TikTok is the nexus of social media trends, especially those intersecting with the healthcare community.
The app is home to physician influencers, mental health influencers, foodies and dieticians in addition to its wide user base of teenagers and young people. More recently, it’s also been on the pulse of several notable beauty and cosmetic trends – raising questions about the impact on users.
Many beauty trends have to do with makeup, haircuts and clothing styles — TikTok largely spurred the 90s and early 2000s nostalgic clothes that are now popular again.
However, it’s also been triggering a significant increase in plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS).
In a report released last year, the AAFPRS noted that demand for facial plastic surgery and aesthetic procedures skyrocketed in 2021 as people returned to in-person events post-pandemic and cited social media – in particular TikTok — as being a main driver.
To that end, we’ve delved into some of those plastic surgery and beauty trends you may have seen making the rounds on TikTok — and whether they’re safe or a bit dubious.
1. Skin cycling
One TikTok trend that may actually be dermatologist-approved is called “skin cycling.”
We’ve all seen the highly complex skincare routines on Instagram and TikTok that involve lathering on a variety of products every day. However, skin cycling, as recommended by dermatologists, is meant to encourage the idea that sometimes less is more. People should apply only certain products on certain days, with rest days in between to avoid skin irritation.
In one video that’s racked up more than 57,000 likes, Mount Sinai dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe dives into the details on how to improve your skin cycling routine – such as placing the retinol on your clean, dry skin first, then layering on moisturizer and other skincare products afterward.
2. Octopus/butterfly hair/shag cut
Now, it’s the shag cut or variations of it, like the “octopus” or “butterfly” cut (all of which involve tons of layers). It’s a fun and timeless rocker look that can be a good summer style.
3. Buccal fat removal
Perhaps the most controversial plastic surgery trend to make headlines in 2022 and 2023 is the buccal fat removal trend.
Buccal fat is located in the lower part of the cheeks, which in youth often lends the chubby cheeks or a full face look. While typically fuller cheeks are a good thing — they tend to make people look younger — some people and celebrities have been getting buccal fat removal to highlight their cheekbones more.
However, despite its newfound popularity, buccal fat removal is a procedure that has received plenty of backlash as well, even among young people who are pro-plastic surgery. Some argue that removing natural full cheeks leads to a gaunt look, and prematurely ages the person, especially if they’re in their 20s.
“Like any plastic surgery procedure, buccal fat pad removal is not right for everyone,” one NYC-based plastic surgery clinic writes on its website. “This procedure is best used for patients who have excessive fat in their cheeks due to genetics — it is not usually recommended to remove fat from weight gain.”
4. Glazed donut nails
One harmless trend, however, that’s been making the rounds sounds as cute as it is: glazed donut nails.
It’s simply a style of painting your nails a light or darkish brown color, then applying enough shimmer and clear nail polish to give it that glazed donut shine like a Krispy Kreme.
5. Lip lifts
Those big, pillowy filler lips — the ones that are quite obvious that they’re filler? Those are out and more subtle, natural fillers are in.
Lip lifts are becoming more popular among young people to increase the plump in their upper lip slightly. Still, not all experts recommend the procedure.
Anthony Youn, perhaps the most popular plastic surgeon influencer on TikTok — with more than 8 million followers — recently posted a video warning users about potential scarring linked to lip lifts.
Youn, who calls himself a “holistic” plastic surgeon, can frequently be found telling his audience that they’re beautiful without doing any procedures, and mainly recommends minimal ones.
It’s no surprise, however, that it’s easy for teenagers on the app to come across plastic surgery,as Insider recently examined. This is despite TikTok’s rule to keep those ads off the app.
The #NoseJobCheck videos typically show a person’s nose pre-surgery, immediately after surgery (bandaged and swollen), then the new nose weeks later once it’s healed. These images serve as before and after views into rhinoplasties, and can be easily convincing to people who may question the shape of their own nose.
Of note, the AAFPRS states that 83% of surgeons in their recent survey saw an increase in plastic surgery appointments in 2021, with nose jobs and face lifts being the most common requests.
The desire to look good on social media is leading to what’s known as “TikTok face” — a highly refined, filtered and cosmetically adjusted face.
“With the pandemic’s breakout stars Zoom and TikTok firmly embedded in daily culture, the 2021 AAFPRS survey detailed an enormous increase in the trend for people seeking procedures to look better on screen,” AAFPRS noted.
Some people, however, are concerned about the mental health impact of some of these increasing plastic surgery trends.
“I think the hashtag could make someone want to get a nose job after watching them,” Ruby Mann, a person who underwent the procedure herself, told Insider. “I just hope that young, teenage girls don’t feel encouraged to get it done and instead grow up to feel happy and confident with who they are as women.”
7. Face lift makeup/concealer
On that note, if people want to make some aesthetic tweaks to their face without plastic surgery or Botox, the face lift makeup or face lift concealer trend is also making the rounds on TikTok.
In that trend, users apply concealer in specific ways that help “lift” their face based on light.
8). Armpit masks
Armpit masks, also known as armpit detox, involves putting a mask of several ingredients – typically including clay and apple cider vinegar, or lime juice – on armpits every few months or so to “detox” the area, as a sort of “natural” alternative to regular deodorant.
Experts are generally split on the trend — while it’s generally considered safe, some note that it may not work for everyone, and the ingredients may irritate the skin.“Generally, ingredients like clay and apple cider vinegar aren’t too offensive,” Dr. Amy Kassouf, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic, explained in a Clinic blog post. “The clay can bind unwanted molecules in the skin. Apple cider vinegar, which is basically acetic acid, can help keep the pH on the lower side, which can prevent unwanted bacteria from growing. But too much or too concentrated of either product can be irritating.”
To read a January 2024 article about the rise of TikTok’s canthal tilt trend, click here.