The Cold, Bloody (Kind Of Disgusting) Truth About Vampire Facials

I've done a lot of weird shit in the name of beauty, but having the plasma from my own blood injected into my face with a needle might take the cake. When I told my mother I would be doing it, she had just one question for me: "Why?" At the time, I didn't understand her concern. After all, she knew that part of my job is to test-drive the strangest, most masochistic ways to pursue beauty. And a vampire facial certainly seems to fit the bill.

The vampire facial, also known as the platelet-rich plasma (PRP) facial, includes drawing blood from your arm, separating the platelets, and then injecting them into your skin via microneedling. The doctor runs the needle pen over your face while squirting the platelets into the mini injection holes. Since the platelets are high in growth hormone, and the microneedling stimulates the skin to regenerate, the entire procedure is meant to aid cell turnover. And it's damn bloody work — that's for sure. The results are meant to mimic a facelift, but with zero downtime. In fact, all of the accounts I read from people who had undergone the procedure suggested I'd be up and at 'em the following day.

Yeah...that didn't happen to me. In fact, it took me 48 hours of tears — I see you, Kim Kardashian — one sick day, and an entire tub of Aquaphor before I was ready to face the world again. Below, I present you with the three stages of getting a vampire facial.

Stage 1: The Facial
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Above is the video of the live footage of me getting the vampire facial, and — I have to warn you — don't watch it if you're squeamish. Cosmetic surgeon Cameron Rokhsar, MD, walked me through the procedure as he and his assistant slathered numbing cream on my face while simultaneously drawing blood from my arm. I watched them spin my blood in a centrifuge, separating the platelets from the red blood cells. (Have you fainted yet? No? Good, let's move on.)

Once I was well-numbed — which took about 40 minutes — Dr. Rokhsar began the process. Surprisingly, I didn't feel a thing, except for when he placed the microneedle around my nose and lips, which felt a bit like being pricked with a pen. When he was finished, I eagerly got out of the exam chair, looked in the mirror, and...almost passed out.

My face was red, puffy, and I had bruising under my eyes, down my nose, and on my forehead from the needles. Panic started to bloom in my chest, but — knowing I was still being recorded live in front of 23,000 people — I did everything I could to keep my composure. Dr. Rokhsar told me that, despite what I had read, my reaction was perfectly normal. (And an allergic reaction wasn't even possible since the only ingredients used were from my body, he said.)

He advised me to stock up on Aquaphor to rub on any dry areas and to ice my face to reduce the swelling, promising that my complexion would start to look normal as early as the next day.

I hid my face as I ducked into a cab (even though my apartment was only five blocks away), immediately changed into my pajamas, and proceeded to FaceTime my mom for laughs. She told me I looked like hell, and I agreed with her, but told her my face would heal and I'd be a glowing angel the next day. I ordered my go-to comfort food for dinner — a big, fat burrito — and ate it in bed while watching Hocus Pocus, all while imagining how fantastic my skin would be in the morning.

Stage 2: The Meltdown
I woke up on Friday expecting my face to look glowy and clear, save for a little redness. So I nearly fell onto my sink in horror when I saw the red, raw, and bruised complexion staring back at me in the bathroom mirror. I attempted to slap on color-correcting cream and my handy-dandy concealer, but my skin rejected the stuff, leaving my face looking cakey. I tossed on a hat, grabbed my biggest sunglasses, and ran to the office.

After about an hour in front of my computer, my face started to itch — like, really itch. It felt like I was covered in fire ants (or, more likely, having an allergic reaction to my makeup), so I quickly wiped down my face with micellar water. The skin underneath my concealer had turned beet-red and angry, and I was burning up. Taking pity on me, my boss offered me some healing salve and sent me home to finish the day.
Photo courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
Day two of recovery.
When I got home, I immediately burst into tears. My face was raw, dry, and swollen. These weren't the results I was promised! I lamented. The rest of the evening continued in an endless loop of ice packs, Aquaphor, hydrocortisone cream, and this savior aloe mask from S.W. Basics. I told myself that if I woke up the next morning and was still this red, I'd email Dr. Rokhsar.

Sure enough, Saturday came and my face was still red and raw. I emailed Dr. Rokhsar, who confirmed that I was healing properly, and that my face was truly not as bad as I thought. (This is the part where I interject and say that, despite how hellish this experience sounds, Dr. Rokhsar couldn't have been more professional or accommodating. He emailed me to check in multiple times, requesting photos of my recovery. And, spoiler alert: This story doesn't end in tragedy, despite the spiraling tale of doom you've followed thus far.)

This is when my mental meltdown started. I started obsessively taking selfies and sending them to my close friends, daring them to tell me how hideous I was. "I'll never be pretty again!" I texted them. "I'm a monster! I've fucked up my face forever — and it was such a good face!" I tried three different times to apply makeup, only to have it cake and burn mere minutes after I put it on. I canceled brunch plans with my good friends, telling them to go on without me, and then tossed myself into bed to cry.

I'm only slightly dramatic. Promise.

Around 4 p.m., I finally pulled myself together — I had a Halloween party to get to, for goodness' sake. I caked my face with Dermablend foundation (a true lifesaver), and then popped a Benadryl and Advil to keep the swelling and itching to a minimum. My costume involved a mask over my forehead — Holly Golightly with the mean reds, which felt especially fitting. Once I had my first sip of Halloween punch, I quickly forgot about my skin woes.

Stage 3: Acceptance
On Sunday, I woke up to a face that was a lot closer to normal. I was able to apply makeup, and swapped out Aquaphor for my regular skin cream. And today, five days out from my facial, I can already see results —I'm sitting at my desk today with concealer only under my eyes, which is a revelation. My skin is definitely more even and I do detect a bit of radiance. Dr. Rokhsar said I should see full results in two weeks — including firmer skin, shrunken zits, and a glowy complexion. (I won't lie, I think I earned it.)

So would I suggest a vampire facial to other people? Maybe — you have to be available for some downtime and be cool with a decent amount of redness, other than all the blood during the actual event. Others who have experienced it have reported few to no issues in their healing process. And some derms are divided on whether it's truly effective at all.

While the jury's still out on how well my skin took to the facial, I can say with certainty that I will not be trying this again. Give me a facial with aromatherapy and mud masks any day of the week. But from now on, I'll be leaving vampires in horror films and the YA section of the bookstore, where they belong.
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