Maybe you’re searching for the perfect look for Halloween or perhaps you’re the ultimate Twilight fan. Or possibly you’re looking for a new way to freshen up your complexion. Is the vampire facial on your radar?

Vampire facials (also known as vampire facelifts) first hit the news in a big way when Kim Kardashian was videotaped having one, her face covered with blood. As gruesome as it appeared, it piqued the curiosity of many skin care devotees, and now the procedure is gaining in popularity.

What Is the Vampire Facial?

This spooky-sounding treatment is a cosmetic procedure performed by a dermatologist. First, a small amount of blood is drawn from the arm. The blood is then put in a centrifuge that separates plasma and platelets from red blood cells. The resulting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is then injected back into the patient’s face with a special type of syringe called a DermaPen, which contains multiple tiny motorized needles that puncture the skin.

Some dermatologists use PRP along with dermal fillers like Restalyne or Juvaderm, and the combination is said to improve circulation to the skin and collagen production, giving the face a more youthful, fuller appearance. The procedure takes less than an hour and it’s recommended that for best results—ones that last up to a year—it may need to be repeated every few weeks, for a total of three to four treatments.

How Does the Vampire Facial Work?

Craig Kraffert, MD, a Dermatologist at Redding Derm Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in Redding, CA explains, "The idea with micro-needling skin and exposing it to PRP is that this enriched plasma contains various growth factors and other proteinaceous [protein-based] bio-active [affecting living organisms] substances that have the potential to help restore and rejuvenate the dermis [the layer of skin below the epidermis, the skin’s surface] and deeper epidermis skin layers.

"Proteins found in serum are typically too big to cross the outermost epidermis," Kraffert continues. "Micro-needling facilitates penetration of these enriched plasma components beyond this barrier into the deep epidermis and superficial dermis, allowing, in theory, the elusive benefits derived from these substances to be realized."

Is it Safe?

Since the treatment uses the patient’s own blood, the risk for infection or allergic reaction is minimal. Even when additional dermal fillers are used, it’s unusual for patients to experience any significant side effects, thought the procedure itself is mildly painful, as it involves multiple injections. Patients may walk away from their doctor’s office with facial redness, bruising, minor abrasions and inflammation. They may look like they’ve been slapped by a vampire, but with a few days of healing, the skin’s appearance is said to be fresher and firmer.

Is it Effective?

Some patients swear that so-called vampire facials work wonders to improve their skin and facial appearance. But "Results vary, and there’s limited scientific evidence to back claims about its effectiveness," Kraffert says.

If you’re brave enough to face the needles and you can afford to pay for it yourself (at around $1,500 per treatment), then give it a try and find out for yourself if a vampire facial is worth the hype—or the bite.

Craig Kraffert, MD, Redding Dermatology, reviewed this article.