The Biological Nonsense Which is Vampire Facials, 7 Rules for Your Makeup, and Whether or Not a Serum Can Cause a Skin Purge. Ask A Skin Care Biologist

Ask a Skin Care Biologist is a recurring Bioluminescence post where OUMERE's CEO and CSO, Wendy Ouriel, M.S., answers your skin care questions. Wendy is a cellular biologist with expertise in cellular aging, extracellular matrix biology and the biology of skin care.





I work in an esthetician's office and a lot of people have been asking about "Vampire Facials" because a lot of celebrities are getting them. Do they really work?

Trevor L.


I think Hollywood is running out of ideas for super villains because we are now on our 3rd Joker movie in 10 years.


Villains are the only interesting or developed characters in those super hero movies and If I was going to refresh that stale industry I would create a villain who started out as a well-intentioned scientist who was on the precipice of a breakthrough.


That breakthrough is something like she isolated particular cells from vampire bats, put it in a serum and found that it would make someone who is 80 look 30. But there was a mishap in the lab, she got bit by a vampire bat and the venom soaked into her brain and made her evil.


She then discards that good idea and goes on to open an evil spa where she does a blood sucking facial. The decor is just as horrifying, a bunch of white and gold pleather furniture and the walls are plastered with positive (misleading) celebrity testimonials. She fails to disclose that she paid for these testimonials.


Then on to the procedure....


The facial begins when she sucks the blood from her client. She then smears it all over their face all while telling them a bunch of sciency sounding nonsense to distract and confuse the unsuspecting victim while this cruel and unusual ritual is performed. When the facial is over the victim looks in the mirror and shrieks echo throughout the halls because and they don't recognize themselves. When they look into the mirror what looks back is an old and decrepit face. Our evil villain, instead of reversing their age caused her victim to age 100 years... and charged them $2000 for it. And no refunds are allowed.


Oh wait, thats not entirely made up...


The short answer is no, I do not believe Vampire Facials to have any health benefit. And I don't recommend getting one.


When I first read about Vampire Facials my first thought was "what the hell is this @$*&? Are you serious?" I can't think of one single treatment in skin care so devoid of a basic understanding of how human biology works than the Vampire Facial.


I also could not find a single credible scientific study supporting the benefits of this procedure. 


For those who don't know, what happens is a doctor take a venous draw of blood, and separates the red and white blood cells from the plasma. Then you either get a microdermabrasion or microneedling treatment and then the plasma is applied to the skin.


The rationale for this is that the plasma, which contains growth factors, will stimulate collagen and will therefore have an anti-aging effect. 


Yeah, that's not going to happen. And anyone with one year of college biology could tell you that. 


Here is why smearing blood on your face wont do anything

First, to define growth factors. 

Growth factors are biological substances that exist within the body with the purpose of stimulating growth, cell proliferation, repair, and cell differentiation. Growth factors are a necessary component of many cellular processes and function by acting as a signaling molecule between cells. 


The reason why smearing your own centrifuged blood on your face wont do anything is because these growth factors were taken from where they needed to be biologically to function (your flowing oxygen-rich blood in your circulatory system) and instead of being taken to a place where they are meant to function, they are sloppily slathered on an area where they are going to die: your skin, exposed to air (low O2 and high N2, no nutrients, etc) and other outside elements. The growth factors in your blood need to go to tissue in the body. From within the body. This keeps the molecules functioning properly.


When growth factors are transplanted out of the body and smeared onto the skin there is no possible way that the growth factors are somehow going to turn on, penetrate layers of dead skin and make its way to the dermis without any means of transport, magically recognize where collagen is in the ECM and then somehow stimulate the synthesis of more collagen. You know why? Because biology doesn't work like that. No matter how much Dr. Hollywood wants it to. 


The crown on top of this haphazard procedure is the fact that they require microdermabrasion or microneedling prior to the blood smearing. So what happens is you kill live skin cells, thin the skin and cause premature wrinkling, and then you put your blood serum on your skin where it dries, causing all of the growth factors to die all while drying your skin out due to evaporation. 


If any "plumping" occurs its due to an inflammatory response because you just did a number on your skin. And while you might not age 100 years in one session like our super villain does to her victims, you will certainly age faster by doing such damage to your skin.


Unfortunately this is just another fad procedure born from someone who has no proper background or understanding in biology, who read a few paragraphs in a book and said "Eureka! I found the fountain of youth!" And did no further research or development to determine whether their methods had any actual merit. They just started an instagram page and paid some celebrities to advertise for them.



I know you're not a fan of makeup. But if you were to give advice on the least damaging ones what would it be?



For makeup, I am more forgiving with eye makeup like shadow and mascara. However, you need to be careful with what you wear over the rest of your face.

Here are my guidelines:

1. If you have acne or any skin sensitivity or rosacea, you should not be wearing makeup. Makeup will make all of these problems worse. 

2. For foundations, I recommend choosing liquid over powder because powders will soak up the oils in your skin and will lead to either increased dryness or oil.

3. Throw out all makeup (including eye makeup) after 3 months. The containers become a cesspool of bacteria and other pathogens quickly and you expose your skin to it every time you apply. This goes for makeup brushes too, they should be cleaned thoroughly after each use. 

4. Makeup should be fragrance and essential oil free

5. I like foundations that are BB or CC creams because they are light and usually formulated with some beneficial skin ingredients.

6. Makeup brushes are physical exfoliation and are an abrasive. The more you use them the more you are breaking your skin down. It is better to use clean hands or a clean cotton pad or sponge. 

7. Look at the ingredients in your makeup. Is that something you want sitting on your face all day?




I was using [redacted] serum, which is a serum that has only essential oil and plant seed oils. It broke me out terribly and when I sent a message to their customer service e-mail they said that this was a normal "skin purge" and that I should just continue using the product for a few more weeks. Is this true?

Meghan V.



No. What you were told is false. You simply had a breakout because the serum damaged your face.


A skin purge only happens with exfoliation because a purge is the revealing of damaged skin underneath due to removing of dead skin layers. The purging phenomenon was first observed in patients using Tretinoin several decades ago, and you will see it if you begin an exfoliation regimen while having acne or acne-prone skin.


A serum cannot thin the skin without either an abrasive or an acid, and if your serum contained neither then it did not cause a purge, it broke you out. I recommend throwing it in the trash. 




Have a question for an upcoming Ask a Skin Care Biologist post? Submit it to