Thanks to the ultimate cocktail of vanity, society’s expectation that women never age, and my eternal curiosity with every new semi-natural beauty invention (meaning I’m slightly too scared to Botox my forehead, but would definitely try the high-nitrogen bird droppings facial), I was all in to try out a "platelet-rich plasma" facial. Over three visits to the office of Dr. Heather Friedman, ND, I was poked, pricked, and plumped to a shiny new state. And despite how the process sounds, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
As newfangled as it may seem on first blush, platelet-rich plasma injections have a long history in the medical community. Doctors have used the process to treat chronic tendon pain and arthritis. I also knew it from Kim Kardashian’s viral "vampire facial" photos (and the clips of her crying). Alas, Vampire Facial is a trademarked name, so Friedman can’t legally use it (but I'll continue to do so, because it sounds cooler).
The process began with Friedman drawing 2–6 tubes of blood from my arm before I climbed onto a massage bed plump with pillows. As Friedman loaded oodles of lidocaine numbing cream across my face, she spun my blood in a centrifuge to separate the platelet and stem cells. She then heated them to a desired thickness. (She can heat the blood even longer, resulting in a thicker gel to use for more significant filling on lips or frown lines.) Once Friedman injected this fluid into the face, the results were minor but instant, with a bit more volume in my face. She says the full effect takes longer to become visible, with the platelets and stem cells gradually increasing collagen in your skin over time.
“The heater activates the collagen, so it creates more of a lifting effect," says Friedman, who practices functional medicine in addition to serving a growing list of PRP clients. “It’s very dependent upon the individual because it calls on their own immune system. The healthier someone is, the less touch-ups they’ll need. And it’s completely from you, so you won’t have an allergic reaction.”
As for pain? My eyes watered a bit, and I had a couple of light bruises afterwards, but it was far from a crying affair. To be fair to Kardashian—who wailed in pain—she wasn’t able to use the recommended numbing cream because she was pregnant. Without it, the experience would have been excruciating.
Friedman gave me three complimentary sessions to try out the full facial rejuvenation, a bit of lip filler, and a light microneedling session, which produced a small amount of bruising, one medium headache, and a boatload of positive comments on my skin over the next few months. In addition to the Fountain of Youth-related services—which include wrinkle filling, hand treatments, and treatments for acne scarring—Friedman also uses the process for both female- and male-pattern baldness, and says she's seen some remarkable results for patients.
“They are pricey, but when you compare it to the cosmetic procedure world, this is an affordable option,” she says of the sessions. Each runs around $800, and she recommends three in two months. That's more expensive than Botox, but Friedman says it can last up to five times as long. And, if budget is a barrier, she urges people to approach her anyway, as she has some pricing flexibility. “I just love doing it," Friedman says. "And seeing it work for people.”