Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/5/2022
Spend some time scrolling through Instagram and you’ll come across plenty of weird and wacky home remedies for acne, from old natural health favorites like turmeric to more out there options like rubbing your face with banana peels.
One recent acne prevention trend that’s popped up on social media is the use of period blood to get rid of acne and purportedly stop it from coming back.
Yeah, really — you didn’t misread that. Fuelled in part by interest in treatments like the infamous vampire facial, people have taken to using period blood masks, creams and other treatments to supposedly get rid of acne and improve their skin.
While some people may swear by period blood for acne, there’s no scientific evidence that it’s a useful acne treatment, or that it has any other positive effects on your skin.
Below, we’ve explained why we don’t recommend using period blood to treat acne breakouts or keep your skin blemish-free.
We’ve also shared a few safer, more effective alternatives to menstrual blood for acne, including over-the-counter products and prescription treatments.
The idea behind using period blood for acne is pretty simple. Over the last few years, treatments that make use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) — blood that’s rich in platelets, or blood cells — have become increasingly popular for treating sports injuries, hair loss and some skin conditions.
Thanks to celebrity endorsements and trendy marketing, the benefits of PRP have become well known over the last few years, and bespoke skin creams made from a person’s blood cells have become the latest ultra-expensive skincare trend.
Enter period blood. For those without $1,000-plus to spend on a bespoke skincare cream made from our own blood (translation: pretty much all of us), a period blood mask seems like a simple, natural alternative to designer blood creams and other high-end skin care treatments.
Add various pseudoscientific beliefs about period blood’s “mystic” and “divine feminine” qualities into the equation, mix it with eye-catching, shocking Instagram photos such as Kim Kardashian’s vampire facial aftermath and you have the perfect formula for a social media health trend.
Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to point out that something being a little unusual doesn’t necessarily preclude it from being medically useful.
After all, penicillin antibiotics — some of the first truly effective medicines for bacterial infections — were originally developed from the rather nasty looking penicillium mold that can grow on old, leftover food.
So, does period blood actually work as an acne treatment? Right now, there isn’t any scientific evidence to suggest that it does anything for your skin, let alone get rid of acne breakouts and stop them from coming back.
Acne develops when your hair follicles, or pores, become clogged with a mix of dead skin cells and sebum.
Dead skin cells are produced as a byproduct of a natural process called epidermal turnover, in which your skin replaces old cells with new ones.
As new cells travel towards the surface layer of your skin, old ones die and are eventually shed into the environment.
It takes about 40 to 56 days for your epidermis — the outermost layer of your skin — to properly turn over.
Sebum, on the other hand, is a type of natural oil that’s produced by your sebaceous glands. It helps to seal in moisture and prevent your skin from becoming dessicated. Sebum travels out to the surface of your skin through your hair follicles, or pores.
When sebum and dead skin cells mix together inside your pores, they contribute to blockages that can develop into acne.
Mild forms of acne, such as blackheads and whiteheads, form when pores become clogged by a mix of sebum and/or skin cells. More severe forms of acne, such as inflammatory acne, form when bacteria multiply inside a clogged pore.
Painful, severely inflamed forms of acne, such as cystic acne, develop when acne lesions form deep below the surface layer of your skin.
Most acne treatments work by either washing away excess sebum on your skin or promoting a process called exfoliation — the removal of dead skin cells. This helps to prevent clogged pores from developing, reducing your risk of dealing with acne breakouts.
Others work by targeting the hormones that contribute to sebum production, including the ones that cause you to develop acne during your period.
Currently, there’s no scientific evidence to show that period blood helps to wash away sebum or promote exfoliation. There’s also no evidence that homemade treatments that use period blood have any impact on your hormone levels.
Put simply, there’s no high quality proof that period blood actually works. And because finding a group of volunteers for a study of its effects isn’t exactly simple, it’s not likely that we’ll ever have any good research to back up claims made about period blood and acne.
There are several reasons not to use period blood to treat acne. The first, as we covered above, is that there’s no evidence that it actually works.
The second, which is much more concerning, is that period blood is full of all sorts of things you probably don’t want on your face.
The blood you secrete when you menstruate is a mix of normal blood, natural vaginal secretions and the cells that make up the inner layer of your uterine wall, called the endometrium.
Contrary to popular belief, period blood isn’t dirty, at least not when it leaves your uterus. It’s not full of toxins or impurities, and menstruating isn’t part of any natural “cleansing” process that you go through to flush out harmful substances.
However, your menstrual blood does contain some forms of bacteria referred to as vaginal flora, of which lactobacillus is the most common. It can also contain large, visible pieces of tissue, or clots, from your endometrium.
When period blood soaks into a tampon or pad, it can mix with sweat and other substances that are found on your underwear and skin. In this environment, even small amounts of bacteria can quickly multiply.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that period blood is harmful to your skin, but it does mean that it’s not something you generally want to apply. After all, even a modest amount of bacteria may lead to an infection if it’s applied to skin that’s irritated or damaged.
Third, there’s the convenience and unpleasantness factor. Although period blood isn’t harmful, it can have a pretty strong smell, especially when it mixes with sweat, making it less than pleasant when it’s applied close to your nose.
There’s no scientific evidence that period blood is an effective treatment for acne, let alone the miracle cure that it’s often made out to be on social media.
The good news is that if you’re prone to acne breakouts, there are safe and effective treatment options available that are far more convenient than turning your period blood into a homemade serum.
If you have mild or moderate acne, you’ll likely be able to treat it using over-the-counter creams, cleansers and other products. These often contain ingredients that strip away dead skin cells or wash away the excess sebum that contributes to breakouts.
Look for over-the-counter acne products that contain the following ingredients:
Benzoyl peroxide. This ingredient prevents acne-causing bacteria from growing on your skin. It also helps to remove excess skin cells. You can find benzoyl peroxide in many over-the-counter cleansers and face washes.
Salicylic acid. This ingredient works by unclogging pores and reducing the swelling that can develop with certain types of acne. You can find salicylic acid in cleansers, serums, masks and other over-the-counter acne treatments.
Over-the-counter retinoids. These ingredients work by promoting the shedding of dead skin cells. You can find the ingredients retinol and adapalene in some over-the-counter acne treatments, such as cleansers and Differin® gel.
If you have moderate or severe acne breakouts, you may need to use prescription medication to get them under control. Several prescription medications are available for acne, including topical products and oral medications.
Your healthcare provider may recommend one of the following prescription acne treatments:
Tretinoin. This medication works by unclogging pores and peeling away dead skin cells that can cause acne breakouts. In addition to treating acne, it also helps reduce the visibility of fine lines, wrinkles and rough skin.Tretinoin is one of several active ingredients in our Prescription Acne Cream, which uses a customized formula to target stubborn acne from multiple angles.
Clindamycin. This medication works by slowing down or stopping the growth of bacteria that cause acne. It also prevents swelling. Your healthcare provider may suggest using clindamycin if you have infected, inflamed acne lesions.
Hormonal birth control. Some birth control pills help to prevent acne by regulating your production of certain hormones. Your healthcare provider may prescribe the pill if you get hormonal acne breakouts that occur before and/or during your period.
Isotretinoin. This oral medication is used to treat severe acne. It works by reducing your skin’s production of sebum and removing dead skin cells. Your healthcare provider may recommend using isotretinoin if other treatments for acne don’t work for you.Isotretinoin is effective, but it can cause side effects. You’ll need to use birth control while you’re on this medication, and you may need to check in with your healthcare provider to stay on top of any side effects and potential complications.
If you have severe acne, you may want to look into skin care procedures for removing acne and preventing it from returning.
These procedures are provided by dermatologists and include acne extraction, chemical peeling and light therapy. Pricing can vary depending on the type of treatment, the severity of your acne and the number of sessions required to improve your skin.
A variety of factors all play a role in acne, from your hormonal health to the ways you take care of your skin. Sometimes, making small, simple changes to your habits and lifestyle can help to get rid of acne and keep it from coming back later.
These include using non-comedogenic skin care products, avoiding needling touching of your face, washing your pillowcases and keeping your skin safe in the sun.
Our list of ways to prevent acne shares simple habits and lifestyle changes that you can use in combination with proven treatments to keep your skin acne-free.
Period blood isn’t anything to be ashamed about. However, there’s no scientific evidence that using a homemade period blood face mask helps to get rid of acne breakouts or prevent them from coming back.
The good news is that even severe acne is treatable. With the right combination of good habits and science-based treatments like our personalized acne medication, you can get control over your skin and make whiteheads, blackheads and other acne a distant memory.
Interested in learning more about dealing with acne? Our full guide to the best acne treatments goes into more detail about what works for breakouts, as well as how you can use proven acne treatments to keep your skin clear and pimple-free throughout the year.