Beauty Clinic: Is the 'Vampire Facelift' scary?

Q. Can you explain what the Vampire Facelift is and what it does?  A friend looks wonderful after but I have read stories in the press about people where it sounds scary.  Are there risks with it – and if so how can I avoid them? SWILLIAMSA. The ‘vampire facelift’ is a term coined by the media for a treatment properly called Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). It has been used in medicine for a wide variety of surgical procedures and clinical treatments, including problematic wounds and facial bone defects, as well as cosmetic surgery and now skin rejuvenation.

We asked Dr. Stefanie Williams MD, a specialist in modern cosmetic dermatology, to explain the procedure.

Dr. Williams says: ‘PRP is a regenerative aesthetic treatment that naturally encourages the skin to build more collagen and elastin and thus renew and rejuvenate itself. The treatment involves taking a blood sample from the patient’s arm, from which we then isolate a certain fraction of the blood, which is particularly rich in platelets. After applying a numbing cream (for pain relief), this platelet-rich fraction is injected back into your face, either in problem areas with reduced skin elasticity or all over. The platelet rich plasma is injected directly after taking the blood and centrifugation, as it works best if fresh. With the numbing cream, you shouldn’t feel much. After the treatment your skin might look a little red, but overall, there is not much to see - no blood running down your face or anything like that!

‘Platelets contain many beneficial growth factors,’ Dr. Williams explains. ‘Upon re-injection the platelets release these growth factors, which trigger surrounding skin cells to produce more collagen and elastin, thus helping to regenerate the skin. Following a course of PRP treatment (usually three sessions), your skin will gradually look more radiant and youthful. In our clinic the price per session with a doctor is £595.’

‘What about side effects?’, we asked. Dr Williams responds that ‘PRP is considered a very natural treatment as it only uses the patient's own cells and growth factors to stimulate tissue repair, rather than injecting any artificial substances. Most people tolerate it very well without any problems. However, as with any effective treatment, there is always a potential for adverse effects such as bruising or swelling. The overall risk is very low though.’

There is some evidence from clinical trials that PRP works. ‘Several studies including one published in the Annals of Dermatology in November 2011 confirmed that PRP treatment can activate fibroblasts (our collagen-producing skin cells) and lead to new collagen deposition,’ says Dr Williams.

One possible risk is that some of the commercially available PRP kits use (or used) bovine components, to which you can develop an allergy, according to Dr Williams. She recommends making sure your aesthetic doctor, who should be both well-qualified and experienced in the procedure, is using a PRP system without any bovine components.

On the positive side, Dr Williams is so convinced by the effectiveness of PRP to keep your skin young and fresh that she has it herself. (And yes, her skin does look wonderful.)

Dr Stefanie Williams, 8500