In an effort to feel more connected to her body and destigmatise menstruation, 22-year-old Gabrielle Schlegel uses her period blood to paint and as face masks.
Let's face it, menstruation has been stigmatized to a point where even saying the word "period" is supposed to be embarrassing. Whether it's women hiding their pads or tampons when stepping into the public washroom for a quick change or more serious issues such as period poverty, wherein women without access to period products miss out on up to five days of school or work a month, the taboo of menstruation has left women disconnected from their own bodies — and each other. 22-year-old Gabrielle Schlegel has decided, no more. In an effort to feel more in tune with her body, she uses her period blood as a face mask.
While the benefits of period blood on one's skin haven't exactly been studied scientifically, Schlegel suggests that it leaves her skin glowing. Though she once used to feel "utter disgust" at even the mention of periods, the practice of using her period blood as a face mask has helped her overcome the stigma of menstruation and rid herself of the hatred she used to hold for her own body.
According to her, she used to feel embarrassed about her "time of the month" when she first started her periods. She would also feel incredibly grossed out if a drop of period blood would land on her hand while changing her tampon. As she got older, she became even more critical of her periods as they became more painful. However, she has done a complete 180 since then.
Her perception originally began to change in October 2014 when Schlegel first discovered yoga and spirituality. Her acceptance peaked in 2018 when she came across a woman who would use her period blood to paint on Instagram. This is also when she decided to use her own period blood as a face mask. At present, the 22-year-old collects her period blood in a menstrual cup and uses it to both paint and as a face mask.
She stated in an interview, "Seeing myself in the mirror, with my blood smeared all over my face, really allowed me to realise that there is absolutely nothing disgusting or wrong about menstrual blood. In fact, it is completely harmless, manifesting without a wound to the body of any kind. If anything, it is the most sacred fluid the human body is capable of secreting. The literal shedding of the uterine lining that was preparing to grow a human body, should a fertilised egg have been implanted. It has been a whole other level of embracing my period. Not only does it leave my skin absolutely glowing, in my experience, it actively works in treating breakouts, as there are stem cells and many nutrients that are meant to help grow a baby if pregnant and the uterine lining were not to shed."
Schlegel added that using her period blood in this manner helps her connect to her ancestral roots. She explained, "Sometimes I will have something in mind to paint, most times I will just allow whatever comes to flow from my paintbrush onto the canvas. I love to think of it as painting with all of the women and mothers within my ancestral lineage that bled before me, connected so deeply by the blood they too once bled for me to be. Painting with my menstrual blood wraps me within a bubble of bliss that I cannot even attempt to describe. It is quite fun to create beautiful paintings with something that is heavily believed to be so un-beautiful." There is still more to be done on both societal and personal levels in order to achieve total period positivity and eradicate the stigma of menstruation, but it is amazing to see that we have come this far.