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My Vampire Facial, or I Marinated in My Own Blood for Vanity

I can't pinpoint when I became obsessed with beauty. When I was in middle school—the golden age of being contrarian just because you can—I thought caring about your appearance was shallow and a waste of time and money. Now, in my twenties, I am on a never-ending quest to have the skin of an infant.


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I fully believe that looking good is feeling good, and taking the time to pamper yourself can keep you grounded in a crowded, chaotic world. I'm fascinated by the history of beauty, as well as recent innovations: snail creams, lasers. I'm especially interested in the darker side of beauty—the grotesque side—so I decided to get a vampire facial.

What's a Vampire Facial?

In the simplest terms, this dramatically-named procedure uses material from your own body in an attempt to aid cell renewal and promote anti-aging. Blood is drawn and then placed in a centrifuge to separate it from platelet-rich plasma, also known as PRP. This plasma contains cells that are supposed to encourage the growth of collagen and skin tissue, and can be applied topically or reintroduced into your face using a needling technique. It's a fairly short process, only lasting a half hour. You'll see results immediately, but it's really about long-term effects. This facial allegedly helps activate cell turnover, so you'll remain fresh-faced and glowing for weeks. New skin cells means you'll be closer to the skin of your youth. In my case, the skin of a 15-year-old Brittany.

Dr. Chen Portrait, illustrated


Meet Dr. Chen

Dr. Halland is a regenerative medicine specialist who uses PRP, stem cells, and natural supplements to address sports injuries, pain management conditions, and cosmetic anti-aging. Not only is he one of the few New York City doctors that specialize in vampire facials, but he is also constantly trying to innovate in the space. Dr. Halland’s menu of services also includes a procedure called the Vampire Facial Plus, which utilizes a laser for targeted care.

41 park ave, office illustration
The vampire facial tools
Step 1: Cleanse

The treatment room is spa-like, dimly lit and painted a serene light blue. I appreciate the fact that Dr. Halland and his staff let patients choose the soundtrack for their needling
(I select '60s soul). One of the assistants cleanses and tones my face with gentle products, then applies an anesthetic cream.

Step 1, illustrated
Step 2, illustrated
Step 2: Draw Blood

I've never enjoyed needles and I hate getting blood drawn even more, so it's a bit comical that I sought out a procedure that calls for both in spades. Dr. Halland and his assistant find my veins relatively easily (it takes one incompetent nurse to scare you off of these) and draw my blood using the PRP kit. It uses the same syringes and tubing you'd find at your doctor's office, but a specialized collection tube separates plasma, platelets, and blood red cells.

Step 3: Separate

The doctor and his assistant draw approximately three vials of blood, and use a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the plasma and platelets. The machine supposedly amplifies the potency of the platelets, concentrating them at seven times their normal composition. The higher the concentration, the more effective they are at stimulating growth, the thinking goes. I ask for more blood cells in the mixture for gruesome Snapchats and selfies, naturally. It takes about 20 minutes to complete this step, which is the longest part of the procedure.

Step 3, Illustrated
step 4
Step 4: Injection

The Dermapen slides over my face three times, with about a minute between each application, during which the doctor's assistant applies the plasma mixture. Depending on your pain tolerance, this step ranges from mildly annoying to downright awful. It feels like a very vigorous application of St. Ives's infamous-and-very bad-for-you apricot facial scrub; it isn't unpleasant as much as it is bizarre. I've also heard it compared to a cat's tongue.

Step 5: Cleanse (again)

After all of the plasma is used, I rinse my face with water, giving myself major Carrie vibes in the mirror. I depart with a small amount of recovery cream as well as a bit of leftover plasma to apply to the controlled trauma I just experienced. Some people leave with bruising or redness, but I manage to avoid both these symptoms. Downtime is minimal—a couple hours to a day—but I am able to go out with a friend immediately. The aftercare is simple; apply both before bed and let sit overnight. Surprisingly, plasma is very itchy.

Step 5, Illustrated

For such a minimally invasive procedure (depending on your pain tolerance), it did wonders for my skin. My main concern was hyperpigmentation, but the two dark patches I have on either side of my face and my smattering of spots were considerably lighter afterwards. If I went in for a few more sessions, I'm confident these would be gone altogether. I haven't been wearing foundation because my skin has been glowing: I have a pretty intense skincare routine, but this brought me whole new levels of luminosity. People keep commenting on how great it looks. The whole procedure will set you back a few hundred dollars depending on where you live (my procedure was comped), but I think it's a worthwhile investment.

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