered selfie on Instagram in 2013, after filming the procedure for an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians spin-off Kourtney & Kim Take Miami. Earlier this year, Kardashian reflected on the experience in a post on her blog; the text is only available to paid subscribers, but honestly, the bloody photo, headline (“The Skincare Treatment I’ll Never Do Again”) and caption (“So Not Worth It!”) – not to mention the mysterious infection in Albuquerque – just about sums it up.

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