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17 Apr

‘Menstrual masking’: Why women are putting their period blood

A DIY vampire facial might sound unsavoury to some but ‘menstrual masking’ is becoming an increasingly popular skincare alternative

“I’ll normally put my fingers inside me after which apply it to my face,” 30-year-old Daniela tells me, earnestly staring down the barrel of the lens on Zoom. We’re talking about moon masking – otherwise referred to as using your period blood as a face mask.

For numerous people, their ‘time of the month’ is spent suffering the wrath of mother nature, cursing the pain and refilling hot water bottles like they’re going out of fashion. But for others, it’s believed to be the right time to naturally absorb nutrients via your skin, connect with your femininity and provides back to the earth. Even though it might sound strange, the practice just isn’t actually as area of interest as you may think – ‘periodfacemask’ videos have 6.4 billion views on TikTok. But why are women doing this, and what does it say about our society if our first response is to seek out it barely gross?

“For a lot of, it’s shocking to see women connect so deeply with themselves and their bodies,” says Daniela. “Once we look into the history of suppression, women’s rights, females touching their genitals, tools for menstruation, there’s a lot shame associated. I feel it’s so vital to explore your vagina and vulva and be curious.”

Daniela, who I discovered via an Instagram hashtag, lives in Berlin and has been moon masking for 4 years now. She works as a sex counsellor and relationship coach and posts openly about using her menstrual blood as a mask, and whilst plant fertiliser. “It’s really empowering. Our blood is so natural and holy. After I allow myself to actually connect deeply with my menstruation, it seems like I’m connecting to the earth and to all my ancestors.”

In the case of the science behind using menstrual blood on the face, there aren’t many studies supporting its advantages. After I reached out to dermatologists for this text, the overall response was discomfort (“I just don’t think it’s one they’d be comfortable commenting on”). Dr Joyce Park, MD, a well-liked TikTok dermatologist, nevertheless, had no problem refuting it in a recent video and begged people to not try it out. “There’s no way you’re collecting blood in a sterile way,” she says. “There’s probably bacteria and sweat and other things within the blood.” You furthermore may risk transmitting any vaginal infections you may have onto your face, she adds.

Despite this, culturally using menstrual blood is something that has been done traditionally and superstitiously for years. Within the Philippines, it is claimed that should you wash your face with period blood, you will probably be blessed with acne-free skin during puberty. “My great-grandmother practiced using moon blood face masks, which my mother passed on to me too,” says Kamilla Bello, a 25-year-old artist. “These monthly rituals and practices deeply connect me back to my matriarchal lineage, and it jogs my memory of the facility of all women.”

Bello has been well versed in these rituals for a few years and says she used to taste her blood every month in secret as a teen, in addition to smearing it on her face within the shower. “I became more consistent with the practices in my early twenties then began sharing my journey online in the course of the pandemic once I gained more knowledge and understanding”. She also incorporates blood into her regular routine in other ways including, like Daniela, as a fertiliser for plants – “I formed a habit of peeing in my garden as a substitute of using the bathroom so I don’t discard my blood” – and to be used in rituals.”

“I also use a cup on the second day of my cycle [when I bleed the most] to gather my blood and use it for ritual purposes – moon blood face masks, anointings for cover, offerings for my womb and ancestral altar, reviving dead or sick plants, etc. For the remainder of the cycle, I take advantage of period underwear. I soak it in water to squeeze out the blood and infuse a prayer before offering it back to the soil.”

Rituals and connection to your body aside, does using blood in your routine even have any advantages to the looks of your skin? Between 1590 and 1610 Hungarian noblewoman (and supposed serial killer) Countess Elizabeth Báthory was said to have bathed within the blood of countless young souls so as to maintain a younger appearance. Whether that is true stays a mystery, but fast forward to the fashionable world and Dr Barbara Sturm has found a more legal way of maintaining your youth with blood. In 2019 there was a two-year waiting list for her famous Blood Cream, and in 2013 the web was taken by storm when Kim Kardashian released pictures of her vampire facial. A vampire facial, or a PRP facial, is a process where platelet-rich plasma is extracted from your individual blood after which micro-needled back into the skin. But with the blood cream alone costing $1,400 and vampire facials similarly pricey, it’s unsurprising some are sticking to the free version.

Lisa Marie, 34, from Germany has been masking two to thrice a month for the last yr and a half, and says she has noticed a difference in her skin. “I see a change and feel the change. The skin is super, super smooth and in addition the breakouts disappear… I just pour the blood into my hand and just put it throughout my face and let it dry.” One other advocate, 38-year-old Mary Miranda from Chicago, says that she has also seen improvements in her skin texture, feeling that it has turn into softer and more nourished. “Menstrual blood is healing, has anti-inflammatory properties and is stuffed with wealthy nutrients and minerals,” she says.

Throughout her life, Mary Miranda suffered from painful periods which she believes were as a result of a disconnection between her womb and body. Now, her period is her favourite a part of the month and she or he is worked up to see her womb health improving after surgery to remove a fibroid tumour and treat endometriosis in 2018. After once being terrified she might need to have a hysterectomy she now says, “I made a deeper commitment to honour, cherish, worship and handle my womb and menstrual cycles.”

Lisa Marie echoes this sentiment. “Something’s modified inside my mindset and the way I heal as a lady. It’s made me way stronger having this connection to my womb. It helped me to say no in some situations too. I do not feel ashamed any longer and it’s helped others discuss it too. I feel it’s really had a fantastic impact on my life.”

While menstrual masking won’t be for everybody, and is suggested against online as a result of hygiene and safety concerns, these women seem pleased and connected to their bodies on a deeply personal level. I can’t lie, their skin really did look radiant too. It’s a practice that probably won’t make it into the mainstream, but these women are right that we do have to make periods less taboo by talking about them and exploring our bodies. If reading about moon masking has done that for you today, then that’s bloody sensible.

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