Vampire facials became trendy after celebrities like Kim Kardashianan West proudly showed off their bloodied faces during the procedure, in which facialists draw blood from clients and re-inject it into their faces to refresh the skin. But now, after two people who underwent the treatment at a New Mexico spa have tested positive for HIV, the safety of the facial is being called into question.
The New Mexico Department of Health said in a statement on Monday that it is currently investigating the two cases of infection, both in clients who got vampire facials at the VIP Spa in Albuquerque between May and September 2018
The NMDOH shut down the spa in September after an investigation found unsafe practices, particularly with how they stored, handled and disposed of needles. In addition, VIP Spa owner Luly Ruiz did not have a license.
Dr. Andrew Ordon, cosmetic surgeon and co-host of The Doctors who runs and maintains two medispas as an extension of his surgery practice in Beverly Hills and Palm Desert, CA, tells PEOPLE that he isn’t surprised by this development, given the lack of regulations.
“The medispa business is booming, but regulations are just now coming into play,” he says. “Standards of cleanliness should be a strict as in a doctor’s office, but if they are not, and if there is old blood product left on any equipment, you could potentially transfer infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”
But, Ordon says, this doesn’t mean people need to avoid vampire facials or injections completely.
“They can be perfectly safe if done by a licensed practitioner in a sterile environment,” he says.
When trying out a new spa, Ordon says to go in with a discerning eye.
“Be a conscientious consumer. Check out the environment, ask about the spa’s sterilization process and how they dispose of their needles and other medical waste.”
And if anything seems off, Ordon says that it’s not worth the risk.
“Any treatments that break the skin bring with them the chance of infection and you need to be more vigilant,” he says. “I don’t want to ruin anyone’s spa day, but when traveling or if you are unsure of the cleanliness or reputation of the business it might be better to stick to a massage.”
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