Vaginal rejuvenation injections made from plasma. Eartox jabs that promise to bring youthful plumpness back to your lobes. The world of beauty is going to and coming for our extremities. There is not one area of our bodies now untouched by the hands of cosmetic doctors and beauticians as Love Island can attest to (sigh). But the latest vampiric obsession? Our own blood. In a ghoulish turn of events, our red and white blood cells are being harvested by doctors and cosmeticians, cleaned, and reinjected back into various parts of our bodies, in a bid to turn back time.
It might make you feel a little bit queasy, but is it dangerous, too? Last year, two clients from the VIP Spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were said to have contracted HIV after having a vampire facial treatment there.
The states Department Of Health then inspected and subsequently closed down the salon for health and safety regulation infringements including the storage, handling and disposing of needles. This case has shone a light on the dark side of the bloody beauty industry and its lack of regulations. Incredibly, you just have to complete a two-day phlebotomy course in order to remove blood, which poses the question: how risky is our quest for ultimate beauty?
Before you start an Insta protest against this bloody trend, there is actually a strong scientific case for its use, with a large number of cosmetic and medical doctors championing it across various fields. Why? Because, well, here comes the science bit: it is an inescapable fact that our bodys first response to a cut or an injury is to send platelets found in blood cells to the injured area. The platelets clot, which encourages the damaged area to regenerate. So, if you take blood from a patient, then extract the platelets and reinject the platelet-rich concentrate into the wounded area... well, hello quicker-healing and regenerated skin. This is whats known as PRP, or platelet-rich plasma (try saying that after a gin or two), and its been in use since the 1970s to treat sports injuries and arthritis.
Perhaps its not a surprise, then, that the cosmetics industry has jumped on this, too. A leading name in the blood beauty field is Dr Barbara Sturm. She originally began her career in orthopaedics, before moving into aesthetics and becoming one of the first pioneers of facial PRP which has come to be known as the vampire facial. But its likely that her clinic in Dusseldorf, and the world of bloody beauty, would have remained on the fringes of aesthetic medicine for ick-factor and cost reasons (treatments begin around the 1,000 mark) had it not been for Kim Kardashian posting a bloodied picture of her face after having a vampire facial (not with Dr Sturm) in 2013. Soon, other A-list fans including Bella Hadid became clients of Dr Sturm, and suddenly the entire beauty industry was clamouring for it.
Now, that same PRP is being used to treat hair loss (practitioners claim it promotes hair growth), in non-surgical breast augmentation (for firmer breasts) and the newest iteration, in vaginal rejuvenation, a kind of vampire facial for down below (yeesh, pain).
One of these treatments is known as the O-Shot, and involves injecting PRP into the vaginal tissues. It claims to tighten the vaginal canal, offer increased sensation and create stronger orgasms hence the name. Sophie Blackman, a 22-year-old journalist from Hertfordshire, underwent the O-Shot at Elite Aesthetics Clinic (1,200) last October: I struggled to orgasm because I had issues with body confidence and was too worried about how I looked to enjoy myself. I read about the O-Shot treatment online, researched it and was intrigued there were good reviews, though some did say that it wasnt FDA approved, she says.
Even though I dont mind needles (I have tattoos), because of the location I was terrified of the pain. Surprisingly, it was only a tiny bit uncomfortable, like a pinch. And that was without numbing cream or injections, which I was offered, but declined. The process took an hour: taking blood from my arm, extracting the PRP and injecting it back in.
I was slightly swollen for a day, but it was totally worth it. The first time I had sex, two weeks later, I immediately noticed the difference. I was more sensitive and orgasmed quicker within a couple of minutes. Im going to get it again now that its begun to wear off, ten months later.
Dr Shirin Lakhani at Elite Aesthetics says, Our clinic welcomes around 200 patients for PRP treatments, but this is growing year on year, so theres clearly demand for this type of procedure.
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But vaginal PRP is relatively tame compared to other ways people are using blood in beauty. There is also Blood Cleaning, known as Ozone Therapy, which has emerged as a popular new beauty trend in China, one of the worlds biggest beauty consumers and trend setters. The procedure involves drawing around 100ml of blood from your arm, injecting the harvested blood with ozone gas and then transfusing it back into the body. The video and hashtag #CosmeticBloodCleaningInvestigation has been viewed over 8.5 million times on microblogging platform Weibo, which is where Zhang Mofan, an influencer with over 11 million Weibo followers shared her belief having undergone the treatment that her blood changed colour from a deep red to a brighter red. This procedure boosts metabolism and clears away toxins, Zhang claimed. Its good for your skin and helps with weight loss. Zhang, of course, is not a doctor. But as somebody in an influential position, her endorsement almost certainly helped popularise the treatment. So, is it safe?
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency: Ozone is a toxic gas with vastly different chemical and toxicological properties from oxygen.It can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and throat irritation when inhaled let alone when its injected into the body. Yet, while the treatment is very much not FDA approved, it can still be practised. And it is even in the UK.
Dr Sophie Shotter, an anaesthetist who now works in aesthetic medicine, explains: A few clinics do offer the treatment in the UK, but as an anaesthetist I know that too much oxygen can be a bad thing in terms of your health. And, as ever, if you are removing blood from the body and it is not medically supervised, there is the potential for introducing infection."
While medical PRP is a useful, life-changing way to treat many medical issues, there does have to be some more regulation on its use as a cosmetic treatment, when not under the supervision of a doctor.Dr Stephanie Williams, who practises a form of aesthetic PRP called Exokine in her London clinic, says medical supervision is crucial. Only doctors should do deep needling treatments like PRP, and if blood is taken by a technician they must have had phlebotomy training. Yes, that might mean its more expensive, but the handling of blood, the paperwork around it, the conditions, the regulations all need medical control, she says.
While its doubtful the world of aesthetics will stop investigating blood as a fast-track to beautiful skin, Dr Shotter believes it needs far more regulation. PRP has a great proven track record in mainstream medicine, but the lack of regulation in aesthetics worries me. Non-medical professionals should not be doing these treatments, full stop its just not safe. If somebody has a reaction,a beauty therapist cant diagnose that, or prescribe antibiotics immediately. Its just not appropriate.
Its unlikely well ever stop looking at how our own blood could hold back the hands of time, but the price to pay could be so high, that what merely seems like a cosmetic treatment, could end up being completely life changing. The choice is yours.
By GLAMOUR Contributing Beauty Director, Anita Bhagwandas
I am that person. The kind who saw an extreme beauty treatment on a celebrity and thought it could hold all the secrets to perfect, plump, firm skin. So back in 2013, I sought out the queen of facial PRP, Dr Barbara Sturm, and booked myself in.
I flew over to the hi-tech, minimal clinic in Dusseldorf, which felt like a cross between a medical facility and a luxury spa. Tranquil and peaceful, I only saw one other person while I was there. Sturm started by taking a vial of blood from my arm (so far, so Greys Anatomy) that was then put through a centrifuge think a washing machine on turbo spin that separated out my white (reparative) blood cells from the red (oxygen-carrying) ones.
Once extracted, the white cells are mixed with microscopic white spheres that have a concave dent in them. The white blood cells think the concave side are a wound, so the plasma gets the green light and activates all its amazing growth factors to start the repairing process. Thats when it was separated out again to remove the spheres and injected back into my face.
The entire process takes a couple of hours, and though not painful as such, the numbing injections you get at first are not entirely joyful. I was expecting to have blood smeared all over my face (like in the Kim Kardashian picture), but realised that was probably done for effect, using the left-over red blood cells. I left the next day, and flew straight home. At first, I didnt notice anything, but then, a week in, the real benefits started to show.
My skin started to look plump and my face felt tighter and firmer. Then it glowed, and I mean really glowed for weeks. Suddenly, my friends began asking about my skincare regime the ultimate compliment.
Using the same extracted plasma, Dr Sturm also made me a pot of her magical MC1 cream, which I used religiously for two months with good results. My skin was smoother, my spot breakouts less frequent, and it even helped with some of my eczema, too as she told me it would. For me, the blood-shed was worth trying once, but in the light of these cases of HIV, Id only ever have it done again with a medical professional, such as Dr Sturm.
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