It’s no secret that TikTok is full of useful beauty and wellness hacks, like using dollar bills or £10 notes to create the perfect winged eyeliner or wrapping your hair around a radiator to cheat your way to salon curls. But not everything you see on TikTok is user-friendly. In fact, last year, an Australian reality TV star was left scarred and temporarily blind in one eye after an at-home acupuncture attempt she followed on TikTok went wrong. And it’s happening more and more.
“The hyper-virility built into TikTok’s platform has given rise to warp-speed trend cycles of skincare, beauty, and wellness fads—with different trends more dubious than others,” says Carrera Kurnik, director of culture at New York-based trend forecasting agency Fashion Snoops. “Beauty and skincare content on TikTok often combines viral challenge formats with a DIY attitude, resulting in the casual adoption and trial of novel and sometimes dangerous wellness practices.”
While there is an allure to the platform’s trends, it is this casual use of them, without knowing the science behind them, that has ended with people in hot water—or worse.
So, how do you know which viral beauty hacks to try and which to avoid? Vogue speaks to the experts to separate fad from fact. And remember, don’t try everything you see on the internet.
Slugging is one of TikTok’s biggest beauty hacks: you cover your face with a thick moisturiser or Vaseline and leave it overnight as a way of hydrating the skin. “The trend originated in South Korea, where dewy and plump skin is trendy,” explains Mallory Huron, beauty and wellness strategist at Fashion Snoops. Eventually, it made its way to TikTok, where it has exploded in popularity.
According to dermatologist Dr Muneeb Shah, slugging can be an excellent way to lock in moisture and repair a damaged skin barrier. “Cleanse, apply your favourite moisturiser, and then follow with your chosen ointment,” he says. “I don’t recommend slugging on top of harsh activities such as retinol or exfoliating acid because it can enhance their effects. Only apply occlusive moisturisers over gentle ingredients.”
However, Dr Shah cautions against overuse. “Slugging is mainly useful as an occasional overnight treatment to address seasonal or situational dryness and flaking. Used regularly, it’s a one-way ticket to breakout city.”
In fact, those with acne-prone skin, in particular, should avoid slugging at all costs, because Vaseline forms a barrier that can lead to breakouts.
2. Sunscreen contouring
Sunscreen contouring is when you use sunscreen on certain areas of your face as a way of keeping skin lighter, while everywhere else is left unprotected to tan, to achieve a contoured tanning effect and definition. This TikTok trend Huron describes as “a massive skincare ‘no’.” “It’s an incredibly dangerous, ageing, damaging method,” she says. “Not only does exposing unprotected skin to the sun lead to premature ageing and burns, it can also lead to skin cancer. No, thank you!”
But Dr Shah has a more nuanced take. “I’ve seen some people use a base of SPF30 with a contouring layer of SPF50 and while I don’t recommend this, it’s not the worst thing I’ve seen on TikTok,” he says. “I recommend at least protecting your skin with SPF30+ and reapplying every two hours.”
3. Sandpaper shaving
Shaving your legs with sandpaper has, astonishingly, become a trend thanks to TikTok. However, as Dr Shah warns, do not try this at home. “Using sandpaper can certainly remove hair, but it’s terrible because it removes skin as well. This can lead to hyperpigmentation and scarring—especially since the legs are slow to heal after injury.”
Huron agrees: “Not only is sandpaper an ineffectual hair removal method (both shaving and waxing are safe for skin and gently exfoliate at the same time), this is one of those TikTok trends where even trying it out could be damaging.”
4. Drinking chlorophyll
Drinking chlorophyll has become a go-to wellness trend on TikTok with dozens of videos on its ‘benefits’. In addition to improved skin and reduced acne, TikTokers claim that chlorophyll boosts energy, reduces bad breath and can even improve body odour. Chlorophyll is a pigment found in plants, which plays an essential role in photosynthesis. “The theory is that everything that’s packed in chlorophyll to sustain plants, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, is also good for human health and wellness,” says Huron.
Dr Shah isn’t convinced: “It does have tremendous anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, but it is definitely being overhyped on social media right now.”
According to Dr Shah, there have been a few studies showing that chlorophyllin (a derivative of chlorophyll) can be helpful for treating acne when applied topically. “However, liquid chlorophyll has not been shown to have that benefit,” Dr Shah says. “It’s relatively safe, but there is a small risk of a phototoxic rash called ‘pseudoporphyria’ developing after consuming liquid chlorophyll.” Instead, Dr Shah recommends a simpler and more enjoyable hack: eating more green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli, all naturally high in chlorophyll and without any nasty side effects.
Microneedling is a beauty treatment using a dermaroller to prick the skin with tiny needles as a way of generating collagen production for its smoothing, firming and toning effects.
It can be highly effective when carried out by a medical professional, but some TikTokers are taking it into their own hands—with detrimental results. “With microneedling, you are poking little holes into the skin that allow bacteria and allergens to enter,” says Dr Shah. “If the skin or device is not clean, this can lead to infection.” In other words, do not try this at home.