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3 women are infected with HIV after undergoing a vampire facial at a N.M. spa


Three women have been infected with HIV after undergoing a so-called vampire facial at an unlicensed spa in New Mexico. Now, we wanted to learn more about how this could happen and what you should know before seeking the procedure at a spa. And joining us to discuss this is Dr. Jordan Carqueville. She's a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of the Derm Institute in Chicago. Doctor, so first off, what is exactly a vampire facial?

JORDAN CARQUEVILLE: It's a term for microneedling plus or minus platelet-rich plasma, where we're using patients' blood products while performing a cosmetic treatment.

MARTÍNEZ: And that needle is applied directly to someone's face.

CARQUEVILLE: Right. It's a buzzing pen with needles at the tip that you actually sweep across the face. And you're creating small microinjuries to the skin, and those are really channels where that platelet-rich plasma can pass through. And the overall goal here is to improve skin texture, decrease pore size and stimulate collagen so you get more refreshed, youthful skin.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, and once someone has this done, they're all red. Like, blood's all over their face.

CARQUEVILLE: Right, so in the process - and this is why they term it the vampire because you're using blood products, and you do look bloody. But the process begins with a blood draw. So if you're coming to my practice, we start by drawing your blood, putting some topical numbing on you, but that blood draw is where that PRP, that platelet-rich plasma, comes from.

So we take the blood. We bring it back to our lab, and then we centrifuge it down and use that blood product to needle into the skin, getting that absorbed through those channels. So the PRP is like a smoothie booster, so PRP gives you that little kick with the growth factors to stimulate your collagen even more so than just the needles.

MARTÍNEZ: Ooh, now, maybe I should just click yes, give me the full treatment.

CARQUEVILLE: (Laughter). I always tell my patients it's like a smoothie booster, so you don't...

MARTÍNEZ: I mean, Doctor, when you put it like that, a smoothie booster - my God.

CARQUEVILLE: (Laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: I can feel it on my skin already.

CARQUEVILLE: It's an add-on, which will help the outcome, but you don't necessarily need it for, you know, a result.

MARTÍNEZ: And using platelet-rich plasma is not just a cosmetic thing. I've heard athletes use it to help them with knee injuries and things like that.

CARQUEVILLE: Yes, so it's rich in these growth factors that will help with healing and collagen stimulation and hair growth.

MARTÍNEZ: So what would be the biggest risks to getting this done?

CARQUEVILLE: I always say, when it comes to surgery or any procedure, anytime you are cutting into the skin or puncturing the skin or manipulating the dermis - that's a layer of our skin - there's always a risk of infection, of bleeding, of bruising.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so someone listening, and they say, you know what? I might want to try this. I might want to see what it does for my face. What are some of the things that consumers should be looking out for when they walk into a spa or facility, and they want to get this done?

CARQUEVILLE: I think the No. 1 thing to look for for any patient is to ask, you know, who is performing the procedure? What are the credentials of that individual? Is that individual licensed to perform a cosmetic procedure? You might want to ask how many procedures have been performed by that provider. If the provider is not a physician or an advanced licensed provider, then who is the supervising individual?

MARTÍNEZ: So earlier, I mentioned how three women were infected with HIV after getting a vampire facial at an unlicensed spa in New Mexico. Based on what you know of that story, Doctor, what do you think might have gone wrong there?

CARQUEVILLE: So I don't know the intimate details, but from what I know, it was due to mislabeled or nonlabeled specimens. So one of the important things are - is that when we're taking blood, any sample, whether we're taking it to check a blood count or your cholesterol levels, those tubes are getting labeled with names, with birth dates, medical record numbers, etc. The same goes and the same regulations need to apply for cosmetic offices, including medical spas. And I think it's really important for the patients now to just say, listen - it's OK to be discerning 'cause ultimately, we are responsible for our own safety at the end.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Dr. Jordan Carqueville, founder of the Derm Institute in Chicago. Doctor, thank you for your time.

CARQUEVILLE: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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