I Tried the Kim Kardashian Vampire Facial — Here's What Happened
The extreme treatment is the definition of tough love skincare.
In 2013, Kim Kardashian made headlines after posting a selfie of her bloodied face, hash-tagged with the formerly unknown term “Vampire Facial.” Fast forward six years, and the procedure — also known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) microneedling — has become a popular cure-all to even skin tone, lessen the appearance of wrinkles, shrink pores and rejuvenate dull skin. The extreme facial achieves these effects by combining the healing properties of blood plasma, with the benefits of microneedling, a harsher version of microdermabrasion that uses thin needles to puncture the skin and stimulate collagen growth.
I decided to give PRP microneedling a shot in order to fade dark spots on my cheeks, an unfortunate leftover of teenage years spent picking at blemishes. At 24-years-old, I’m not worried about wrinkles — but the prospect of plumper, glowing skin certainly appealed to me. Though I did my fair share of research before booking my appointment, a series of late night Googling sessions failed to prepare me for the reality of the procedure. A few things had become clear as I left the facial with a fully numb face: microneedling is akin to getting your face tattooed minus the ink. Downtime is indeed required and results don’t reveal themselves for about five days.
For context, the only skincare treatments I’d previously tried were soothing and needle-free. I headed to BodyFactory Skin Care under the foolish impression that any redness would disappear within 24 hours (a misinformed metric I read online) and that I would wake up with the skin of a supermodel. When my aesthetician asked how well I tolerate needles before applying numbing cream to my entire face, I knew this experience was going to be far more intense than my cheery, naive self thought when deciding to try it (“I’m going to look amazing,” I texted a friend earlier that day). Read on for what to expect from the procedure.
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It goes without saying that anyone scared of needles should not try this out. The aesthetician drew my blood (“you are dehydrated,” she correctly informed me) and placed the vial in a centrifuge for about 10 minutes to separate my plasma, the liquid gold, from my blood cells. As the plasma soup was concocted, she disinfected my skin with antibacterial liquid and what smelled like rubbing alcohol, followed by liberal application of numbing cream. The centrifuge beeped and I was ready.
A major lesson: plasma is translucent orange, not red. (With this in mind, I’m unsure how Kim Kardashian achieved such a horrific photo during her vampire facial.) My aesthetician transferred the liquid into three syringes and switched on the microneedling pen, which buzzes and operates essentially like a tattoo machine. While letting the plasma drip onto my face, she ran the pen over my forehead to start. Thanks to the numbing cream, the only area that hurt was along the hairline — it felt like coarse sandpaper being rubbed into the skin. She continued onto my cheeks, upper lip, chin and nose for what felt like about 15 minutes.
After completing the microneedling, the aesthetician smoothed the remaining plasma onto my face and instructed me to leave the bodily serum on until the end of the day — a caveat I was not expecting. She gave me a mirror and I inspected my red, pin-pricked face. It looked like I had a bad sunburn and felt like it too. The plasma had dried to a seal (it works its magic by settling into the tiny holes made by microneedling), making my face look and feel flaky and tight. It stung and felt slightly itchy. I wasn’t crazy about the prospect of riding the very public subway home but I’ll do anything for a good story.
Aftermath and Results
Don’t expect to hit the town the night of your treatment. The procedure requires at least a two days of downtime, depending on how self-conscious you are. I worked from home for the rest of the day and, after washing the plasma off my face with water as instructed, promptly went to bed. Things you can’t do after microneedling: use any acids, retinols or exfoliators on the treated area for the next four to five days, expose yourself to direct sunlight (you must wear sunscreen outside for the next week), go swimming or exercise for 24 hours. Though it’s permitted to wear makeup the day after the procedure, I reluctantly decided to go bare until my redness subsided. You’re allowed to return to your regular skincare routine after one week — before then, stick with gentle moisturizers and cleansers and avoid products with active ingredients such as medicated anti-acne creams.
When I woke up the next morning, I bounded to the mirror expecting to see a rejuvenated face. Alas, my skin was still red, albeit less than the night before. It also felt dry and tight, a normal reaction. I washed my face with La Roche-Posay Toleraine Cleanser, moisturized with rosehip oil and plenty of sunscreen before popping on a pair of oversized shades and heading out. That evening, I noticed patches of flaking skin on my cheeks and chin. The aesthetician had warned me about shedding, a natural byproduct of the skin’s healing process. It took everything in me to refrain from picking at the amphibian-like patches.
On the morning of day three, the redness has significantly subsided. My jawline, upper lip and chin had returned to a fairly normal shade overnight, but my cheeks and forehead were still rosy. However, I was still peeling — more so than the night before. My cheeks, forehead, nose and chin were all rough with flakes. I imagined fresh, dewy skin underneath begging to emerge from the scaly shell of my face.
By day four, my cheeks were mostly smooth but peeling had progressed to my jaw. My nose and forehead, especially the area between my eyebrows, continued to flake. Despite the peeling process, I was beginning to see results — after moisturizing, my skin did look smoother and more even-toned. All redness had subsided save for natural looking rosiness on the apples of my cheeks.
On day five, I had slightly dry skin but no more noticeable peeling. Results were continuing to show: my makeup-free skin looked dewy even under the fluorescent lighting of my office. On day six, I felt confident enough to eschew makeup again despite my initial hesitation to forego foundation immediately following the procedure.
PRP microneedling is the definition of tough love skincare. You literally wound the skin, causing your face to shed, hoping that any pain endured will be worth it. Was it effective? In short, yes. My skin had definitely improved in texture, tone and radiance by day five. I imagine initial results would be even more dramatic for someone with serious skin concerns.
Despite dermatologist recommendations to undergo multiple PRP microneedling sessions to reap its full benefits, I wouldn’t book the procedure again. The downtime was a major drawback for someone as busy as me. Kim K even said she would pass on another vampire facial — in a now-deleted post on her website the reality star wrote, “It was honestly the most painful thing ever! It’s the one treatment that I’ll never do again.” That being said, I would recommend the procedure to anyone looking to remedy major discoloration (such as acne scarring) or a dull complexion.
If you are looking to go under the needle, head to BodyFactory Skin Care to book your appointment.