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“Vampire Facials” at Unlicensed Spa Linked to HIV Infections

vampire facial

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the results of an investigation into an unlicensed New Mexico salon where three patients were reportedly infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) after receiving a “vampire facial.” A vampire facial, also known as a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) facial or vampire facelift, is a trendy cosmetic procedure that involves injecting a patient’s own blood back into their face to stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of aging. While vampire facials date back to the 1990’s, the procedure picked up steam after celebrity Kim Kardashian posted photos of her bloody face on Instagram after receiving one in 2013.1 2

The CDC investigated the VIP Spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico after former clients received an HIV diagnoses between 2018-2023. The first case, a woman who tested positive for HIV in 2018, reported no intravenous drug use, recent blood transfusions, or recent sexual contact with someone infected with the virus. She did, however, report getting a vampire facial at the salon.

Two other HIV diagnosed cases were also women between ages 40-60 who also received vampire facials in 2018. One woman was diagnosed with HIV during a routine life insurance assessment in 2018, while another woman received her diagnosis in 2023 following hospitalization due to an AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) related illness. The investigation marks the first association between HIV transmission and nonsterile cosmetic injections.2

Investigation into Spa Found Tubes of Blood Stored Near Food and Unwrapped Syringes on Counters

The CDC investigation uncovered numerous lapses in infection control procedures, including unlabeled tubes of blood on a kitchen counter, unlabeled tubes of blood and medical injectables like Botox and lidocaine in the kitchen refrigerator next to food, and unwrapped syringes in drawers, on counters, and discarded in trash cans.2

“These are people who had no known risks for HIV acquisition,” said CDC epidemiologist Anna Stadelman-Behar, PhD MPH  in a statement to The Washington Post. “It was a shock to them definitely.”2

New Mexico health officials first warned clients who received vampire facials at the VIP Spa to get tested for both HIV and hepatitis following the first reported infection in 2018 before closing down the spa after confirming their treatments and unsafe practices could spread bloodborne infections. During the initial investigation in 2018, Maria Ramos de Ruiz, the owner of VIP Spa, said she only uses disposable needles. “I open them in front of my clients every time they come,” Ruiz said. “I want everybody to be sure, everybody to be happy and to know they don’t have anything.” The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department reported that the owner of VIP Spa did not have a licensed medical professional on-site to draw blood, which is drawn from patients’ arms for a vampire facial.2 3

Counterfeit Botox Linked to 11-State Outbreak of Botulism-Like Illness

Vampire facials are not the only cosmetic procedure under the microscope. The U.S. government is warning that an outbreak linked to counterfeit versions of botulinum toxin (Botox) has resulted in 22 illnesses across 11 states and numerous hospitalizations. Similar to the VIP Spa in New Mexico, the alert said the dangerous counterfeit Botox had been administered in unlicensed or untrained individuals in non-healthcare settings such as homes or med spas.4

According to the U.S. Department of Public Health, vampire facials and other cosmetic injections come with inherent risks of infection and the potential to spread infectious diseases, even when performed using proper techniques and precautions. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons suggests several helpful tips to ensure safety when choosing a cosmetic practitioner, including vetting the person’s qualifications and ensuring they are board-certified by the appropriate specialty group for the desired procedure; asking for references; and asking the practitioner to clarify all potential benefits, risks, and complications so, as the patient, there is true informed consent.5 6

Ruiz pled guilty to five felony counts of practicing medicine without a license and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 2022.2


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2 Responses

  1. Just buy your own at home sauna or hot tub and get a mud mask. The easy way to avoid blood borne illness, is to never under any circumstances accept a needle being put in your body. When was the last time you said today is the day I’m going to really care about my health, and subsequently started stabbing yourself with sharp objects?

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