This Viral Facial Looks Scary, But Might Be the Secret to Younger-Looking Skin

written by HAILEY BOUCHE
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson

As a girl who’s struggled with her skin for nearly a decade—we’re talking acne, texture, and hyperpigmentation—I get a little nervous about trying new products, treatments, and routines. I’m always fighting a battle of wanting to improve my skin, but being scared to incorporate anything new into my routine. I have to fear break outs and rashes, and of course, the chance that the new product or treatment I tried just ended up being a waste of money. But after visiting my dermatologist and taking countless deep dives on skincare TikTok, I’ve become obsessed with learning all about the treatments that could benefit my skin and how to take care of it along the way. My newest interest? Vampire facials. To learn more about the scary-looking treatment, I reached out to a board-certified dermatologist and skincare expert, Dr. Fatima Fahs, to find out exactly what the process is, who can benefit from it, what  the recovery is like, and more.

Meet the expert
Dr. Fatima Fahs
Dr. Fatima Fahs is a board-certified dermatologist in Michigan and founder of Dermy Doc Box, an award-winning skincare subscription box.

What is a vampire facial?

A vampire facial is a combination of microneedling with the addition of PRP (platelet-rich plasma, a portion of our blood that contains growth factors). Many are familiar with microneedling on its own as a minimally invasive treatment that can help with skin concerns like skin texture, stretch marks, scars, and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production. “Microneedling is a procedure done in the office that utilizes sterile needles on a motorized device applied to the skin. These needles can penetrate the skin at depths up to a few millimeters. At this depth, the needles are used to cause controlled injury in the dermis layer of the skin.” Dr. Fahs explained. “Within the dermis lies the extracellular matrix, composed of collagen and elastin. As this layer is penetrated, a wound-healing cascade is initiated and the body works to ‘heal’ the skin by inducing collagen and elastin production, therefore plumping the skin and improving its appearance.”

In order to add PRP to this process, blood is taken from your arm, spun in a centrifuge (a device that separates various components of a fluid) to separate the plasma and platelets that contain your own growth factors, and then microneedled back into your skin. The growth factors from the PRP can help increase the production of collagen and stimulate skin repair even further than microneedling can alone, so together, they create an ultra-effective procedure.

TL;DR: Instead of puncturing your skin with bare needles like classic microneedling, platelet-rich plasma from your own blood is microneedled back into your skin to help increase the production of collagen.

What are the benefits of vampire facials?

If you, like me, need a little help improving skin texture, hyperpigmentation, treating acne scars, and addressing fine lines, don’t let the name of this treatment scare you away. Microneedling and PRP offer a number of benefits, including treating all of the aforementioned woes within the weeks following treatment and continuing for months thereafter. “At first, you’ll notice more of a glow to your skin, and over time, as collagen formation occurs, you may additionally see the improvement of texture, scarring, and hyperpigmentation,” explained Dr. Fahs. She says that her patients find that their skin appears firmer and brighter after treatment.

Is a vampire facial painful?

If I can’t see or feel needles, I don’t mind them so much, and luckily, Dr. Fahs says that topical numbing medication is applied prior to the procedure to reduce the pain that would be felt from the microneedling needles, making the procedure quite tolerable for most people. However, if you’re not a fan of needles, or blood for that matter, you can ask your doctor about alternative treatments to target your skin concerns.

What’s the recovery like?

Following treatment, it’s no surprise that your skin will appear red and slightly swollen, kind of like you’ve developed a sunburn. After all, it was just punctured with needles, so if you look up close, you can see pinpoint wounds on the skin. Because of this, “you should try your best to avoid sun exposure, as it can cause hyperpigmentation,” said Dr. Fahs.

Your doctor will go over any recommended post-care regimens with you after your treatment, which most likely will include avoiding washing your face until later in the day, using gentle, fragrance-free skincare to avoid irritation, and applying moisturizer to help your skin heal and regenerate. Dr. Fahs recommends using cooling serums or sheet masks along with any post-procedure regimen to alleviate any discomfort you may experience, but in general, your skin should feel better anywhere from a few days to a week post-treatment.

If you’re wondering when you can start wearing makeup again, we’ve got good news: because the addition of PRP speeds up the healing process, most patients are able to resume wearing makeup within 24 hours of treatment.

Are there at-home alternatives to vampire facials?

Vampire facials cost around $500+ per session, so it might be tempting to try at-home microneedling treatments, but Dr. Fahs says to proceed with caution. At-home devices can have benefits, however, they don’t penetrate to the depths that an in-office treatment does and can have negative effects on your skin if you’re not careful (like damaging the skin’s barrier). Plus, you don’t get the super-speed healing benefits and the boost in collagen production that PRP adds. If you’re considering trying an at-home device, it’s best to talk to your doctor about your options and which they recommend, if any. They can also recommend other treatments, serums, or routines that can help you with your skin concerns and are better suited for your budget.