Earlier this week, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) issued an alert urging people who had received “vampire facials” at a spa in Albuquerque to report to the Midtown Public Health Office for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C testing.
After an inspection of the spa on September 7, the NMDOH determined that its hygiene practices were not up to the required standard and closed it down immediately, according to a statement. The inspection was undertaken after a client developed an infection that may have resulted from a procedure carried out there.
What exactly is a vampire facial, and how dangerous is it?
A vampire facial is another name for platelet-rich plasma therapy, an increasingly popular cosmetic surgery used by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, which involves harvesting a client’s own blood to harness the power of platelets, tiny blood cells which help stop us from bleeding.
Once the blood is taken, it is treated in a centrifuge to separate the platelet-rich plasma—a yellowish liquid component of blood—from the red blood cells. The remaining plasma is then injected into the skin using microneedles, which causes temporary bleeding on the face—hence the name.
The injections release growth factors, proteins and nutrients in the platelets that stimulate the skin cells, according to the London Cosmetic Clinic.
Its practitioners claim that this rejuvenates the skin by increasing volume and smoothing out lines and wrinkles, while it can also be used to lessen the appearance of scars.
If the procedure is carried out properly, the risks are relatively low, except for those with blood-related medical issues, especially those that require blood-thinning medication. Bruising, swelling, redness and pain may persist over the injection site, but those side effects usually disappear within a few days.
However, if the equipment used in the procedure is not sterilized properly, blood infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can be spread.
The American Cellular Medicine Association (ACMA), which certifies cosmetic surgeons to carry out the procedure, issued a statement on the matter.
“Qualified medical professionals handle blood all day long without serious problems and this procedure is even safer since it’s done with the patient’s own blood,” it read. “But done improperly,” it can lead to “cross-contamination.”
The ACMA recommends only using cosmetic surgery professionals who have been certified to practice vampire facials.