When it comes to makeup tips, hair hacks, and beauty trends, we can usually count on TikTok to provide us with some quirky recommendations. While some have left us in awe and become a regular addition to our beauty routine, others have had us questioning our life choices. Take the latest trend gaining traction: period blood as a face mask.
You might have heard of period-blood face masks before, or "menstrual masking" as it's sometimes referred. The hashtag "periodbloodfacial" has been used on Instagram as far back as 2019, spawning TikTok spin-offs including #periodbloodfacials and #periodbloodfacemask which have racked up more than 1.9 and 6.9 million views respectively.
It almost goes without saying that this is a divisive topic. While some TikTok users have described period blood face masks as "the best beauty secret ever" and a way to "connect with my divine feminine energy", others have deemed it "unsafe" and "cringe".
What is a Period-Blood Face Mask?
So, let's start with the basics – a period face mask involves applying your menstrual blood to your face with the aim of improving your skin. As it's a DIY hack, there's no official guidance to follow, so TikTokers have been either applying the blood directly from their menstrual cups or storing it in a container in the fridge first.
Many of those who have tried masking with period blood have done so because they believe the micro-nutrients and stem cells found in the blood will benefit the skin, but it's not 100 percent clear from the content exactly what those benefits look like. Most of the claims are quite vague, with users saying their skin looks "good" or "better" post-treatment. Others have hopped on board the trend with the aim of feeling more connected with their body.
If you're into beauty, you'd probably glance at the ingredients before buying a regular face mask, but do you know what menstrual blood is actually made up of? (Spoiler: if you thought the answer was just blood, there's much more to it.) "Period blood consists of a mixture of blood, vaginal fluid, and endometrial (womb lining) cells," explains aesthetics and hormone specialist Dr Sophie Shotter.
So far, not so appealing, but hang on, this is where it gets interesting. "There is evidence that there are stem cells in the endometrium (inner layer of the uterus), and it does also contain micro-nutrients such as zinc, copper, magnesium, and iron – all of which are found within the bloodstream. These substances might in principle be useful for skin health, for example in reducing inflammation."
Does a Period-Blood Face Mask Actually Work?
Ok, so if there are micro-nutrients to be found in menstrual blood, then there must be benefits to applying it topically, right? "I cannot see any potential benefits to a menstrual blood facial," continues Dr Shotter. "We have to consider that the quantities of these substances in menstrual blood will be relatively low."
The problem is that even if there were high levels of micro-nutrients in period blood, it's not easy for them to make their way into the skin without any additional penetration enhancers or delivery systems. "The skin barrier is called a barrier for a reason," explains Dr Shotter. "It stops things from penetrating it. Micronutrients are useful for skin health but will need delivery mechanisms to get them in. Stem cells will not be stimulating anything whilst sitting on the surface of your skin – they will have zero benefits in this situation."
That sets the science straight, but whether a beauty treatment is good or bad depends on how it makes you feel about yourself. The caveat being as long as it's safe . . .
Is It Safe to Try a Period-Blood Face Mask?
We're all for a bit of self-care, especially around our periods, but according to the experts, a period face mask is likely to cause more harm than good.
"I think with the possible risk of infection and cross-contamination it is not worth the risk," says oculoplastic surgeon and founder of MZ Skin Dr Maryam Zamani. "Period blood drains through the vaginal walls where bacteria, yeast, and viruses may be sitting. If someone has an infection or herpes, that can also be passed along with the collected menstrual blood and passed onto the face if used for masking."
"You could even risk giving yourself chlamydial conjunctivitis if you happened to suffer from chlamydia," adds Dr Shotter. How the blood is kept prior to masking has safety implications, too. "I have seen TikTokers save period blood and store it in the fridge in a non-sterile jar which is just the perfect breeding ground for bacteria," explains Dr Zamani. If there is a small cut on the skin's surface or any kind of break in the skin barrier, this can cause significant infection in the skin."
What Alternatives are There to a Period-Blood Face Mask?
PRP facials (also known as vampire facials), stem cell treatments, and skincare containing placenta are all far more reliable ways to use the body's resources to improve your skin. And really, this is where a lot of the confusion around period blood facials has stemmed from. But these treatments and processes are far more complex and very much expert-only.
"During a vampire facial, we take sterile blood from a vein in the arm and spin it in a centrifuge to give us a golden liquid concentrated with platelets," explains Dr Shotter. "This is then injected into the skin and those platelets will release growth factors, stimulating a healing response and giving potentially huge skin benefits."
The reason for a bloody face post-treatment (à la Kim K) is not due to the blood applied, but the injections or microneedles used to help those platelets into the skin, which should only ever be performed by qualified experts. "Stem cell treatments will also involve invasive administration, which enables them to penetrate the skin barrier," continues Dr Sophie. "These substances are also properly manufactured and processed meaning the risk of bacteria growth in the liquid and infection is extremely low."
Placenta found in skincare lines including Biologique Recherche and MZ Skin has also been painstakingly processed to maximise collagen-boosting benefits without compromising on safety. "Generally placenta is collected, sanitised and rinsed and then freeze-dried and processed before used in re-suspension," says Dr Zamani. It's quite the process.
Ultimately, if you're looking for a skin-friendly homemade treat during your next period, stick to a DIY mask of mashed avocado or honey and oats instead. Or, for a pick-me-up, eating a little chocolate never hurt.