Charlotte Hannah
April 03, 2013

What’s the Motherflippin’ Deal With Blood Facials? (VIDEO)

As the popularity of Botox, hot body wraps and tanning beds proves, people will do just about any crazy thing if it promises to make them look younger, thinner or hotter. If you can make even a halfway-decent case for the ability of, say, smearing cow poop all over your body to reduce cellulite, people will be all over it like gravy on biscuits.

This is the only justification I can come up with for the existence of blood facials — an insane beauty treatment that recently made headlines when Kim Kardashian got one on Kourtney and Kim Take Miami. In case you missed that episode (what do you mean you have better things to do with your life than watch stupid reality TV shows?), the gist of a blood facial is this: blood is taken out of a person’s body and injected back into their own face. It looks super gross and quite painful, but it’s supposed to smooth wrinkles and take years off a person’s appearance.

If you can stand it, you can watch it here:

Now, obviously (as with most things she does) Kim’s decision to undergo this wacky beauty procedure had more to do with ratings than it did with the facial’s efficacy — and it worked, since we’re talking about it. But what about those of you who saw the episode and, for some strange reason, decided that blowing a bunch of money on an absurd beauty treatment wasn’t such a terrible idea?

Of course, there’s a big difference between a ridiculous-sounding beauty treatment that works and a ridiculous-sounding beauty treatment that just leaves you with egg blood on your face. So, do blood facials actually reduce wrinkles? I mean, your face already has blood in it, doesn’t it? What good could stuffing it with more possibly do?

Based on some exploratory Googling and a healthy dose of skepticism, here’s what I could surmise about blood facials.

What is a blood facial, exactly?

Photo credit: Kim Kardashian

As you may have guessed, blood facials — which are also known as “vampire facials” — aren’t exactly a common procedure. Because they’re nowhere near as ubiquitous as something like Botox, there isn’t really a consensus on how they should ideally be performed (or on whether they even work at all — more on that later).

Generally, the procedure goes something like this:

Blood is drawn from the arm and spun in a centrifuge to separate out the platelet-rich plasma. It’s then mixed up with some calcium chloride to create something called a “platelet-rich fibrin matrix” (whoa), which is then introduced back into the skin by means of some kind of stabby device. Some practitioners use a long needle to inject it into “problem areas” in a manner similar to Botox, while in Kim’s case, tiny “microneedles” were used to create shallow injections on her entire face.

Allegedly, the procedure plumps up the face and stimulates collagen production. After the initial swelling and bruising goes down, the face is supposed to kick into “collagen mode,” allowing for a subtle, gradual improvement of a person’s appearance. Blood facial practitioners — like Dr. Anthony P. Sclafani, director of facial plastic surgery at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary — say the treatment’s rejuvenating effects can last for up to a year. The use of a patient’s own blood, rather than artificial fillers like Juvederm, is touted as a safer and more “natural” alternative to conventional treatments.

So, does it work?

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Maybe? The doctors who are making up to $1,500 a pop on it certainly seem to think so. The rest of the world isn’t so sure.

In an interview with HollywoodLife, Dr. Richard Norden said, “Blood facials have been performed for about three years now, as have Vampire Facelifts. There are no formal papers or studies to show how and if this procedure is effective.”

That’s not 100 percent true — there has been one study, carried out by Dr. Sclafani, on blood facials. However, it only included 15 patients. Plus, it was intended to measure the efficacy of Dr. Sclafani’s preferred technique — single-needle injections to reduce the appearance of particular wrinkles and acne scars — rather than the full-face needlefest that Kim Kardashian subjected herself to.

Even Dr. Jeff Spiegel, who has given blood facials to several patients, is doubtful that the treatment is worth it.

“Anytime you inject fluid in the face, you’ll see some improvement in the skin’s appearance, but that may last only three or four days,” Spiegel said. “Some people may have longer-lasting results but how much improvement they’ll have is hard to quantify.”

One thing’s for sure: even if this gruesome treatment does have some kind of lasting effect, it’s not nearly as dramatic as the results of a more traditional filler, laser therapy or surgical facelift. Folks who have forked out crazy cash for blood facials have described their skin post-treatment as “glowing” and “radiant” — but don’t expect it to take 10 years off your appearance.

What’s the verdict?

I think until further research is done, this one’s best filed under Wacky Stuff Rich People Buy Because They Can. Personally, if I were dropping more than a thousand bucks for less than an hour in the doctor’s office, I’d expect to walk out of there with the actual, undead face of a legit vampire — not a bunch of bruises, a new fear of needles and the vague feeling that I’m more radiant than I once was.