Oh, don't pretend like you don't have one!
“Alle, I want to dress up as Sissy Spacek's Carrie for Halloween this year, but I keep seeing in your articles that fake blood stains! I’d planned to get a bottle of it from the Halloween store and pour it all over myself. The dress I don’t care about, but my hair is blonde and I don’t want to ruin it. Help! Am I going to be stained red if I cover myself in fake pigs blood?” -- Myla
The short answer: Yes.
The longer answer: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.
I have a long and storied history with fake blood, starting when I was 14 and decided to make a horror movie. My friend Pam directed; I wrote it and starred as the murderer who stalked and killed her former friends.
This project coincided with a particularly rough time in my life. I’m sure it was totally accidental that I wrote a script about a girl getting bloody revenge on the people who were really mean to her AT THE SAME TIME that people were being really mean to me.
I spent a lot of time figuring out what kind of fake blood would look the most realistic on camera--I’ve always been a bit of an obsessive perfectionist--and finally discovered a brand that looked just right.
The script called for me to have blood in my hair--at the time, I had really long, blonde hair--and across my face, having just pretend-stabbed my friend Natalie to death. This was duly applied--maybe more liberally than was necessary--and after shooting was finished and I took a shower... well, there was some real-life screaming.
My lovely blonde hair was stained pinkish-orangeish-red. My face was covered in orange blotches from where the blood had been. I had to go to the hairdresser and have it bleached and cut out, but the only thing that got it off my skin was time.
I’ve been careful about fake blood ever since.
And then, a few years ago, I dressed up as Uma Thurman’s character from Pulp Fiction, because my hair was already a black bob with bangs. It was an easy outfit, and to make it better, I bought a little tube of fake blood from a party store and put a drop of it juuuuuust coming out of my nose.
It looked realistic. The blood itself flaked off pretty easily.
Do you know how long I had a red stain under my nose? FOUR DAYS.
And that’s not four days of “Oh well, I’m sure it’ll go away by itself.” I mean four days of scouring with everything I could find, washing my face four times a day, exfoliating with dish-scrubbers-type nonsense. The only thing that eventually lightened it was my boyfriend’s shaving cream. I don’t know why, and it was literally the last thing I tried, but there you have it. It kind of stings on facial abrasions, though.
Of course, this might just be me. So to be sure I wasn't just a very stain-y person, I conducted a very scientific survey of my friends, asking them if fake blood had ever stained their hair and/or skin. Almost everyone said yes.
I don’t like absolutes, but the moral of this story is that fake blood from a Halloween store WILL PROBABLY stain your entire life. Ruining a dress is one thing, but being covered in orange stains and being forced to make an emergency hair appointment is quite another.
So, because Sissy Spacek as Carrie is an awesome costume, what else could you do?
If you’re really bent on fake blood, you could wear a wig and douse that. This isn’t really a perfect solution; I would worry about it soaking through onto your head and getting on your hair, and it would still mess up your skin.
Another option would be to dump acrylic paint over your wig and dress ahead of time and let it dry. I am a huge fan of acrylic paint because it washes off with warm water, most kinds are non-toxic, PLUS you can customise the colour and it’s pretty cheap at art supply stores. If you’re going to put it on your skin, you should be fine--I’ve never had a reaction to it, and I’ve put it on my face--but do a little patch test before the night, and avoid getting it in your eyes.
I have also heard--but not tested--that Ben Nye’s stage blood washes out of hair and off skin without staining. I am hesitant to recommend anything I haven’t personally tried, but this seems to be the consensus around the internet, and I think it’s fair to tell you that. Plus, it’s mint-flavoured.
And after all this, if you’re really hell-bent on getting bloody and disgusting but don’t want to get stained, you could go the Water For Elephants route. I can’t remember for the life of me where I read this originally (I can only find the article quoted in forum threads) but elephants have skin that stains really easily, so the makeup team in Water For Elephants mixed up something called flocking (in red, obvs) with a water-based lubricant (KY Jelly). Apparently this makes fake blood that doesn’t stain, and if it’s good enough for an elephant, it’s good enough for me.
I hope this is helpful! As always, if you have any questions, hit me up in the comments or on twitter!