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Vampire facial spa infected several women with HIV

Vampire facial spa infected several women with HIV
Photo by cottonbro studio for Pexels

The incidents are the first documented cases of people contracting HIV through cosmetic procedures involving needles.

A cosmetic procedure involving drawing a person's blood, manipulating it, and injecting it back into their face is responsible for at least three cases of HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The infections occurred at a now-closed beauty spa in New Mexico, where the former owner is now in prison for practicing medicine without a license. The HIV transmissions took place in 2018 and are the first documented cases of HIV being spread via cosmetic procedures involving needles.

The treatment at the center of the controversy is known as a "vampire facial," a procedure popularized by Kim Kardashian more than a decade ago. The facials involve drawing blood from a patient, separating platelet-rich plasma from the bodily fluid, and then injecting it back in the person's face via tiny needles; the procedure is supposed to lessen the appearance of wrinkles and acne scars. Patients, including Kardashian, often report pain, swelling, and bloody marks on their face after the treatment.

Vampire facials aren't inherently dangerous, but the New Mexico spa was extremely careless in storing the blood, how it was labeled (or mislabeled or not labeled at all), and record keeping. The New Mexico Department of Health became aware of the issue in 2018 when a woman tested positive for HIV — she had no risk factors but did tell health officials she visited the spa and received microneedling. Two other cases of HIV have been linked to the vampire facials at this specific spa. The former owner of the spa is serving a three-year prison sentence.

The CDC urges anyone who is considering a cosmetic procedure, especially one involving needles (as vampire facials and Botox do), to research the provider and confirm they are licensed to administer such treatments.

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Neal Broverman