Leave it to a celebrity to call into question a medical procedure that could prove very beneficial to a lot of patients. The so-called ‘vampire’ facial has brought the aesthetic use of PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy into the public eye – and not necessarily in a good way. It is time we step back from the misconceptions of the vampire facial and look at PRP therapy for aesthetic applications more objectively.
As you may know, the vampire facial was made famous by celebrity Kim Kardashian. When Ms. Kardashian decided to post videos showing the effects of the procedure, what was previously known simply as PRP therapy was given the vampire name. Images showing Kardashian’s bloodied post-procedure face have since gone viral. However, the world needs to know what really happens during these procedures.
Using Platelets to Promote Growth
Apex Biologix is a Utah company that trains doctors how to use both PRP and stem cell therapies for orthopedic and aesthetic applications. The facial being discussed here is considered an aesthetic application.
Apex explains that the procedure is based on what we already know about blood platelets and their ability to promote healing. For example, platelet-rich plasma contains a high concentration of blood plates and their associated growth factors – like epidermal growth factor and fibroblast growth factor, a growth factor related to connective tissue.
Doctors extract blood from a patient being treated before processing that blood in a specialized centrifuge to concentrate platelets. The processed material is then injected into the skin at various sites around the face. Injections target the platelets and growth factors in key areas with the goal of stimulating new collagen growth. The result is often revitalized skin tissue that is more smooth and firm.
Apex says that when the procedure is used properly, it can effectively get rid of wrinkles, smooth the skin, and give the skin a more even tone. Such benefits are derived with a near-zero risk of rejection or complication.
A Growing Body of Evidence
Perhaps one of the reasons Ms. Kardashian’s vampire facial has gotten so much press is the fact that the clinical evidence supporting PRP therapy as an aesthetic medicine treatment is not as widespread as we would like – due mainly to the newness of the procedures. But the evidence is growing.
One of the more recent studies published earlier this year looked at 12 healthy women between 45 and 65 years old who participated in PRP therapies in late 2014. Each patient received three monthly treatments.
In terms of efficacy, the study showed very promising results. Researchers observed an improvement in the elasticity of the patient’s skin, along with improvements in smoothness, skin barrier function, and leukocyte population one month following the final treatment. The researchers concluded that “the use of PRP rich in platelets and poor in leukocytes can provide objective improvements in skin biostimulation.”
In simple English, the researchers concluded that PRP therapy was effective as an aesthetic procedure to improve the overall appearance of the skin. They further determined that there were no serious adverse effects related to the use of the treatment.
In fairness, this study was just one study looking at a limited number of patients. But ongoing studies are achieving similar results. This doesn’t even account for the total number of patients seeking out PRP for aesthetic purposes and swearing by the results they achieve. Anecdotal evidence should always be looked at in concert with scientific research to get the big picture. And in this case, the evidence suggests that the vampire facial is more effective than it looks.