TikTok’s Toxic Beauty Trends

September 5th, 2022

September 5th, 2022

While the Internet can undeniably be a goldmine of inspiration for budget-conscious folks, it can also be littered with some seriously problematic content.  TikTok is home to endless beauty hacks, but they can be a real mixed bag.  Some of them are great – such as Skin Cycling and the “Zick Zack Mascara” Method — while others are just plain ridiculous (and sometimes downright dangerous).

In fact, many of the ‘benign’ TikTok videos on DIY skincare have been denounced by medical and beauty professionals for spreading misinformation and harmful advice to millions of people on the platform.

Our friends at HD Brows created a handy infographic to show which are 2022’s most toxic trends.  We’ve taken a look at some of them so you don’t have to go digging to find them.  You’re welcome!


Face Slugging with Vaseline

TikTok @drdrayzday

While it’s not as vile as it sounds (no de-shelled snails needed), slugging isn’t something you want to be doing regularly. The TikTok trend involves covering your face with Vaseline overnight, in the hope of leaving you with a hydrated glow when you awake.  The trend has seen over 9 trillion (yes, trillion) TikTok views, 307 million hashtag views and 42k global searches.

It doesn’t sound particularly sexy and you’d be right. But this hasn’t stopped Beauty influencers on TikTok and Reddit from jumping on the trend as a solution to moisture-starved skin in winter.  Due to the texture and molecular structure, petroleum jelly can only sit on the surface layer of your face where, theoretically, it can prevent moisture from leaking out of the skin barrier.  However, the benefits are short-lived and could do more harm than good, especially if your skin is prone to acne and rosacea.

Lead Stylist at HD Brows, Jamie Long, says: “Face slugging can lead to excessive oily skin and acne on the face, as the oil gathers up in the pores, triggering breakouts. This can often worsen acne for those already suffering with it.”

Petroleum jelly isn’t actually a moisturiser, it just adds an occlusive layer to the rest of your skincare routine, which poses another set of problems, according to celebrity aesthetician Dr Barbara Sturm: “Very rich products will sit on the skin’s surface and make it sweat underneath, clogging the pores and causing breakouts and irritation,” she warns.


DIY Skin Tag Removal

TikTok @elianajalali

Ranking in second place is Skin Tag Removal. The videos that cover everything from plucking a skin tag off with tweezers to tying dental floss around them, have gained 448 million TikTok views, 85,225 hashtags on Instagram and 214k searches worldwide.

Jamie Long warns: “Removing a skin tag at home without the help of a professional can lead to excessive bleeding and even infection, skin tags should always be cauterised or frozen off by a professional.”


Microneedling Makeup

TikTok @alienka_artistry

Following closely behind as one of the most damaging TikTok beauty trends of 2022, is Microneedling Makeup (bb glow). The TikTok hack requires you to use a nano needle to penetrate the skin and apply a tinted pigment.

K.B Pro Founder and World Class Permanent Makeup Artist, Karen Betts, explains: “DIY microneedling can lead to complications and damage to the skin, especially if the needles aren’t made professionally and are easily bent. This can lead to bruising, bleeding, infections and scarring, especially if the needles aren’t properly cleaned.”


Coffee Scrub

TikTok @southern_living

While natural ingredients can often make luxurious at-home facials, not everything in our kitchens is suitable to be applied to our skin.

Case in point—TikTok’s coffee exfoliator trend, which has racked up 85 million views. The caffeine-infused hack has been widely circulated on the platform in recent months, with some advocates recommending people mix the grounds with lemon and honey to create a low-cost facial scrub. Unfortunately, this post-cleanser trick could do more harm than good, especially if you suffer from sensitive skin. Ground coffee’s texture can be extremely harsh and could severely irritate your skin if applied with force. Stick to enjoying it for your morning cuppa, we say.

And Jamie Long agrees: ”Any abrasive DIY scrubs on sensitive areas of the skin should always be avoided. Acidic or heavily textured ingredients can aggravate the skin, so stick to exfoliating skincare acids.”


Henna Freckles

Beauty experts have issued warnings about this trend which involves using needles at home to inject dots of henna or black ink around the cheek and nose areas.

Karen Betts explains: ”You should never try to tattoo freckles at home. Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, you should be extra careful with henna because you can’t just rinse it off if it irritates you or you have a bad reaction. More than this, people who do tattoos could be putting themselves at risk for HIV or hepatitis.”

Recently, Australian Big Brother star Tilly Whitfeld took to social media to warn of the dangers of undertaking the TikTok hack in an attempt to create semi-permanent freckles on her face with henna and a needle.

After buying ink on eBay, she later found out that it was counterfeit ink filled with lead. The “hack” left her with permanent scarring and caused the reality star to temporarily lose the sight in one eye.


Lube Primer

The stuff of sexy time — aka lube — has no place on your face.  TikTok creators thought otherwise and decided to use the liquid strictly designed for sexual intercourse as a makeup primer.   One user on the app, Sean Anthony, documented his experience of mixing some foundation with a lubricant by Durex, noting that “[lube] makes it glide extra smooth… makes your base flawless and fresh.

Dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, says the side effects aren’t sexy at all. “Unless the lube you are using is Vaseline, don’t mix your sex and makeup accessories.  Popular lube ingredients such as nonoxynol-9, propylene glycol, and fragrance will, sure enough, slide your face right into acne, redness, or full-blown irritation.”

Therefore, it’s best to keep that bottle of lube in your bedside drawer rather than in your makeup bag.


Sunscreen Contouring

Say what now? This new take on how to contour has taken TikTok by storm, with countless DIY beauty channels racking up millions of views for their tutorials on how to look naturally chiseled sans makeup.

This trend involves the application of sunscreen to designated points of the face, such as the cheeks or forehead, to allow other areas—mainly the cheekbones—to deepen in color more quickly.

TikTok user @teachermclane posted a video showing her sunburnt face after trying after attempting the trend, commenting: “Have you ever watched a Tiktok and thought it was a really good idea? So you decided to contour your face with sunscreen to have a natural highlight and you think it’s going to look fantastic? Well, it’s not.” before the user showed her sore-looking sunburn.  “Not a good idea”.

While this technique might work, it’s strongly discouraged by medical professionals. Ditching the SPF leaves your complexion at high risk of damage from UV rays, which, with time, can cause wrinkles, sagging, and even skin cancer. Don’t worry though—there’s plenty of ways to achieve that sculpted look without compromising your health.


Face Icing

Face icing – where ice or very cold water is applied to the skin – is making a comeback on social media platforms. The trend has a variety of skincare benefits including soothing redness, exfoliating the skin, and controlling blemishes. Although these qualities may seem alluring, the practice isn’t without its risks as prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can cause the skin to age prematurely.

Skin icing can also cause irritation and redness in people whose skin is susceptible and leaving ice on the skin for too long could cause burns and even frostbite. Anyone with thin, sensitive skin and broken capillaries should steer clear of the treatment.

Konstantin Vasyukevich, a facial plastic surgeon from The Cleveland Clinic, says: “Any extreme temperatures applied to the skin for a long time may not be beneficial. We know from life experience that for people whose skin is exposed to extreme temperatures, or for people who work outdoors, oftentimes the skin loses elasticity and collagen, so it begins to age as opposed to looking younger and healthier.”


Toothpaste Spot Treatment

The toothpaste spot treatment has long been a remedy of beauty pseudoscience, with celebrities swearing by the sticky trick as far back as the early noughties.

It’s made a comeback on TikTok over the past year and—surprise, surprise—is just as ineffective today as it was twenty years ago. Rather than heal your pimple, that glob of toothpaste is likely to aggravate it—leaving you with a nasty rash or even a chemical burn. Ouch!


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By Sarah Dann

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