Image Source: Getty / Elena Safonova
You've undoubtedly heard of the "vampire facial," a procedure pioneered by physician Charles Runels, MD, that combines microneedling with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) created from the patient's own blood to rejuvenate the skin on the face. While microneedling helps cue the body's wound-healing mechanism — thereby increasing production of collagen and elastin, the structural proteins responsible for skin resiliency against wrinkles and creping — the platelets and growth factors found in PRP are shown to expedite and amplify the process. Now, some practices are taking this regenerative medicine "hack" a step further by using a patient's PRP to reshape and augment the breasts in a procedure dubbed the "vampire breast lift," or VBL.
Regenerative treatments using PRP are popular because the results of combining PRP with in-office skin treatments are clinically substantiated; some studies have reported positive effects on tissue regeneration when used in aesthetic dermatology. "PRP is proven to promote collagen growth, stimulate new cells, and increase elastin," says Liz Pauldine, an aesthetic nurse practitioner for the medical spa SkinSpirit. "It is used in aesthetics and dermatology to improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of scars and wrinkles, and to promote hair restoration."
How it is applied can vary: some providers prefer to spread PRP onto the skin like a serum before microneedling it into the dermis's newly created microchannels; others prefer to inject it in conjunction with a laser or microneedling treatment. With vampire breast lifts specifically, doctors go the latter route.
While results from a VBL will not be as drastic as a surgical breast augmentation, having a nonsurgical option to address breast volume, skin texture, and shape — using your body's own tissue — is exciting. It is especially popular among moms hoping to address changes in shape and volume post-breast-feeding. Here, we're breaking down everything you need to know about the vampire breast lift — from how it works to what it costs.
What Is the Vampire Breast Lift?
The first step of the 30-minute vampire breast lift is to separate the plasma from your red blood cells, which plastic surgeon Ben Talei, MD, says is done by spinning the sample in a centrifuge. Then the plasma is spun again in order to separate the platelet-poor plasma from the denser platelet-rich plasma, which is the form containing the biomarkers for healing.
"When you take the plasma and place it back in the centrifuge, the denser particles sink to the bottom — and this is the PRP that is removed," Dr. Talei says. "The resulting blood plasma contains all the proteins and other signaling factors that exist in your circulation."
Next, the PRP is strategically injected into the breast in order to begin the process of tissue regeneration. "Platelet-rich plasma releases signaling factors wherever it is injected [that] help heal damaged tissues by recruiting the immune system into that area to help remodel them," says Dr. Talei. Pauldine adds that regeneration begins as soon as two weeks and occurs over the course of several months; in the case of the VBL, full results are seen three to six months after treatment.
Is the Vampire Breast Lift Painful?
"You will feel little pokes as it's injected," says Monica Grover, DO, an ob-gyn and doctor of osteopathic medicine who performs the procedure as the chief medical officer at Vspot. But here's the thing: unlike dermal fillers, which include lidocaine in their formulas for numbing upon injection, injecting PRP can be quite painful. Vspot administers multiple forms of numbing to ease the process. "We typically give patients laughing gas as well as a generous amount of topical numbing [cream] and injectable lidocaine. This keeps them calm and comfortable," Dr. Grover says.
It is normal to feel sore for roughly a day, and Dr. Grover adds that there may be some bruising, swelling, or tenderness following your VBL. Immediately following, you will experience fullness and swelling, with discomfort for about 24 hours. Following this, you will deflate to your normal size before the visible regeneration begins to kick in. But with gradual results visible before its full effects at three months, you can then enjoy your results for years at a time. "The tissue remodeling that occurs never goes away, but women will come in for touch-ups as often as every few years as they go through the normal physiological changes associated with aging."
How Does a VBL Compare to Surgical Breast Augmentation?
There are several major differences between a surgical breast augmentation and a VBL. For instance, the latter doesn't require anesthesia or going under the knife, while the former is visible immediately postprocedure. The results differ as well.
"The ideal [VBL] candidate is someone who is generally happy with the size of their breast and doesn't need any reconstruction but would like more volume, cleavage, a little lift, and less fine lines and wrinkles," Dr. Grover says. In other words, if you are hoping to go up an actual cup size, the VBL is not for you. Dr. Talei notes that nonsurgical augmentation would be more pronounced by combining PRP with fat grafting or nanofat.
Additional advantages to the VBL include the fact that it doesn't leave scars and can be performed to help prevent sagging. Alternatively, there are instances where implants can exacerbate sagging due to the toll on the skin.
Vampire Breast Lift: Before and After
Image Source: Courtesy of Vspot
How Much Does a Vampire Breast Lift Cost?
While the exact pricing for the procedure will vary depending on where you go and your geographic location, a VBL at Vspot costs $3,600 and requires only one session. As previously mentioned, patients occasionally come back every few years simply to buffer the normal aging process.
Potential Risks of a Vampire Breast Lift
Unlike surgical breast augmentation, the side effects of a VBL are minimal. "There are no risks of foreign-body rejection because the body recognizes the growth factors as its own, nor [risks of] any type of scar tissue or encapsulation," Dr. Grover says. The most severe — albeit rare — risk, she says, would be a pneumothorax, which is essentially a collapsed lung caused by air entering the chest cavity and creating pressure on the lung.
As with injectables, you can expect some discomfort and inflammation for at least a full day afterward, and some residual bruising for a matter of days. There will also be a temporary phase of "deflation" (to your previous volume) before the tissue regeneration kicks in over time.