A procedure that started as a way to speed up healing for sports injuries is beginning to gain popularity as a facial. Claimed benefits of the platelet-rich plasma (PRP) Facial Injections include reducing the prominence of scars, wrinkles, sun damage, and dark circles. Supposedly, your skin will be tighter and more radiant after undergoing the procedure. Yet, rigorous scientific studies on this popular “Vampire Facial” procedure find that it is no more effective than injecting saltwater into your face.
Kim Kardashian popularized PRP Facials a couple of years ago and gave them their informal name, the “Vampire Facial.” First of all, the procedure does not even require a certified surgeon. The operation can be done in spas by dermatologists and estheticians. The process begins by drawing a couple of vials of blood from the arm of the patient. The blood is centrifuged to separate the platelets from the rest of the blood. A local anesthetic is applied to the face, and the platelets are shot into the face via mini injection holes. Commonly, PRP Injections are paired with microneedling, a tactic in which fine needles puncture the skin, stimulating cells to create more collagen and producing a youthful look. These facials are not FDA approved because technically, the patient is not getting injected with drugs, but their own blood.
While many specialists say patients will recover from Vampire Facials in just one day, many find that their skin has not fully recovered even five days later. Bruising (especially under the eyes), burning, intense itching, swelling, dryness, puffiness, and redness are results of the “facial” that can continue for up to a week after the procedure (1). Many claim the results are long-lasting (up to two years) but at the same time, they encourage a regimen of monthly treatments for three to four months and after that, on an annual or biannual basis. If treatments are so long-lasting, why would they need to be performed every month and every year?
The Truth about PRP
Claim: PRP Facials are regenerative because your platelets accelerate healing and vitality.
The Truth: This statement is more marketing than biology. Cell survival and interaction with parent cells are scientifically relevant, but insufficiently understood elements of platelets in their function of healing and revitalizing tissue (2). There are not reliable studies showing that platelets are useful in healing tissue. PRP’s original function as a sports injury therapy has still not been proven effective. Doctors say they’re still not sure if it helps with chronic or acute injuries. Studies show that PRP may be more effective when compared to cortisol injections, but its results do not hold when compared to placebos.
Claim: More platelets means more healing.
The Truth: Dosage is critical with many medicines. Routinely, higher dosage is worse for health. There is no evidence that increased platelets will speed up healing.
Claim: PRP is a natural treatment; it’s safe and healthy because there’s nothing foreign going into your body.
The Truth: There are lots of things in your body that are not beneficial to be extracted, increased in potency, and then returned to your system. Many hormones are part of the same healing process as platelets, but having too many will harm you.
Following the logic that having more of something natural is better, you would think that having more red blood cells is healthier, to give an example. Red blood cells are essential to life and provide vitality and healing. Yet hemochromatosis is a disease—an excess of iron—caused by the presence of too many red blood cells. In this case, absorbing too much is a problem, not a benefit.
On top of that, injecting materials into muscles is not unequivocally harmless. There’s conflicting evidence about PRP being myotoxic, meaning poisonous to muscles (3).
Skin infections can also occur between multiple PRP Facial sessions, with a higher risk posed to those with sensitive skin.
Claim: Studies have shown that PRP is effective.
The Truth: The only good news is coming from isolated or scientifically flawed studies.
Reliable, randomized controlled trials are largely inconclusive. “The observed trend towards benefit with PRP use still remains questionable” (4). The first rigorous study testing the effectiveness of platelet injections finds they are no more effective than injecting saltwater (5).
If you’re looking for a safe, effective, and natural facial rejuvenation with lasting results, consider Natural Fat Transfer with NanoStem Serum (NSS) instead. A serum is created from your body’s own fat cells and injected into the skin to improve skin quality, tone, and complexion. The procedure does not involve any incisions or surgery and has a quick recovery time with permanent results. The process of extracting, concentrating and administering these fat-derived stem cells has been proven in medical studies to have beneficial effects (6). There is minimal risk for negative effects of using fat as a filler because no one is allergic to their own fat. While the same logic is argued for a patient’s own platelets with PRP, the effects of platelets must be investigated further, whereas it’s clear in the scientific community that using fat as a filler is successful for adding cushioning under the skin (6). NanoStem Serum is cost effective, safe, and has the added benefit of moving unwanted fat from one part of the body to a place you do want it. Read more or watch a video from Dr. Koplin.
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1. Maria Del Russo, “The Cold, Bloody, (Kind of Disgusting) Truth About Vampire Facials,” http://www.refinery29.com/2016/10/128208/prp-treatment-vampire-facelift-review, October 31, 2016.
2. Vogel S M Gawaz, “Platelets in tissue repair: control of apoptosis and interactions with regenerative cells.” Blood 122, no. 15 (October 2013):2550–4. PubMed #23963043.
3. “Myotoxicity of Injections for Acute Muscle Injuries: A Systematic Review.” Sports Medicine 44, no. 7 (July 2014): 943-956, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-014-0186-6.
4. Dhillon RS, Schwarz EM, and Maloney MD, “Platelet-rich plasma therapy—future or trend?”, Arthritis Res Ther. 14, no. 4 (August 2012):219, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22894643.
5. Gina Kolata, “Popular Blood Therapy May Not Work,” New York Times, (New York, NY), January 12, 2010.
6. George KH Li, Joseph HP Chung, Lawrence HL Lieu, Velda LY Chow, Gregory Ian SK Lau, and Richie CL Chan, “Fat grafting: A safe and effective treatment of craniofacial depression,” Surgical Practice 19, no. 2 (May 2015):75-81, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1744-1633.12114/abstract.