Experts Weigh in on These Popular TikTok Trends
If you’re as addicted to TikTok as I am, it’s likely you’ve noticed the proliferation of weird (and sometimes wonderful) beauty advice on the platform.
On an app where getting noticed is half the battle, it’s no surprise that the more extreme and bizarre beauty advice videos are the ones that go viral. And while these strange little hacks are fun to watch, I’m often left feeling concerned about actually trying out the recommendation at hand.
And if I, someone who’s *pretty* clued up about skincare and makeup, am feeling this way, that prompts a greater concern. Younger and younger, more and more consumers are getting the majority of their beauty advice through these TikToks and it has occurred to me that this could be exposing them to real danger. As the old saying goes – “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”
So, which of the extreme TikTok beauty trends are safe to try, and which should be avoided at all costs? And how should we approach these extreme beauty fads more generally?
Well, luckily for you, I’ve interviewed medical doctors and skincare experts alike to get their take on the TikTok beauty phenomenon. What’s more, they’ve even offered their views on some of the most prevalent DIY beauty trends.
The TikTok Problem
The fact that the beauty industry has been so democratised on social media is both good and bad. Access to expert knowledge is no longer gatekept allowing everyone to learn, and thus become more knowledgeable about their beauty routines.
Dr Rosmy Barrios, MD believes TikTok “has encouraged people to take better care of their skin, adopt consistent routines, and explore new products.”
But with widened access to skincare advice, there come issues. The explosion of the beauty industry through platforms like TikTok means that everyone’s voice is amplified – whether they’re a beauty expert or not. And since we tend to treat every TikToker with equal authority, we can be led astray with some bad beauty advice.
Dr Rosmy continues: “Some trends may promote skincare practices that are not evidence-based or suited for everyone. Misinformation and overly simplified routines can lead to skin issues, such as irritation, and sensitivity, or even worsen pre-existing conditions.”
Dr Vinod Vij agrees that “the primary concern is the dissemination of incorrect or harmful advice, as not all popular trends are scientifically-backed or universally safe.” He also points out another issue with the social media-fication of the beauty industry, that “rapidly changing trends can also encourage overconsumption, pushing individuals to constantly buy new products, which can be harmful to the environment.”
The trend-led aspects of the TikTok beauty sphere are also of concern to Sarah Roberts, the founder of A Beauty Edit, she says that “while social media can be a great source of inspiration, it’s important to be cautious of trends that prioritise instant gratification over long-term skin health.”
With this advice in mind, and these experts on board, I considered some of the most prevalent TikTok beauty trends, to decipher which are safe to implement, and which should be avoided at all costs.
Slugging (so named because it leaves your skin coated in a layer of your chosen occlusive) refers to the process of applying a thick layer of petroleum jelly or a similar product to the face before bedtime.
It’s supposed to prevent moisture loss, but Dr Rosmy points out that “it may not be suitable for all skin types. People with oily or acne-prone skin should use caution as it can exacerbate breakouts.”
It also adds that if you are going to try slugging, “Make sure you’re using pure petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) or petroleum jelly with only minimal additional ingredients, like Aquaphor® and CeraVe®. They both include ceramides and hyaluronic acid.”
Applying ice to the face has been lauded as the *ultimate* DIY remedy for depuffing and tightening the skin. But as well as being rather uncomfortable, it may actually be harmful, too.
Dr Vinod advises, “While it is possible to experience temporary effects, such as reduced puffiness and redness, using ice directly on the skin can cause damage over time due to extreme temperature changes.” This trend should be particularly avoided if you have more sensitive skin, “Extreme cold can damage capillaries or worsen conditions like rosacea,” Dr Rosmy warns.
Ice facials are said to reduce “swelling, puffiness and tenderness,” “lessen the appearance of under-eye bags”, as well as brighten your complexion, according to Cleveland Clinic. However, there are some precautions, such as not “applying it directly to your face on its own, as it could cause irritation and redness.”
“Instead, wrap an ice cube in a thin cloth, which will protect the skin on your face and your hands, and begin to lightly massage your face,” Cleveland Clinic advises. If you have “thin or sensitive skin,” “broken capillaries,” or “you’re recovering from cosmetic surgery, lasers, peels or another procedure,” you should skip the ice!
This trend encourages followers to ‘cycle’ through many different skincare products depending on what their skin needs at that moment. Not only is this an expensive habit to get into, but it can be overwhelming to the skin.
The skin cycling routines found on TikTok usually entail a chemical exfoliator and moisturiser on night 1, retinoids and moisturising on night 2, and recovery time (think balms and moisturisers that are designed to repair the skin barrier) for skin on nights 3 and 4.
Dr Rosmy encourages a more simple skincare approach, she says that “while some variability in skincare can be beneficial, too much can disrupt your skin’s barrier and lead to irritation.”
Healthline says “There’s currently no peer-reviewed research on the benefits of skin cycling,” but it’s said to provide “skin hydration,” brighter and smoother skin, as well as “reducing irritation symptoms, like redness and peeling from retinol, particularly in people with sensitive skin.”
It’s essential that you keep in check with your skin and look for signs of any irritation, Healthline advises that you don’t try skin cycling if “you’re treating acne” and if “your goals are to improve fine lines and wrinkles.”
One of the more extreme TikTok beauty trends involves using a henna dye and a stick-and-poke needle to create permanent faux freckles.
Dr Vinod strongly advises against any sort of DIY facial tattoo, he says that “while they can be aesthetically pleasing, the procedure is not without its risks. The process involves puncturing the skin which can lead to infections if not properly cared for, and the ink used may cause allergic reactions or skin irritation,” he points out.
However, there are plenty of other ways to create faux freckles on your skin without actually puncturing it. There are tons of freckle pens and stamps, as well as the viral trend of freckle fans simply using false tan to create the effect – freckles don’t need to be frightening!
Many dermatologists have already made a stand against this seriously dangerous skincare trend. It involves using SPF only in the areas of your face that you wish to highlight, allowing the sun to darken the areas you want to contour.
However, what you’re really doing is allowing sun damage to contour your face – which your skin will not thank you for in years to come. “This can lead to premature ageing, skin damage, and increase the risk of skin cancer. It is essential to apply sunscreen evenly to all exposed areas of the skin, irrespective of the desired aesthetic effect,” Dr Vinod warns.
This trend also goes *completely* against NHS guidelines, “Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin, including the face, neck and ears – and head if you have thinning or no hair – but a wide-brimmed hat is better.
“Sunscreen needs to be reapplied liberally and frequently, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions,” it adds.
Microneedling is a treatment used to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other imperfections, by pricking the surface of the skin with tiny needles to stimulate collagen production. While it’s certainly proven to be effective, it’s a treatment that’s best left to the professionals.
Dr Rosmy explains that “sterility and technique are critical for safe microneedling, and the potential for infection, scarring, or skin damage makes this trend dangerous if not done correctly. It’s best to seek professional guidance for this kind of treatment.”
Mayo Clinic Health System backs this up, it says that “while you may be able to find derma rollers online or at the drugstore, they won’t deliver the same effects as a professional. Devices from these sources can have contact with the skin at several different angles, causing more damage to the skin.
“Clinicians can customize the procedure to your needs with adjustable needle lengths. Needle cartridges are disposed of after the procedure,” it adds.
Coffee Face Scrubs
The DIY queens within us can *certainly* see the appeal of breathing new life into leftover coffee grounds by using them as a facial exfoliant. The problem is, coffee isn’t designed to be used as a face scrub – and therefore can be way too harsh for your beautiful and delicate skin.
Dr Rosmy concurs that “coffee grounds are abrasive and may cause microtears in the skin, which can lead to irritation and an increased risk of infection.”
Not only this, according to Cleveland Clinic, while it claims that “coffee can minimize the appearance of pores,” it does this “by temporarily drying the skin,” which isn’t great for your skin and there are much better (and safer) ways to reduce enlarged pores without reaching for the coffee.
The Right Approach
While there’s no denying scrolling through TikTok on the hunt for beauty advice is fun, it should always be approached with a critical eye. It’s important to remember that TikTok allows *pretty much* anyone to say pretty much anything, so you can never really accept beauty advice at face value.
Dr Rosmy has some tips for discerning which TikTok trends are safe to try, she advises to “look for trends supported by scientific evidence and recommended by dermatologists or skincare experts.”
Dr Vinod agrees that when it comes to approaching any viral beauty trend, knowledge is power, “It’s important to know the science behind the product or technique and how it will affect your skin,” he says.
It’s also important to manage your expectations when it comes to at-home beauty treatments. Dr Rosmy advises to “be cautious of trends that promise miraculous overnight results or use harsh ingredients, as these can be harmful or too good to be true.”
Remember we all have our own individual skin types and skincare needs, so there is no one-size-fits-all miracle treatment, regardless of what TikTok would have you believe.
However, a good rule of thumb to follow in terms of TikTok beauty trends is that if anything sounds a bit dodgy, it’s probably best avoided. Sarah Roberts says, “If a trend involves physical abrasion, invasive treatments, or unverified products, exercising caution is wise.” If in doubt, you should probably leave it out.
“Prioritize safety and consistency by sticking to established evidence-based practices and products in your skincare routine,” Sarah adds.
And, of course, for the most viable skincare advice, it’s best to consult an expert. “Consulting with licensed skincare professionals or dermatologists is crucial in understanding individual skin needs and receiving personalized advice,” Sarah adds.
Trying out trends is one of the more enjoyable aspects of being a beauty enthusiast, but it should never take precedence over your health or safety.
“Remember that while quick fixes may provide immediate results, they can have adverse effects on your skin’s health in the long run. Ultimately, being an informed and discerning consumer serves as the best defence against harmful beauty trends,” Sarah concludes.
Meet the experts
Dr Rosmy Barrios, MD, is a medical advisor for Health Reporter, the head of the anti-ageing department, and a regenerative medicine specialist in several medical institutions with years of experience in aesthetic medicine and cosmetology.
Dr Vinod Vij is an alumnus of the prestigious King Edward Memorial Medical College, Mumbai. He’s had the privilege of working under great plastic surgeons in India and abroad. Presently he’s practising in Navi Mumbai as a Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon.
Sarah Roberts is a licensed skincare expert and the Founder of the online beauty publication, A Beauty Edit.