WTF Is a VBL? Is There Surgery? Are Vampires Involved?
This spooooky cosmetic trend taking the social media world by storm could be appealing to women looking to augment their breasts without invasive surgery. Vampire breast lifts (VBLs) are a nonsurgical form of breast augmentation that uses the patient's own platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to shape and lift the breasts.
The VBL, along with the other vampire procedures, uses platelet-rich plasma (PRP), a treatment also used in healing sports injuries. To understand how PRP works, you have to first understand some basics about blood.
Plasma is the liquid part of blood tasked with the important work of carrying the smaller components—including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets—throughout the body. Platelets help in blood clotting and contain hundreds of proteins called human growth factors. In PRP treatment, the blood plasma contains more platelets than what would normally be found, and so more human growth factor.
The vampire breast lift is also said to have other benefits, such as minimizing the appearance of wrinkles, scars and stretch marks, and improving blood circulation.
According to Sandra Stewart, R.N., who specializes in nonsurgical aesthetics, the VBL starts with a patient's blood being drawn. "The blood is then placed in a centrifugal machine, where platelet plasma will be separated," she explained. "The PRP is injected into the breast tissue. PRP stimulates more human growth factor, which inspires new regeneration of the tissue."
After treatment, fat cells in the breast are said to multiply, creating the appearance of fuller, firmer breasts. The vampire breast lift is also said to have other benefits, such as minimizing the appearance of wrinkles, scars and stretch marks, and improving blood circulation. According to the vampire breast lift website, results can be seen within three months. However, there have been no scientific studies done to confirm this.
Stewart says VBL is most effective at getting results in combination with a procedure called Sculptra, an injection that's said to help replenish lost collagen in the skin.
"In your early 20s, you start to lose collagen every year," Stewart stated. "Sculptra is a poly-L-lactic injection that stimulates collagen growth in the tissue."
Additionally, some providers of the VBL service recommend microneedling after the procedure to optimize results.
How does it compare to a traditional breast lift?
Unlike a traditional breast lift, VBL relies on injections instead of incisions.
Gregory A. Buford, M.D., FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon, adamantly stated the vampire breast lift is in no way similar to a traditional breast lift, and a lot of the claims made around VBL are exaggerated.
"I've been a plastic surgeon for over 20 years," he told Giddy in an interview. "Injecting PRP into the breast, it's ludicrous to think it'll lift the breast—it is physiologically impossible. When you do a breast lift, you are adding volume to the breast, shaping and lifting. No scientific studies have been done showing PRP can lift the breasts."
Despite the lack of scientific proof, many people, particularly on social media, make claims that VBL did in fact give them the look of fuller, more lifted breasts.
"The pictures you see on social media that show a change in tissues, that's called inflammation," Buford explained. "People post a picture immediately after they get their injections, when the breasts are still swollen. Show me the results six months out, once the swelling has gone down. I guarantee patients won't have the results they would if they had a surgical breast lift."
He added he has yet to see someone who has been able to show him the procedure produces the result patients are looking for months after treatment.
"Social media is rife with a lot of statements that aren't true," he continued. "There's lots of misinformation being spread intentionally by [individuals] not in the medical profession to get people to try the treatment and spend their money. I'm passionate about this because consumers need to know the truth."
'People post a picture immediately after they get their injections, when the breasts are still swollen. Show me the results six months out, once the swelling has gone down.'
Buford stressed he isn't against PRP treatments. "I don't think it's bad to inject PRP into the skin. It uses something that we all have—blood," he said. "It's wonderful for rejuvenating the skin. But there are a lot of extravagant claims being made that are fraudulent."
Constance M. Chen, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon who has specialized in breast procedures since 2008, told Giddy there are positives and negatives to VBL, like any procedure.
"The positive would include minimal scarring since there is no surgical excision of excess skin," she explained. "One negative is that droopy breasts are often due to excess or stretched-out skin, so it may not be possible to lift the breast without excising and trimming the skin.
"Since volume is being injected into the breasts, there will be at least temporary volume achieved in the breasts," Chen said. "The same would occur if saline or another solution was injected into the breasts.
"The idea is that the growth factors in the PRP would promote cell growth," she continued. "According to VBL proponents, effects can [last] as long as two years. Although I have never met a person who has undergone the procedure, I would expect an immediate increase in size for at least a day or so, with swelling from the trauma lasting up to a few weeks after that."
Stewart agreed the results from a vampire breast lift are drastically different from results from a traditional breast lift. "You won't have the same outcome as you would from a surgical lift and breast augmentation," she said. "In a traditional breast lift, often the nipple is moved farther up and some of the volume is removed from the lower breast."
According to Stewart, one major difference between VBL and a traditional breast lift is the client experiences no downtime after a vampire breast lift. "Patients can get the treatment and go to work the next day."
What are the risks?
Similar to other injections, the risks for a vampire breast lift include bleeding, pain and infection.
"It's the same with any type of filler or Botox treatment. There is a risk of infection in the site, but that is a risk with any type of injection treatment," Stewart acknowledged. "Compared to other, more invasive procedures, there is less risk. The moment you start opening the skin and making incisions, there is more risk."
Since PRP uses a patient's own blood, the preparation for the procedure will always be different. This variation limits our understanding of the treatment since the solution will be designed differently for each patient. Researchers are still seeking to understand more about PRP's risks and benefits.
According to Chen, one of the issues with VBL is the lack of long-term studies or data documenting long-term risks.
"Since PRP contains growth factors, however, the most obvious concern of VBL is the effect it may have in stimulating breast cancer," she said. "In addition, any injections into the breast, including fat grafting or stem cell injections, have a known risk of stimulating or spreading occult (i.e., undiagnosed) breast cancer cells. Thus, VBL may be a particular concern for women at high risk of breast cancer."
Should you try the procedure?
"It is difficult to recommend a treatment that has no proven safety or efficacy," Chen cautioned. "I am always open to innovation, but my biggest hesitation to offering the procedure to someone who asked me to do it for her would be my questions and concerns about breast cancer risk."
Buford encouraged people to think critically and practice skepticism before committing to any procedure. "If you aren't sure of something, research it. Look into if the person performing the procedure is a medical professional, and for how long," he advised. "Consumers need to be skeptical of everyone's results. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
In an age of social media and the internet, it can be an overwhelming and difficult task for people to find sources of accuracy. It's important for people to get sources of information from peer-reviewed scientific journals, as opposed to social media. "There's no peer review process for social media," Buford said.
While the noninvasiveness and minimal downtime of VBL are appealing, ultimately people should keep in mind the procedure won't provide the same change to their breasts that a traditional breast lift would.
"Understandably, patients looking for a breast lift would like solutions that minimize downtime and scarring while maximizing outcome. I would just remind people to carefully balance their short-term and long-term goals, and keep in mind other factors, such as safety," Chen said. "At the end of the day, a healthy body is what often radiates the most beauty."