Can your own blood deliver anti-aging benefits? Dermatologists weigh in on the increasingly popular skincare trend.
If you thought a donation at your local blood drive was the only way to harness your blood's powers for good, think again. Human blood has become an increasingly popular beauty ingredient, and more and more celebrities are crediting blood-infused moisturizers and "vampire facials" for their their flawless complexions. But do these treatments actually work?
Dr. Barbara Sturm, a German physician who launched an eponymous skincare line, has become well-known for her MC1 cream (or blood cream, as it's often called). The customized moisturizer is made after drawing a few vials of a customer's blood, and is said to harness blood's skin-soothing properties to boost collagen and reduce signs of aging. Prices for the cream aren't listed on Dr. Sturm's website (it's only available at her clinics in Munich and Düsseldorf), but one jar reportedly costs more than $1,000. The pricey treatment has gained popularity among beauty insiders and A-listers, including model Hailey Baldwin and fitness influencer Hannah Bronfman (below), who recently gave social media followers a glimpse into Dr. Sturm's process on Instagram.
Then there are vampire facials. Instead of applying a blood-infused topical treatment, vampire facials involve injecting small amounts of your own blood back into the skin on your face. Kim Kardashian is a fan, and helped popularize the treatment when she was filmed getting one on a 2013 episode of Kourtney & Kim Take Miami. These facials are available at spas around the country, where they're usually referred to as PRP (platelet-rich plasma) facials or PRP injections.
But even if you're not squeamish about having your blood drawn in the name of great skin, do these treatments actually work?
New York City-based dermatologist Bruce E. Katz, MD, tells Health that while blood may have skin-improving powers, it wouldn't be effective as a topical treatment. "The plasma in the cream dies right away, and it’s no longer active," he says. "The MC1 doesn't get past the skin barrier."
That's not to say that Dr. Strum's MC1 cream doesn't benefit skin; the formula reportedly contains complexion-helpers like antioxidants and purslane in addition to blood. But Dr. Katz says that blood alone wouldn't contribute to any transformative effects. (Health reached out to Dr. Sturm, who was unavailable for comment.)
On the other hand, vampire facials may actually be worth the splurge (and discomfort). In these treatments, blood is immediately injected into the skin after it's drawn, which means the good-for-you proteins from platelet-rich plasma remain intact. "[The PRP] then stimulates collagen, new blood supply and vessels, and even hair follicles," says Dr. Katz.
Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist, agrees that blood-based facials can deliver real results. "PRP can be combined with microneedling to improve large pores, acne scars, and fine lines," she tells Health in an email. In other words, as long as the injections are administered by a physician and use your own blood, they're fine to try.
If you're not ready to have your face pricked in the name of beauty, the good news is that there are plenty of blood-free topical treatments that also offer powerful anti-aging benefits. Dr. Jaliman is partial to creams or serums that contain vitamin C, which helps repair free radical damage to keep skin looking youthful. "[It's] good for brightening, as well," she says.