Selphyl – “The Vampire Facelift”

I’m not sure I love the nickname “vampire facelift” – they (vampires) may be all in vogue now, but that nickname may sound dated in few years. But for those interested, it’s related to the fact that Selphyl is made from blood – your own blood!

As I’ve said before, the hard part with any new procedure, laser, injectable, etc. is to sort out what’s real and what’s just marketing hype or wishful thinking on the company’s part. Selphyl is no exception. So here’s my take on this product.

Bottom Line

  • Is it safe for use in facial skin? Not proven yet and some concerns.
  • Is it effective? Possibly, but not enough data yet.

The Details

What is Selphyl?

Selphyl is essentially a filler to improve facial contours and volume.  It is a platelet-rich fibrin matrix – translated that means that the platelets from your own blood are removed along with the clear, liquidy part of the blood called serum. This serum with the platelets in it is mixed with calcium chloride and then injected into your skin.Remember platelets are the tiny cells in blood that mainly help blood to clot. Sometimes this is also referred to as PRP – platelet rich plasma. PRP has been used in the orthopedic world – especially for injections into tendons – for several years.

How is this procedure done?

Imagine you are in your dermatologist’s/plastic surgeon’s office. You are seated, a tourniquet applied (just like every blood draw) and a small tube of blood is drawn.That blood in the tube is shaken by hand a few times and put in a centrifuge (a high speed spinning machine) for 6 minutes. That separates the red part of the blood from the clear part, which is the serum with the platelets in it.

Then that serum is put into a different tube that contains the calcium chloride and shaken a little. Voila – now it starts to thicken a little, which keeps the platelets distributed evenly through the semi-solid matrix (kind of mesh-like). This is what is injected into your skin.

Some plastic surgeons also mix harvested fat with this product in the hope that it will make fat transfer more reliable.

Is the Selphyl procedure safe?

Possibly. My main concern is that safety data from orthopedic tendon injections may not apply to the face.Injecting into a mostly blood-vessel-free tendon is very different than injecting into the face where there are many blood vessels and anatomy, including many nerves, is more challenging.

There is very little data about its use in skin for aesthetic purposes. There is one paper from Sclafani (2009) with 15 patients treated in the nasolabial folds with a 3 month follow up. That’s a pretty small patient test group and a short follow up time. The company basically got its FDA approval based on the safety record of PRP in orthopedic use, which is pretty good. Again, the question is – is the face equivalent to a tendon?It might not be.

What are complications of this procedure?

All of the usual complications of fillers, including bruising, tenderness, not liking the results, and lack of any visible result (for this product especially). See this link for filler complications.

In its orthopedic use, complications like blood clots, allergic reactions including activation of a patient’s immune system against their own platelets, and long lasting or permanent skin discoloration have been reported but were rare.

Who shouldn’t use Selphyl?

People with bleeding disorders or taking anti-coagulants like Coumadin. Patients who have very low platelet counts or autoimmune disorders that affect their platelets should probably avoid this product. The product requires adequate platelets to work. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Anyone with cancer or active infections.

Does the Selphyl procedure work for improving facial contours?

Here’s the bad news. While Selphyl looks interesting and promising for some issues in facial aesthetics, it’s far from being a magic wand. It’s expensive and results so far are not very predicable from patient to patient. The one study published in 2009 (Sclafani) only had 15 patients.

The results in those patients are easily achievable with other products or lasers already on the market. Products equal to or less in price and with over 20,000 patients injected for a track record of safety and results.Which would you rather choose? In my opinion, a new technology needs to be BETTER than a tried and true technology of similar price to be a good choice.

How long do the results last?

This key information has not been established for this product. Probably at least 3 months.

Is this procedure painful?

It involves one blood draw (your arm) and injections into the face similar to those for Juvederm, Restylane, Radiesse, or Sculptra

What is the company claiming that isn’t true or is misleading?

In my opinion, they are overstating their results given the extremely small amount of data that they have in aesthetic patients. And the product hasn’t been used enough in facial injections to really determine its safety. Only time will tell if this product can live up to the claims being made.

Next, learn more about the dermal fillers Juvederm and Restylane…

See Dr. Irwin’s expert answers to other reader’s questions on Selphyl:
Does the vampire facelift really work?
What about the filler Selphyl? Does it really work?
Should I consider doing Selphyl?