The vampire facial, or micro-needling, has been around for a few years. Kim Kardashian swears by it. But is it worth the blood, cost and pain?

Turning back the clock?

microneedling for scars acne review
A microneedling dermaroller, a home use version of the salon's high tech pen. 

Ageing is one of life’s certainties and with it comes changes to the way we look and feel. Our face and the condition of our skin broadcasts our age, and throughout the centuries we’ve been looking for those magical lotions and potions to defy the laws of nature.

We’re now experiencing an era of innovation when it comes to treatments to keep ageing at bay—or at least slow the effects of it showing on our faces. Not only are our supermarket shelves and department stores heaving with the variety of brands from all over the word promising us youthful, poreless, dewy, line-free skin, but super high-tech fixes promise laser, Fraxel, and light-pulse therapies to resurface, tighten and lift our faces and knock back the years.

The UK beauty industry is in the pink. This year sales of beauty products have hit £4 billion, even surpassing the amount the French spend on make-up and skincare.

We decided to investigate one much talked about facial treatment—an alternative to injectable filler or Botox—that is purportedly popular with stars such as Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Glynis Barber.

Read more: Anti-ageing myths busted

 

What is micro-needling?

microneedling vampire facial Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian tries micro-needling, also known as the 'vampire facial'

Skin needling, or micro-needling, does exactly what it says on the tin. Your face is pricked with microscopic pins to ‘wound’ it, a process designed to stimulate the body’s natural healing process. Collagen production is boosted by up to 1,000% and fresh new skin is produced. Within a week after the treatment, glowing younger-looking skin is promised. After a month, skin will be smoother and clearer.

Micro-needling is particularly beneficial if you want to diminish those fine lines beginning to appear on your forehead and cheeks, and around your eyes and mouth especially when you smile. It’s also an effective treatment for enlarged pores and acne scarring

 

 

"Micro-needling is not for the faint-hearted but it does work"

 

 

One of the Reader’s Digest team took the plunge. Turning 50 this year, she’s become aware of the changes to her skin. “It’s my pores,” she says. “And the deep frown line between my eyebrows. They’ve become so visible as I’ve got older. It troubles me.

“I’ve had a few facials over the years. These have been soothing hour-long rituals involving a deep cleanse and luxurious creams being massaged into my skin,” she explains. “But while the effects last the weekend, nothing much is done to improve the size of my pores and the appearance of lines all over my face.”

We sent her along to the Aesthetics Lab in London’s Primrose Hill to try out their renowned treatment.

“I was nervous,” our volunteer admits. “I’m unlikely to succumb to treatments like Botox and most definitely not ‘the knife’ but I was very curious about this so-called bloody facial.”

Read more: How to eat right for younger, healthy looking skin

 

Volunteer’s report

"There are so many new non-invasive and laser techniques available that are supposed to deliver good results, but they’re also very expensive. So, whilst apprehensive, I was happy to test this facial for Reader’s Digest.

When I arrived at the Aesthetics Lab I was given the low-down on what to expect. The treatment was explained in detail and I had an opportunity to ask countless questions. Yes, the needles are sterilised completely. Yes, the procedure is painful but safe. Yes, there will be blood.

I signed the forms and was introduced to Karin, my diminutive therapist. My face was first cleansed and a topical anaesthetic cream was applied all over—to my great relief. After about 20 minutes, Karin disinfected my skin and began the treatment."

 

No pain, no gain!

Aesthetics Lab in London’s Primrose Hill microneedling review
The Aesthetics Lab in Primrose Hill, London

"Using the handheld micro-needling pen she started with my forehead. I felt it. The sensation was like pins and needles turned up a notch. Think a ball of tiny pins being rolled all over your face, fast. It was uncomfortable but not unbearable. “Am I bleeding?” I asked Karin, more than once. “You are,” she replied. “And you should be.”

She moved to my cheeks, chin and around my nose, spending time on my areas of concern: frown line and the pores on my cheeks. Throughout Karin checked on my comfort, to see if I was in too much pain.

Strangely, any discomfort I felt didn’t alarm me. I was willing to endure it if it meant better results. And Karin was gentle, explaining every part of the process fully so I knew why it was being done and what to feel.

The micro-needling itself lasted about 20–25 minutes. My skin was cleansed and a treatment mask applied before the final stage: a 20-minute session of light therapy. This was pure relaxation for the skin after the trauma immediately before, in which an LED lamp emits different wavelengths of light to penetrate deep into the skin, increasing blood flow to speed up the healing process.

The treatment lasted 75 minutes and I left the salon with full after-care instructions and very pink skin! Arriving home my partner thoughtfully told me I looked like I’d been boxed in the face. Six hours later the pinkness had subsided but the pinpricks on my forehead were visible."

 

The verdict

before and after
One Aesthetics Lab patient before and after the treatment

"A course of three treatments, a month apart, is recommended for long-term results. A month after one treatment I can see the benefits. In particular, the pores on my cheeks are visibly reduced. Equally importantly, the fresh, brighter condition of my skin has been noticed by friends and colleagues. 

Micro-needling is not for the faint-hearted but it does work.

The Aesthetics Lab treatment costs £250 per session. It’s not cheap, but if you view this as an investment into your physical wellbeing it may be a price worth paying."

 

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