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Simone Gannon: Can a ‘vampire facial’ really reverse ageing? Here’s how my experience went

‘First, numbing cream is applied and left to work for 30 minutes, while blood is drawn from the arm. Usually, two vials are required’

As I get older, I’m more interested in regenerative treatments. Treatments that work with what I already have and help me look and feel at my best – be that plump, smooth skin, reduced fine lines, or a glow that cannot be achieved through skincare alone.

One of my preferred approaches for this is microneedling – an in-clinic treatment that uses a hand-held device to make small, evenly spaced micro-punctures in the skin. Microneedling sends the body into repair mode and triggers the production of collagen and elastin, resulting in a host of benefits for the skin.

The latest, next-level iteration is PRP microneedling. PRP stands for platelet rich plasma and it is found in your blood. During the treatment, platelets from your blood are microneedled (and sometimes injected) back into your skin. The platelets contain growth factors that help stimulate cell growth and rejuvenate the skin, resulting in improved tone and texture, reduced fine lines, scarring and hyperpigmentation, and generally plumper, tighter, glowing skin.

Outside of cosmetic dermatology, PRP is used widely in sports medicine, dentistry, orthopaedics, cardiovascular surgery and urology, to promote and accelerate healing and regeneration (the reported first use of PRP injections was in 1987 in an open-heart surgery).

Last month I visited Emma Fanning at Le Formulaire in Dublin for my PRP microneedling experience. Her holistic, evidence-based approach to skin health is exactly what I want as I hurtle towards 40. “I like to focus on treatments that work with your skin in the long run,” she says. “As a society, we have started to lean more towards natural, regenerative approaches, which is why PRP microneedling is so popular. It essentially acts as a stimulus to your existing cells, telling them to get back to work.”

First, numbing cream is applied and left to work for 30 minutes, while blood is drawn from the arm. Usually, two vials are required. The blood goes into a centrifuge and spins for five minutes, separating the plasma from the blood. Once separated, the plasma looks like a fine gold liquid. Hyaluronic acid was added to one of my vials to maximise results.

My skin was then microneedled as usual, with eight injections of the combined PRP and hyaluronic acid to follow – four on each side of my face. “The combination of PRP and hyaluronic acid injected directly into the skin stimulates collagen and elastin production while delivering hyaluronic acid to where it lives, giving you instant hydration,” Dr Fanning explains.

After this, the other vial of PRP was applied as a serum, followed by a cooling sheet mask and 15 minutes under a DermaLux LED lamp. At this stage, my skin felt tight and warm but not uncomfortable.

Just before I left the clinic, Dr Fanning applied the remaining PRP to my skin as a mask. She said it would harden and act as a barrier, protecting my newly microneedled skin from the elements while promoting faster healing. She asked me to keep the mask in place until that night and apply a repair cream on top.

Having had microneedling many times in the past two years, I am surprised at how little downtime is involved in this treatment. I experienced tightness and inflammation in the first few hours – akin to a bad case of sunburn, but that’s it. The next morning, my skin is back to normal, save for some slight redness at the injection points.

Within 48 hours, I noticed a distinct plumpness that hasn’t been there before. This is the most common initial result. “The longer term results start to become visible about four weeks after the treatment, as this is when the skin remodels – improvement in fine lines, especially around the eyes, reduced appearance of enlarged pores and acne scarring, more even skin tone and improved vitality,” Dr Fanning says.

Four weeks later, the plumpness remains, along with smaller looking pores, a more even skin tone and a glow that several people have commented on. I received the treatment on a complimentary basis for research purposes, but ordinarily, it’s not cheap at €600 a go (or €500 without the add-on of hyaluronic acid). But, as Dr Fanning explains, the results keep coming.

“I recommend booking in once a year to top it up,” she says. “PRP doesn’t switch off; it just adds on top of itself, if that makes sense. That’s what’s incredible about this treatment. It’s a dose of you and a benefit for life.”

This week I’m wearing… Chanel Le Vernis in Glaciale

Part of the sublime Chanel Les Beiges Winter Glow Makeup Collection, Le Vernis in Glaciale (€32 from Brown Thomas) is the semi-sheer, glossy white my nails have been waiting for. One of two icy cool shades in the collection (the other is Skieuse; a delicious frosted pink), this is a fresh, cool-toned white that flatters all skin tones.

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