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Image of a snail toy representing snail facial

TikTok’s DIY treatment myths: busted

Written by
Chloë James

Without a doubt, 2021 was the year of TikTok. For the first time ever, more people used the video-sharing app than Google and YouTube – and its popularity continues to grow – powered in no small part by its endless supply of weird and wonderful beauty content.

Thanks to TikTok superstars such as Hyram Yarbro, Ascia, and Young Yuh, the rules for makeup, hair, and skincare are being creatively rewritten on a daily basis. And if the 13.5b views on TikTok’s #beautyhacks are anything to go by, we’re all eager for ways to make our daily routine easier than ever. However, some of the app’s favourite tips and tricks are dubious, to say the least. We set out to discover which ones are worth your time – and which treatments are better left unhacked.

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Rice water and rosemary oil for hair growth

Vector image of rice water representing hair growth treatment

What are they supposed to do?

TikTok’s favourite hair hack isn’t even technically from TikTok. More than a thousand years ago, women in China started rinsing their hair with the water used to soak rice. Now the app is following suit.

It’s a simple enough hack. After soaking and fermenting rice in water for around 24 hours, the hair is drenched with the resulting mixture after shampooing. It’s then massaged into the scalp, left to soak for 30 minutes, and rinsed out before conditioning as usual. For an added boost, some users add a few drops of rosemary oil.

Do they work?

Forget the image of you stepping out of the bathroom looking like Rapunzel post-rice rinse. Rice water isn’t magic – but it does have very real benefits for both your hair and scalp.

Packed with starch, rice water coats hair to strengthen and thicken each strand. Studies have found that this starch calms scalp irritation and, as it’s rich in antioxidants, nourishes the hair follicles. So, while it doesn’t directly cause growth, it improves the quality of your hair and creates a healthier starting point.

But you can have too much of a good thing. Used too often – or left for too long – rice water can cause what’s best described as a protein overload. Signs include dry, brittle, or stiff hair. If this happens, give it a reset with a clarifying shampoo and treat hair to nourishing oils.

Which brings us to rosemary oil. Countless studies have investigated this oil’s abilities, and the signs are positive: it shows signs of blocking the hormone causing hair loss, killing scalp fungi and bacteria, and improving circulation. It’s even outperformed minoxidil – a medication prescribed to treat hair loss – in several trials. So, oil up – just be sure to dilute it in another oil to avoid irritating your skin.

The verdict: Yes

Liquid chlorophyll

Image of two leaves and a sun glass representing liquid chlorofill

What is it supposed to do?

Reducing sweating, encouraging weight loss, curing acne, and increasing energy levels – chlorophyll is basically TikTok’s panacea. The same pigment that makes plants green is consumed in liquid form, with users drinking up to 15 drops in their morning glass of water. And drink they do: Amazon has repeatedly sold out of chlorophyll since TikTok made it a trend.

Does it work?

It’s debatable. Most of the studies looking at the benefits of chlorophyll as an antibacterial and an anti-inflammatory used it in its topical form. Results were positive, but only mildly so. It’s also a big jump to assume drinking it would achieve the same result; technically, liquid chlorophyll isn’t even chlorophyll, but a synthetic form called chlorophyllin.

Realistically, most of the dramatic acne before-and-afters on TikTok are the result of drinking more water and improving the skin’s hydration levels. As for reducing sweating and improving weight loss, most proof is anecdotal. There’s no harm in drinking chlorophyll, but you’re probably better off just eating more leafy greens to get more fibre, potassium, and iron. And if you’re really keen for a fix for your sweating, you might want to look into miraDry or Botox instead.

The verdict: Maybe

Slugging

Image of a cream representing slugging

What is it supposed to do?

Don’t let the name put you off. The closest thing to a slug in slugging is you – coated from the neck up in petroleum jelly. The idea is that applying a light layer after your skincare routine seals in the products, boosting hydration and softening skin. It’s nothing new in the world of Korean skincare, but the technique has routinely made the rounds since TikTok’s inception.

Does it work?

It really sounds like it shouldn’t, yet the experts agree: slugging can be hugely beneficial, if you have the right skin type. Petroleum jelly acts as an occlusive, preventing the water loss that defines dry skin. It also forms a natural barrier against bacteria, giving a damaged skin barrier the opportunity to heal.

What feels unnatural about slugging is that it seems like it should block your pores. Thankfully, it’s non-comedogenic, so specifically formulated not to do that. However, those with oily skin types may find it irritating as it can trap excess sebum. If you’re still after softer skin, you might want to add more humectants into your skincare routine, or try treatments such as HydraFacials or mesotherapy.

The verdict: Yes (if you have dry skin)

Tantour

Image of a cream coming out from a tube representing Mythbusting TikTok DIY cosmetic treatments

What is it supposed to do?

You know about tanning, and you know about contouring, but what about tantouring? For some TikTokers, this means contouring with self-tanner. For others, it’s much more extreme. By applying a base layer of SPF 30 and then only adding SPF 90 to the high points of the face – AKA the cheekbones, bridge of the nose, and forehead – you let the sun do its thing and only tan the areas where you’d usually contour. You’re left with a semi-permanent contour and no longer have to dive in with your bronzer every day.

Does it work?

Before we even touch on the health risks, tantouring is logistically flawed. Your face doesn’t get the same amount of sunlight everywhere, so you can’t control it precisely with SPF. And even if you do get temporary tan lines, these will fade – and potentially leave behind something far more concerning than uncontoured skin.

While it isn’t painful like sunburn, tanning only happens when the skin rallies its pigment supplies to protect itself from the sun. This makes it just another form of sun damage. Willingly increasing your chances of hyperpigmentation, premature signs of aging, or even skin cancer really isn’t worth the risk. Just invest in a contouring palette and call it a day.

The verdict: Maybe (but you shouldn’t do it anyway)

Snail facial

Image of a snail toy representing snail facial

What is it supposed to do?

Remember when we said there were no slugs involved in slugging? Well, there are actual snails involved in snail facials. These slimy creatures have been used for centuries for their supposed healing abilities, and now people are letting them slither over their faces to rejuvenate their skin. Yes, slither.

Does it work?

There’s method behind the madness. Snail slime, also known as mucin, contains hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and enzymes renowned for promoting collagen production. It can make a big difference to the luminosity and texture of your complexion – but doesn’t need to come directly from the snail.

Instead, keep an eye out of skincare products containing snail mucin. The effects are just as potent (and you won’t need to go foraging for gastropods, so it’s a win-win). Alternatively, you can get similar results from Profhilo or mesotherapy, as both help the skin retain more moisture.

The verdict:Yes

DIY face masks

Image of a loofah representing Mythbusting TikTok DIY cosmetic treatments

What are they supposed to do?

Using nothing but the ingredients in your kitchen cupboard, various DIY face masks on TikTok promise different results. Some claim to even out skin tone, others to dry up your oiliness or moisturise your dryness, and a select few go so far as to say they’ll shrink pores and banish acne for good. Expectations are high, costs are low. What can go wrong?

Do they work?

If you’re lucky, they do nothing. But even the best typically doesn’t do a whole lot of good. Ingredients such as avocado, honey, turmeric, kiwi, papaya, and olive oil all have some benefit for your skin, but there are limitations. Common ingredients that can pose a risk when used incorrectly include lemons, walnuts, baking soda, mayonnaise, and cinnamon.

To avoid accidentally irritating – or even damaging – your skin, leave the ambitious facials to the experts, whether that’s a practitioner or your favourite skincare brand. Hyperpigmentation and acne can be treated with laser facials or chemical peels, while general dullness can be illuminated with hydrating at-home facial products rich in ingredients such as glycerine or hyaluronic acid.

The verdict: No

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