Vampire Facial: The Pros, Cons, and a Review of PRP Microneedling


Listen, I’m not one to be ~easily influenced~ into trying something just because a celebrity or influencer posts about it. …Well, okay, except for that one time I tried the viral Hanacure face mask. Or, fine, that other time I ordered Curology (but it really works! Sue me!). Or, ugh, that time I tried—and surprisingly loved—soap brows. But! I can say that I did hold out on trying one incredibly popular trend for years: PRP microneedling—aka the vampire facial. Yup, despite the fact that Kim Kardashian posted a viral selfie of her own vampire facial in 2013, I saw that bloodied towel next to her and decided I’d sit that trend out.

But it’s been eight years, and the popularity of vampire facials has yet to die down—and for good reason: They’re said to help boost collagen production (for tighter, smoother, newer-looking skin) and improve everything from hyperpigmentation to acne scars, so I decided it might be one worth finally trying it for myself and paid a visit to board-certified dermatologist Jordan Carqueville, MD. Never say never, kids. Below, a breakdown of the bloody beauty treatment and a review of my experience trying it for the first time.

To put it simply, a vampire facial stimulates collagen production in your skin through a combination of microneedling with platelet-rich plasma (PRP). Stay with me. Microneedling, as you probably already know, is a treatment that involves poking your skin with itty-bitty needles to create “micro-injuries.” Sounds barbaric, but these little injuries actually trigger your body’s wound-healing process to encourage new collagen production (aka the essence of good skin).

The only difference with a vampire facial is instead of puncturing your skin with bare needles (like with microneedling), it’s punctured with your own blood platelets. Yup. Basically, some blood is drawn from your arm, then spun with a centrifuge to separate the plasma and platelets that contain your own growth factors—i.e., platelet-rich plasma (PRP). That PRP is then “microneedled” into the skin and applied on top of the micro-wounds to help stimulate your collagen even more.

It all sounds incredibly ~extra~, but vampire facials (or PRP microneedling, if we’re being specific) can help boost collagen production, brighten your overall skin tone, get rid of minor acne scars, fade hyperpigmentation, and tighten your skin.

A vampire facial is microneedling—but better. Microneedling works great to stimulate collagen on its own, but Dr. Carqueville says that PRP serves as one of the best ways to really boost your collagen by using those concentrated platelets and growth factors in addition to the basic microneedling.

After you heal (which can take up to a week), your skin will look and feel brighter, dewier, more supple, and refreshed—but don’t expect those results overnight. Immediately after my treatment, my face was comically red and flushed, and it only softened to a bright-pink (!) for the rest of the day. It also felt tight, tender, and dry, like I’d been swimming in the salty ocean aaaand also got a sunburn. By the next morning, I felt totally normal again, and the redness had significantly improved, but I still had lil red splotches all over my face that took a few days to fade.

According to Dr. Carqueville, how long a vampire facial takes to heal depends on the needle length and the amount of pressure applied. With the stronger treatments, the healing period could last five to seven days, and for a light refresher, two to three days. Since I was in the hands of a physician I trusted, I felt comfortable with a stronger, more aggressive treatment in hopes that I would see some serious results even faster. So needless to say, my face needed the maximum amount of time to heal: one full week.

After your skin heals, you can expect to have a nice, dewy glow for a few weeks, but know that your results will just get better with time. Basically, a vampire facial is an investment toward your future skin—it’s not an immediate fix. “Collagen stimulation, that tightening and remodeling of your collagen, happens over the course of six months to a year after a procedure like this,” Dr. Carqueville explains. I mean, you’re quite literally tricking your body into speeding up its natural regenerative process, and that’s gonna take some time.

With vampire facials or PRP microneedling, a light refresher once a quarter or even once a year might be enough for someone younger without major acne scarring. But if you’re trying to treat deeper acne scars, you might need a series of three sessions spaced four to six weeks apart. “There’s no right or wrong answer, but generally, the cumulative results will be more noticeable with the more treatments you get,” Dr. Carqueville says. Your dermatologist will be able to tell you during your consultation how many treatments they think you’ll need, so don’t stress.

The first few days after your treatment, keep it simple. You’ve just created wounds that need to heal, so any harsh ingredients like exfoliating acids are a definite no. For the first 48 hours, Dr. Carqueville recommends sticking with just a hyaluronic acid serum and a thin layer of Vaseline on top if your skin feels a little dry. Or, try a bland, basic, fragrance-free moisturizer, and keep your skin makeup free.

If improving pigment (like melasma) is the goal, Dr. Carqueville likes incorporating a dark-spot-correcting cream after a couple of days of initial healing (around 48 to 72 hours after) while it still can penetrate really well. “When you do microneedling, you open up your skin channels to better absorb topical medications,” says Dr. Carqueville. “It does help the skin become more amenable to absorbing those active ingredients.”

The number-one thing you should not do? Go out in the sun. Dr. Carqueville explains that because vampire facials compromise the top layer of your skin, you don’t have as much protection from the sun, so you need to be really cautious. Avoid exposure the best you can during the initial healing period, then use lots of sunscreen and wear all the sun protection gear to keep your skin safe.

The price depends largely upon where you’re receiving the treatment, but microneedling alone costs at least $200, on the very low end, and once you throw in the PRP (e.g., the blood draw, centrifuge, etc.), that price will increase to the $1,000-$2,000 range. It’s not cheap, but do you really want to bargain shop when you’re getting blood drawn and needles stuck in your face? No, no you do not.

On a scale from one to Brazilian bikini wax, I’d rate the pain a five. I was numbed up, both with a topical numbing cream and lidocaine injections (honestly, the shots were the worst part), but I still felt the whole treatment and can’t imagine going through it if I had full sensation of my face. Basically, numbing is mandatory. All in all, after waiting 45 minutes for the numbing cream to set in, the process was quick, so any pain or discomfort was temporary.

I wish I could look at you in your eyes when saying this because it’s *that* important: No, you should not try to DIY a vampire facial at home. Considering all the numbing beforehand and, ya know, the whole drawing and spinning of your blood, this treatment can only be performed by a trained, experienced provider, or ideally, a physician.

Dermarolling, on the other hand, is a treatment much milder than a vampire facial that can be accomplished at home (sans blood) with a needle-covered roller. It doesn’t penetrate as deeply (or involve any PRP for that matter), so it isn’t nearly as effective as a vampire facial or even in-office microneedling, but as long as you adjust your expectations (and as long as your dermatologist gives you the OK), dermarolling is a much more affordable and accessible treatment.

Despite the gory nickname and photos, a vampire facial is actually great for your skin. Dr. Carqueville says the side effects of a vampire facial are usually low, as long as it’s performed by a physician or experienced provider who’s knowledgeable in PRP treatments. Still, as with anything that disrupts the skin barrier, there’s always a risk of infection, bruising, redness, swelling, and tenderness, she says. Scarring, hyperpigmentation, and hypo-pigmentation are also risks and can be exacerbated with sun exposure, so here is your second reminder to slather on that sunscreen.

Expensive? Yes. Painful? If you weren’t numbed up, probably. Worth it? Absolutely, IMO. Unlike other pricey skin treatments, like chemical peels, you actually get long-term benefits out of a vampire facial by stimulating that collagen in your dermis. It’s only been a handful of days since my treatment, so I’m still waiting on my long-term results (and for my face to heal completely, TBH), but I already see improvements and would definitely recommend it to friends.

As long as you’ve got a week where no one’s going to see your face (and you don’t have a fear of needles, because there are a lot of those involved), I’d say it’s worth all the blood, sweat, and internal tears over my bank account.

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