Three Women Were Infected With HIV After ‘Vampire' Facials at an Unlicensed Spa

“Vampire” facials—the micro-needling treatment popularized by influencers like Kim Kardashian around 2013—are back in the news for a terrifying reason.

In a report published by the CDC on April 26, it was revealed that multiple people may have been infected with HIV after undergoing the procedure at a wellness spa in New Mexico. According to the report, a woman with “no known HIV risk factors” was diagnosed with HIV in 2018 after “exposure to needles from cosmetic platelet-rich plasma microneedling facials.”

The owner of the spa, which closed in the fall of 2018, did not have the appropriate licenses to practice the procedure, which involves drawing blood from an individual, which is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the platelet-rich plasma (PRP). From there, that PRP is then injected back into the client’s face with micro-needles. The treatment is often used for “evening out skin tone and texture, treating mild scars, and addressing pigment irregularities,” dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., tells Glamour.

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According to the report, an on-site investigation found “multiple unsafe infection control practices” in place, including storing medical injectables like Botox in a fridge alongside food. A “rack of unlabeled tubes containing blood” were also found on a kitchen counter and it’s believed certain pieces of disposable medical equipment were “cleaned by alcohol immersion and reused.”

By 2023, an investigation identified four former clients and one of the clients’ sexual partners all received positive HIV infection diagnoses. While the spa allegedly did not have proper filing measures in place to contact all former clients, the investigators were able to test nearly 200 other spa clients, per ARS Technica.

Dr. Mudgil advises that people seeking “vampire” facials “should see either a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon for these sorts of procedures.” When the procedure is completed properly, Dr. Mudgil notes that the likelihood of a complication like this is basically “zero.”

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