No, we are not talking about Count Dracula (that would be the ultimate Halloween ‘get), but Plastic Surgery Practice sat down with Charles Runels, MD (the originator of the Vampire Facelift®) to find out more about this spooktacular anti-aging procedure and its history.
PSP: What exactly IS a Vampire Facelift® (VFL)?
CR: There’s been plenty of misconceptions and not so many opportunities to clearly outline the idea for quality physicians. The VFL embodies two powerful ideas: 1) a business model, and 2) a medical procedure.
I mentioned the business model first because that part is THE most game-changing part of the VFL. That’s the part that can not only increase profits for physicians, but also simultaneously increase satisfaction for patients. Getting those two things–happier patients and more profits–at the same time presents a challenge, but the task can be done.
The VFL procedure is a VERY SPECIFIC WAY of using platelet-derived growth factors (PRP) combined with an hyaluronic acid filler (HA) to increase the beauty and de-age the face. First the provider uses and HA to lift the brow, soften the tear trough, lift the cheek, soften the nasolabial folds, and rejuvenate the mouth–all with only one syringe of HA.
This particular technique which treats critical areas to achieve a striking result while only using a minimal amount of HA gives, alone, a value to the patient worth the price of the VFL, which is roughly $1500.
Next, after the HA filler, the provider isolates growth factors from platelets. This process takes about 10 minutes in the office and can be done by an assistant. Then, the provider injects those growth factors in critical places under the eyes and overlaying some of the HA locations to further enhance shape, color, and texture (through increased collagen production, neovascularization, and adipocyte enlargement and multiplication). The supporting ideas of where the provider injects the materials came from studying the mathematics of beauty and developing a combination routine that results in maximal enhancement of beauty. The VFL primarily strives to enhance beauty–decreased wrinkles are a secondary benefit.
PSP: If a doctor uses PRP in the face is he/she not doing the VFL?
CR: I have a Calvin Klein shirt made of cotton. If I cut cotton cloth and make a shirt, have I made a Calvin Klein shirt? The point is that the ideas behind a product or service can mean more than the materials.
PSP: Why trademark a procedure?
CR: Since a trademark represents legal property that cannot be used without written permission, using a trademark gives a way to make sure that all providers advertising a certain procedure can provide a level of service that is well defined and is of supreme quality. Most of the providers of the VFL can provide services superior than what’s required, but the fact that they are licensed to use the trademark tells patients that they’ve had extended training in the use of PRP and HA and agree to follow superior guidelines.
PSP: Could file suit against physicians who use the name without a written license?
CR: Could you hang up a sign that says McDonalds just because you think you can cook a better hamburger?Even though a physician may consider himself a superb injector, the license to use the name Vampire Facelift® requires written permission and I have legal rights to up to 1/2 income plus damages of any physician who uses the name without permission. I’ve not taken a physician to court. Most who use the name thinking its generic quickly watch the online videos and sign up when they learn that the name is trademarked. The charge is so minimal that if they do only one VFL per year they more than pay the licensing fee.
PSP: So, how is this game changer?
CR: That’s the least apparent but the most exciting part! There are 14 kits marketed in the US and approved by the FDA to isolate PRP. I started with one of the first to market. It uses a gel separator and gives a pretty golden PRP that works well. But, the price a year ago was twice what the competitors were charging, so most the providers swapped to another PRP kit, but we kept advertising the Vampire Facelift®. I’ve swapped two more times finding the best PRP at the best price. Do you see how powerful this is for physicians and for patients? Physicians who do the procedure become like a buyer’s club. If a manufacturer decides to go up on price, or if a kit that works better becomes available, then all the vampires just swap to that kit.
Over 70 HA’s in Canada that are not yet approved in the US. If five years from now, one of those 70 make it here and is plainly better than what we have or at a lesser cost, then we can all change and keep advertising the VFL. So, physicians get the best price and patients don’t face as much risk of price inflation while at the same time getting the best technology! The manufacturers win by providing the best product at the best price–as it should be for patient and doctors to also benefit.
That’s the power of a trademark. This is a specific type of trademark called a service mark–where the intellectual property is the way something’s done (not an actual physical product like Coke®).
PSP: What’s the real back story?
CR: Some think that I just heard the Vampire Facelift® name and grabbed it after it went viral. The truth is that I proved to the attorneys at the US Patent & trademark office that I was first to use the name. Some were using the words "vampire" or "Dracula," combined with "filler" as a synonym for PRP. It’s no accident the Vampire Facelift® went viral–I spent weeks researching the best name and then over a year 20 to 60 hours a week making it go viral. I have over 200 hundred domain names and around 50 websites that make money for me.
I’m hoping that other cosmetic physicians adopt the trademark model and roll them out for endorsement. I’ve helped a couple of physicians already. I want the way cosmetic procedures are marketed and taught to be changed for the better of the patient and the physician (and even for the superior manufacturer).
PSP: What about the research? Some say that there’s no research to back up the procedure.
CR: If you read the wound-care research, there’s plenty to back up the idea of PRP to rejuvenate skin and even the combination of HA with PRP. We have a mountain of research about PRP and no serious side effects ever described. Some of the more interesting papers can be seen on the research page at VampireFacelift.com