The Price of Beauty

Vampire with facelift

It is impossible to guess what strange treatments will appear next. It is also impossible to say which might be the all time strangest. All I can say is that the winner for this week is the Vampire Facelift.  For the record, it has nothing to do with  Dracula or Carmilla or any of their cinematic descendants, although some may see a connection with the practices of Elizabeth Bathory.

In simple terms, the process involves removing some of your own blood, running it through a centrifuge to remove the platelets and injecting it under your skin.

For those, like me, who live in blissful ignorance of such a quest for youth, I just found out that this has been on the go since 2009 and is now available across the US and Canada. However, it is just recently that the procedure has garnered public attention.

This year, the “vampire face-lift” has been promoted on “The Rachael Ray Show” and “The Doctors.” It’s also gotten air time on more than a dozen local news programs, some of which presented unproved claims that results will last two years.

Dr. Drew Ordon, one of the hosts of “The Doctors” and a board-certified plastic surgeon, gushed on air, “Vampires have moved into plastic surgery, too, and I’m one of them.” The patient in his segment had also recently had her own fat injected into her face to plump it, so it wasn’t clear that platelets had anything to do with her fresher appearance.

It is perhaps important to know, and should come as no surprise, that the strongest promoter of the Selphyl procedure, as it is known, has a bit of a vested interest,

Dr. Anthony P. Sclafani, the director of facial plastic surgery at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, said he’s seen the revivifying effects of P.R.F.M. on cosmetic patients last for more than a year — sometimes 18 to 24 months. (Dr. Sclafani is a paid consultant for Aesthetic Factors, and most of his research on Selphyl has been financed by the company.)

There have been no clinical trials of Selphyl, and no regulatory approval, despite some claims to the contrary.

Dr. John Argerson, a board-certified family medicine doctor who works out of Refine MediSpa in Johnson City, Tenn., tells consumers that Selphyl is a “newly F.D.A.-approved filler” for nose-to-lip folds. And in a December 2009 article in Dermatology Times, a trade publication, Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a board-certified dermatologist, said Selphyl is “a new F.D.A. approved dermal filler.”…

Indeed. The F.D.A. has not approved or cleared P.R.F.M. derived in a Selphyl centrifuge to be marketed for facial rejuvenation. In 2002, the agency cleared a blood-collection system called Fibrinet, whose platelet-rich byproducts orthopedic doctors then used to speed tissue repair. In 2009, this same machine was born again as Selphyl, and since then, the company promoted it as a way to “reverse the natural aging process.” This week, Shelly Burgess, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, said that Selphyl’s maker would have to file an amendment to get clearance to market its blood collection system in a new way, and no such amendment could be found at this writing.

Asked whether Aesthetic Factors’ marketing of Selphyl for cosmetic rejuvenation violated any F.D.A. policy, Ms. Burgess simply wrote, “As a regulatory agency we would not discuss whether a firm’s claims violate our regulations.”

One person who is definitely making money on the procedure is the doctor who copyrighted the term Vampire FaceLift and any doctors who wish to promote the procedure using that name must pay him a fee.

One famous person who has recently and publicly submitted to the procedure is Kim Kardashian.

Ah, youth and beauty, how we pursue thee.

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