What to Know About Vampire Facials, the Treatment That Has Been Linked to Two Cases of HIV

Kim Kardashian has said it's the one treatment she'll never do again.

In May 2019, it was reported that two clients of a now-closed spa in New Mexico had tested positive for HIV, causing the state's health department to continue to urge previous customers to get tested for HIV and hepatitis.

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) later released a statement saying that it would investigate the two cases of infection among clients who had injection procedures done at the VIP Spa in Albuquerque between May and September 2018.

Health officials were especially encouraging people who had gotten a vampire facial at the spa to get tested for HIV. The two clients who are HIV positive also have the same HIV virus type, which makes it more likely that the infections are the result of a procedure performed at the spa they both went to.

Fast forward to 2021, and the former owner of the salon has been has been indicted on 24 felonies, including fraud and practicing medicine without a license.

In light of this new risk related to the trendy treatment, we've broken down everything you need to know about vampire facials.

What Is a Vampire Facial?

Vampire facials, also known as the platelet-rich plasma facial, involve drawing small amounts of your own blood, separating the platelets, and injecting them into your face through micro-needles.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, PRP treatments are also meant to help treat sprained knees and chronic tendon injuries. However, it's also used to enhance your skin. Erica Walters, MD, medical director at Park Avenue Skin, told InStyle in 2017 that PRP injections remove fine lines around the mouth and help eliminate any lines or bags around the eyes.

"It also helps to reduce hyperpigmentation and any acne scarring," she said at the time.

The treatment has gotten so trendy in recent years that even Kim Kardashian has tried it, in a memorable episode of Kourtney and Kim Take Miami. (She later admitted that it's the one treatment she would never do again.)

Are There Any Common Risks Associated With a Vampire Facial?

As you can tell, the treatment is probably not for the faint of heart. And while it seems extreme, the vampire facial is usually safe when done properly. But if clinics don't sterilize the microneedling pen or dispose of it between facials, that could spread infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C can spread through injuries from sharp objects, such as needlesticks, as well as mucous membrane, and skin exposures.

The VIP Spa closed back in September 2018, when officials "identified practices that could potentially spread blood-borne infections, such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C to clients," according to the New Mexico Department of Health. When news first broke of the spa's closure, Michael Landen, MD, epidemiologist at the NMDOH, told local news network KOAT that upon inspection, he was concerned with the way the spa stored, handled, and disposed of needles.

"That's concerning, because if needles aren't handled appropriately, you could potentially increase the risk of a blood-borne infection," he said at the time.

Infections like this are rare, but if you want to take precautions, the NMDOH advises, "Any persons desiring cosmetic services involving needle injections should verify the services are being provided by a licensed medical provider."

In other words, if you're curious about the vampire facial (or any treatment at all, for that matter), make sure you book an appointment with a trusted licensed professional.

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