Skin Care

TikTok Beauty Hacks to Avoid

You may have seen users on TikTok or Instagram sharing a variety of “beauty hacks” like faux freckles or sunscreen contouring. Dermatologist Gian Vinelli, MD, walks us through the dangers of some of these popular trends.

Aug. 5, 2021 4   min read


TikTok, the mobile video-sharing app, took the world by storm last year. It helped the world remain connected at a time of closure and social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharing funny videos, good news, and life “hacks” became a way of curating connection through human experience.

While many tips and tricks on TikTok can be useful, there are some trends that experts warn against trying. One of those trends? A range of beauty hacks that are not-so-healthy for you.

Board-Certified Dermatologist Gian Vinelli, MD, breaks down six TikTok beauty hacks that you should never try and lets us know why each one is a bad idea.

Hack #1: Faux henna freckles

What it is: Users on TikTok are using henna dye—and sometimes needles and ink—to create the illusion of freckles on their faces.

Dr. Vinelli says: This is a terrible idea! While henna is often used to tattoo the skin temporarily, it is never a good idea to put it on your face.

Henna that is sold in the United States is often meant to be used as hair dye and should be not applied anywhere in the skin. It can cause significant irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin.

If you do end up purchasing henna dye for use on skin other than the face, be sure to give it a smell before using it. If it has any sort of chemical or gasoline-like smell, ditch it. If it smells floral and natural, it may be safe to use on your arms or legs.

Although some henna dyes are okay to use in moderation, it’s best to leave it to experienced folks rather than purchasing the dye yourself.

Hack #2: Sunscreen contouring

What it is: A trend on TikTok that suggests a good way to achieve a natural face contour is by only applying sunscreen to certain areas of the face.

Dr. Vinelli says: Please, do not do this. Many patients suffer from skin cancer and melanoma, something that sunscreen helps prevent. You must apply sunscreen to your entire face before going outside.

Not only does this trend put you at risk for skin cancer, but it also leads to premature aging. Leaving face skin unprotected will cause wrinkles and sunspots. The small chance that this hack will work for a short time is not worth putting yourself at risk.

Hack #3: At-home dermaplaning 

What it is: People are practicing dermaplaning, or face-shaving, at home to attempt to exfoliate your skin, get rid of dirt, and reduce vellus hair—or peach fuzz.

Dr. Vinelli says: Dermaplaning is a procedure practiced in dermatology offices by trained professionals with a lot of experience. Trying this at home poses a variety of risks, including cuts, rashes, scarring, irritation, and redness.

While this is often performed by professionals, it is not recommended for every patient. It can cause further damage for people with sensitive skin or certain skin conditions. Be sure to talk to a dermatologist or esthetician and never do it on your own.

Hack #4: Lemon juice skin brightening 

What it is: The idea of using lemon juice, or any citrus fruit juice, on your skin or hair to lighten the area.

Dr. Vinelli says: This is a very dangerous idea. These fruit juices contain citric acid and have PH levels similar to your stomach—meaning the juice is nearly as acidic as stomach acid.

Putting citrus juices on your skin can cause a lot of damage, especially when out in the sun. The juice reacts with your skin and can cause red, itchy blisters—similar to poison ivy.

Hack #5: Removing moles at home

What it is: This TikTok trend is where users are removing moles, or beauty marks, at home using a variety of techniques.

Dr. Vinelli says: Please do not do this—it is a terrible, terrible idea. It is very important that you bring any unwanted or irregular moles to the attention of a dermatologist.

Removing moles at home can not only lead to skin damage and infection, but it can take away an indicator of skin cancer or melanoma. When you have a new or changing mole, it can be cancerous. Removing that mole does not take away cancer—it may be growing below the surface of your skin too.

A dermatologist with years of training and experience can help determine whether a mole is at risk for cancer. However, if you remove that mole, they can no longer tell. I urge you to get any unwanted moles or beauty marks checked and potentially removed by a dermatologist.

Hack #5: Eyelash glue lip plumping 

What it is: Users on TikTok, whether as a joke or for looks, are using fake eyelash glue to hold their upper lip up, making it look larger and plumper.

Dr. Vinelli says: There are many reasons why this type of glue is unsafe to put around your mouth. Many people end up with major skin rashes even when they use the glue properly. 

The glue contains three concerning ingredients: 

  1. formaldehyde: used to preserve dead bodies 
  2. parabens: a common allergen 
  3. cyanoacrylate: an adhesive found in super glue. 

None of the listed ingredients are safe to put anywhere near your mouth. They're unsafe for many people to use on any part of their skin.

When in doubt, talk to your dermatologist

There are a lot of products and trends that can be harmful to your skin. If you come across a new idea, call your dermatologist before trying anything. They can help determine if the idea is safe for you to try, if you should make an appointment, or if you should avoid the trend altogether.

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