To pursue beauty, people will use makeup, creams, and even plastic surgery. But, would you spread your own blood on your face?
Wait, Your Own Blood?
Earlier this year, these treatments, known as ‘blood facials’ or ‘vampire facials’ became well known due to celebrities such as Kim Kardashian posting about their rejuvenation effect on social media. Quickly, this sparked a debate over whether these treatments were handy or horrific. And who knows if they even work?
Well, Do They Work?
These vampire facials are actually known clinically as protein-rich plasma (PRP) treatments. First, your blood is drawn, then spun through a centrifuge. The high force makes the blood separate into three layers: red blood cells at the bottom, liquid plasma at the top, and a cloudy layer called the “serum portion” in the middle that contains the protein-rich plasma. After processing the PRP, it is ready for treatment. Treatment can include injecting it under the skin the way one would inject fillers, or it can be applied like a face mask. If the PRP is applied, it can be combined with a procedure like microneedling or microabrasion, which open up little holes and cracks in the skin to help the plasma absorb into the face. The dermatologists who perform them promise effects like reversal of hair loss, increased collagen production, and glowing skin.
Just a Selling Point?
While there aren’t many clinical studies on these effects yet, PRP treatments have actually been used for healing joint and muscle injuries. They can speed up cell regeneration for a variety of sports injuries and even alleviate chronic tendonitis pain. The process is quite similar to how vampire facials work. The platelet-rich plasma is just injected or applied onto the skin of the area that needs to grow back.
Tell Me More!
For both the cosmetic and medical treatments, the plasma is full of platelets. In the blood, they help it clot when you get a cut. They contain alpha granules that have growth factors in them. These growth factors act as chemical messengers to promote cell division and growth. This also includes producing more proteins such as collagen, which provides structure to the body. So, they can help a torn ACL reform or cause cheek cells to multiply and plump up a face. Since PRP is minimally invasive and has few risks, it can be a good option for patients who have a variety of treatment goals.
If You’re Still Wrapping Your Head Around It All, You’re Not Alone!
Many people can get put off by this bloody procedure. On the surface, it sounds like yet another one of those beauty gimmicks that seems to exist only to trick the wealthy out of their money. But astonishingly, protein-rich plasma treatments have a basis in regenerative medicine. In reality, the worlds of beauty, science, and medicine can be very intertwined. When these disciplines learn from one another, interesting and helpful things can happen. What other examples of this other than vampire facials can you think of?
In any case, happy (belated) Halloween. Remember, your blood is very, very precious.
Abelman, D. (2021, August 5). What Exactly Is a Vampire Facial? . Allure. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.allure.com/story/vampire-facial-prp-treatment-guide.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection: How it works: HSS. Hospital for Special Surgery. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.hss.edu/condition-list_prp-injections.asp.
Setayesh, K., Villarreal, A., Gottschalk, A., Tokish, J. M., & Choate, W. S. (2018, December). Treatment of muscle injuries with platelet-rich plasma: A review of the literature. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220013/.