The weird, wonderful world of beauty has urged us to spread lots of things on our faces, from snail mucin to scorpion venom, with the promise of better skin. But over on TikTok, things tend to be even more interesting when it comes to skin care trends. Case in point: period blood face masks.
In the past few months, period blood face masks, also known as menstrual masking, have been getting attention thanks to a few TikTok users who claim that the practice improves their skin, making it smoother and even treating their acne.
One TikToker said that in addition to using her menstrual blood as a face mask, she’s applied it to fresh tattoos to help them heal. “The initial benefits I noticed post-facial were glowing, tighter skin, and a reduction in the appearance of any blemishes and acne scars,” said 29-year-old Michela Ferullo. “The visual benefits were subtle but enough to keep doing it.”
And it’s easy, too: Ferullo said that after a shower, she sticks her fingers in her vagina, gets the blood on her fingertips and rubs a light layer all over her clean face. “I let this sit for 20-ish minutes then wash it off and proceed with the rest of my usual skin care routine,” she said.
The hashtag #periodbloodfacemask currently has more than 4.7 million views on TikTok, and videos of people applying the masks have been floating around on the video-sharing app since 2020. (That same year, writer Jessica DeFino did the mask herself and documented her experience for Cosmopolitan.) However, period blood face masks really began to go viral at the end of 2022. And unsurprisingly, they resulted in mixed reactions.
Period masks are quite the polarizing subject, it turns out. While like-minded TikTok users shared similar sentiments as Ferullo, others were grossed out by the practice. Some simply troll the hashtag by applying The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution, a powerful exfoliating treatment known for its affordable price point and blood-red formula.
Are there any skin care benefits?
“Menstrual blood is made up of three things: blood, vaginal fluid, and the cells and fluid of the uterine endometrial lining,” said Dr. Stephanie Hack, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecological surgeon and founder of the Lady Parts Doctor Podcast. She explained that menstrual blood does contain minerals, nutrients and stem cells ― however, that doesn’t exactly translate into skin care.
Many dermatologists aren’t convinced of the masks’ alleged skin benefits. “There seem to be anecdotal stories of benefit whereby people claim to see improvements in acne or overall ‘glow,’ but there is no clinical evidence, and the medical information we do know indicates it is unlikely,” said Dr. Ava Shamban, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills. “I think it is popularized by those who would dare to do anything in the name of beauty for social media — seeking glam for the ’gram regardless of the dermal disaster.”
Blood benefits are a real thing, just not that kind of blood, Shamban said. Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, and platelet-rich fibrin, or PRF, “have both been highly discussed and dissected in dermatology and throughout surgical and aesthetics circles for their proven benefits in healing and anti-aging,” she said. But those can only be derived from machines found in a dermatologist’s office.
Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, also pointed out the lack of scientific evidence suggesting menstrual blood is good for the skin. “Period blood is a mixture of shed epithelial cells from the lining of the uterus and red and white blood cells,” she said. “There isn’t data that show that whole blood has any benefits when applied topically, and red blood cells may even be pro-inflammatory.”
Plasma treatments are a completely different thing, King explained. “With PRP, blood is taken in a sterile manner and then centrifuged to separate out the PRP layer — that’s the platelet-rich plasma layer, which is rich in growth factors,” she said. “These growth factors are concentrated in the PRP that is applied to the skin.”
Are period blood face masks safe for your skin?
Ferullo said that doctors who reject the idea of period blood face masks are reacting from a place of internalized misogyny and their own comfort zones. “Going back to the point of internalized misogyny, their remarks alone give period blood the impression of being dirty, germy and unsanitary,” the TikToker said. “This practice is so much more than just a face mask, which yes, I’m sure you can get a more effective one on the market. This is about connecting to your feminine energy, establishing a nurturing relationship with your own body, and creating a positive association with this time of the month ― all of which I’ll gladly take the risk for.”
But doctors’ warnings serve an important purpose: to protect your health.
Many derms, including Shamban and King, advise against period blood face masks. “Menstrual blood is full of vaginal secretions, endometrial lining, bacteria, fungi and microbes that make up the downstairs ‘ecosystem’ within,” Shamban said. “This blood product is not recommended as it actually can transfer bacteria or other microbes that could do more harm than good for the skin.”
Hack said that any disease or infection of the blood will also affect menstrual blood. “There are no well-known scientific studies proving the safety (or lack thereof) of menstrual masking,” she added.