Viewers of "Kourtney and Kim Take Miami" witnessed a gruesome sight on the latest episode when reality star Kim Kardashian found herself covered in blood.
No, there wasn't a horrifying accident — Kim merely treated herself to a cosmetic procedure known as a "vampire facial."
Naturally, Kardashian had the procedure done while the cameras were rolling, so anyone who was watching saw her squealing in pain while blood (which was drawn from her arm) was injected into her face. They likely wondered, "Why would anyone do that?"
And also, "Does it work?"
“The vampire facial is a spinoff of the vampire facelift, which uses a person’s own blood products to lift and plump the skin rather than other injectable fillers,” explains New York-City based plastic surgeon Michelle Copeland, M.D.
“The concept is based on utilizing the growth factors that are found in one's own blood to stimulate collagen growth and rejuvenate the skin,” adds cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D. “Orthopedic surgeons use a similar system to help regenerate tissue in damaged joints,” he says.
And while some believe that the procedure can be effective, at least in the short-term, scientific studies have yet to prove that it has any long-lasting effects.
"It works as a filler to smooth out wrinkles and has anti-inflammatory properties that work around the time of injection and several months thereafter," says plastic surgeon Stafford Broumand, M.D. "However, for the long-term effects, three months to a year are variable, and prospective randomized studies have yet to prove its long-term effects," he adds.
Other doctors agree.
“There are no clinical studies that show that there are any long-term cosmetic benefits in injecting one's own blood products,” says Frank.
And, according to Copeland, “there are also no controlled clinical studies that demonstrate a benefit to this treatment.”
Of course, with any procedure, there are things to consider. While Frank says the vampire facial is "relatively safe," Copeland points out that it's important to be aware of the inherent risks that come with handling blood.
"The risk of infection using blood products is greater than using sterile injectibles," says Copeland. “It’s not a closed syringe, so there is a risk when transferring the product form one tube to another,” she adds.
As a patient, you can expect to see some bruising, says Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. She adds that the procedure is also "somewhat painful when the fluid is injected into the face."
Broumand likens the feeling to that of getting Botox or other fillers.
Is it worth a try? The doctors we spoke to think not.
Dr. Frank no longer performs this procedure, having seen no significant benefits to patients. And according to Copeland, the risks of the vampire facial "outweigh any benefit."
So who is the ideal candidate for this treatment? Anyone seeking a fountain of youth.
Or as Dr. Tanzi says, "people who would try anything and everything to look younger, even if it hasn’t been proven to be effective."