Can we trust TikTok with our beauty routine? CR talks to beauty experts to break down TikTok’s viral beauty hacks and see if they really work
Our mantra this past year: “Because I saw it on TikTok.” We have to admit, we’d be lying if we said we’ve never tried something that popped up on our TikTok FYP (hello, baked feta pasta and sock curls).
For more than a year now, TikTok has been our go-to for entertainment, from new recipes, to fashion and beauty tips. Throughout the pandemic, so many beauty tips have gone viral with some people not ready to go to the hair salon and telehealth continuing to be widely offered. TikTok can be a resource for many, but the platform is also rampant with fake videos from users just trying to go viral. After all, most of the users aren’t beauty experts. And with so many trends and products to filter through, it can be hard to narrow down which ones are the best. So let’s dive in: from slugging to heatless curls, we’ll break down some of TikTok’s most viral beauty hacks, and experts will tell us if they actually work.
The consensus: Yes, but use a brow pen or tinted brow gel if your brows are sparse.
Soap brows gained a ton of popularity in 2020. With most of our faces covered besides the eyes and eyebrows, it gave them a moment to shine. Instead of using a brow gel, TikTok users began rubbing their spoolie on a bar of soap to keep their brows in place. Are they here to stay? Celebrity brow artist Kristie Streicher weighed in.
“We are seeing less of the lacquered, stiff, ultra shiny brow or the super manicured and drawn-in brow,” Streicher said. I prefer the natural three-dimensional look of hair. If your brows are sparse consider using a super precise but sheer brow pen to create hair strokes in sparse areas. Tinted brow gels with micro fibers to add fullness to the brow can look really great as well.”
If you love the look of soap brows but don’t love the soap on your face, try Anastasia Brow Freeze.
The consensus: Absolutely!
Heatless curls aren’t anything new. People in search of curls and waves have been doing it for years.
“It’s been around forever. I’ve been doing it forever. And I absolutely love it,” celebrity hairstylist Tracey Cunningham said.
TikTok revolutionized what was already popular by tying hair around… well, almost anything. Socks, towels, pantyhose, strips of fabric, old T-shirts — you can use any of them to do this. Your hair should be completely dry, Cunningham notes.
Cunningham usually just ties the hair up around itself in “Princess Leia buns,” as she calls them. Then she ties them up on top of her head and blows dry just a little to help set the hair.
“When I saw the TikTok trend, I was like, of course, it’s so smart because people don’t want to put too much heat on their hair these days, and they want simple solutions of just waking up and looking great,” Cunningham said.
Hair stylists, beauty editors, and influencers have all been tying their hair, and the consensus is that it gives you waves. And it’s definitely safer than worrying about burning your hair on a curling iron.
“I always use Olaplex No. 6 and 7 in my hair and those are great heat protectors. When I do the heatless curls, what I do is I blow dry my hair, I use the No. 6, and I twist it, and then to really seal the deal, just heat the little ponytails.”
This trick has been around for decades, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Maybe even tying things in our hair will start to come back as a fashion statement soon?
Flat Iron Curls
The consensus: Yes, but use heat protector!
TikTok users have been showing off their tricks for getting waves using their flat irons, too. By wrapping your hair around/through the flat iron, you can get a nice, bouncy curl. (On another note, with everyone trying different ways to get curls, we’re expecting to see lots of curled hair this season.) But why is TikTok turning to heatless curls and flat iron curls? What’s wrong with using a curling iron?
“It’s just a different look,” Cunningham said.
She loves it, but cautions that people should be careful when using a lot of heat on their hair, especially if they have highlights or any damaging things on their hair. So her biggest tip for flat iron curls is heat protector.
“A lot of these TikTokers, they need to make sure that they’re using heat protector,” Cunningham said. “[If] you see [hair] steaming, I can only imagine what could happen to somebody at home. Those videos go viral, like with the girl curling her bangs and they burn and fall off.”
Again, Cunningham recommends Olaplex to avoid heat damage.
“Always do your pre-treatment,” Cunningham said. “If you know you’re going to use a lot of heat in your hair, do an Olaplex treatment on it, like a No. 3 treatment or No. 0 because that rebonds the hair.”
The consensus: yes, with caveats.
TikTok started using hydrocolloid bandages for pimples. Hydrocolloid bandages are designed for healing and have long been used in healthcare for their healing benefits (they are also used as blister bandages). Do they work? Yes, but not on their own.
“If you think of acne lesions as wounds in the skin, the hydrocolloids help absorb excess fluid to dry out the pimple and allow the skin to heal. Plus, they form a physical barrier over the pimple to keep your hands off of it,” New York City dermatologist Dr. Josh Zeichner said. “Hydrocolloids do not take the place of traditional acne treatments that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, but they definitely are helpful for red, angry zits.”
Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder and medical director of the Birmingham-based Skin Wellness Dermatology, agreed that they are great for healing but noted that they should not just be put on your face haphazardly.
“[Hydrocolloid bandages] should be for areas where you have picked or where skin is broken,” Dr. Hartmain said. “There’s really no benefit to using it over just an inflamed acne bump that still has a plug in it.”
And while some TikTokers have turned to using large hydrocolloid bandages to cover large areas of their faces, this is not the way to do it. Stick to the smaller patches from brands like Starface or Rael.
“These are supposed to be used on active infections, and so if you’re covering a large area like that, I’m concerned that there may be an infection there that you’re not even aware of. So I would not [cover your whole face],” Dr. Hartman said.
The consensus: yes!
CeraVe is everywhere. No matter the skincare issue, there always seems to be a CeraVe product to answer the call. One of the most universally favorite products on TikTok is the CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser (SA stands for salicylic acid). Is it the best salicylic acid cleanser out there?
“I love CeraVe,” Dr. Hartman said. “As far as their salicylic acid, it’s a good, reliable one. And I’m all about easy access if they have good science, so it’s worth the hype.”
Dr. Zeichner agreed that it’s a good go-to brand. CeraVe offers science-backed, quality options that dermatologists have been recommending for years.
“Generally speaking, CeraVe is known to make good quality products at affordable prices,” Dr. Zeichner said. “The background of the line is the use of ceramides, which are natural fats needed for a healthy skin barrier. Ceramide levels have been shown to be depleted in inflammatory skin conditions like eczema.”
Though the brand is rooted in ceramides, with all the attention it’s been getting lately, it has begun expanding. As far as any products from the brand might not be worth it, Dr. Hartman mentioned just one.
“I’m not a big fan of their Vitamin C. I think they need to stay in their lane and stop trying to do anti-aging,” Dr. Hartman said.
The consensus: yes, but those who are pregnant or nursing should take caution.
The entire brand has gone viral for affordable, effective products. While people can’t seem to get enough of the brand, some of the most common favorites are the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution for deep exfoliation, improving skin texture, and removing blackheads and the Salicylic Acid Masque for blackheads and clogged pores. Do NOT forget sunscreen!
“My only advice is to tread lightly. Hydroxy acids can lead to skin irritation and disrupt the outer skin layer. Don’t over scrub. Make sure to listen to what your skin needs,” Dr. Zeichner said. “For the average person, start out every few days.”
And treading lightly is especially important with products like these.
“If you’re developing redness, dryness, itching, or flakes, then you should discontinue use of the product,” Dr. Zeichner added.
Redness or burning can definitely happen when using these products. A 30 percent glycolic is closer to the higher end of glycolic strength, so don’t leave it on too long, Dr. Hartman recommends, or you can start burning. And the BHA may not be the best choice for those who are pregnant or nursing.
“I do have some hesitation about recommending anything that’s a salicylic acid that stays on your skin when you’re pregnant or nursing. If you’re washing it off, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Dr. Hartman said. “In the world of social media people think, ‘well, if they say leave it on for two minutes, I’ll leave it on for five because it’ll work better,’ and that’s not necessarily the case.”
The consensus: yes, but it’s not for all skin types or products.
It’s also known as a moisture sandwich! Slugging became super popular during the winter for extra hydration. But here’s the thing: even though TikTok and Gen Z got a hold of this idea and made it go viral, it (like sock curls) is nothing new.
“Gen Z are the ones that are driving this. They know how to find something and name it. But, at least in certain communities, I know in the Black community, people have been doing this for years, particularly on children,” Dr. Hartman said. “It is a good method for getting active ingredients into the skin.”
All you need is petroleum jelly — Vaseline or Aquaphor work well. After washing and moisturizing your face, end with a pea-sized amount of petroleum jelly and cover your whole face with it (“You want to apply your products in a very even manner, then give it about 30 seconds to a minute to really absorb, and then apply the emollient, whichever one you choose, in a very even manner,” Dr. Hartman said.) Truly stick to a pea-sized amount: when used sparingly, it won’t cause you to stick to your pillowcase.
“It is a great treatment for people with dry or flaky skin. While it can be used if you have acne-prone skin, it may weigh the skin down and give a heavy feeling,” Dr. Zeichner said.
Dr. Hartman agreed that “it is not going to be for people with oily skin, people whose skin is clogged already congested, people who have acne. It’s not going to work for those people, it’s going to make everything worse,” he said.
So, slugging works for some skin types, but it’s also not to be combined with every skincare product.
“I do not recommend applying petroleum jelly on top of active ingredients like retinol or hydroxy acid, because it can enhance penetration and actually lead to potential irritation,” Dr. Zeichner said.
While you don’t want to add petroleum jelly to retinol, there are still ways to help avoid irritation, via a retinol sandwich. It’s a similar idea to slugging, but instead of petroleum jelly, use moisturizer.
“A retinol sandwich is combining retinol with a moisturizer, starting with the moisturizer followed by retinol in the middle and then another layer of the moisturizer. The moisturizer can help minimize potential irritation caused by the retinol,” Dr. Zeichner said.
TikTok seems to know what’s up. In general, most of these trends totally work. People just need to be aware of how to tailor the trends to them and which ones to avoid, especially when seeking out skincare tips, depending on their skin type or need.