It’s where we discovered our new favorite foundation balm and the secret to beachy waves in mere minutes, but not every beauty tip on TikTok is gold. Case in point: these skincare trends that are doing more harm than good. We turned to TikTok’s fave derm Dr. Muneeb Shah to break it down for us.
1. The trend: DIY microneedling
Microneedling is the process of creating teeny tiny (think: microscopic) holes in the surface layers of your skin using a “microneedler” or “dermaroller.” This device looks like a mini paint roller, except that it’s covered in small needles that puncture your skin. These microinjuries then signal your body to go into repair mode, prompting new collagen and elastin growth which in turn improves the texture and tone of your skin. And many TikTok users are demonstrating their DIY techniques—and results—on the social media platform (see exhibit A and B and C).
The expert take: “Home microneedling is a terrible idea for most people!” says Dr. Shah. “Our skin barrier does an excellent job of keeping moisture in the skin and keeping allergens and bacteria out of the skin. By poking tiny holes at home, it can lead to infection, allergy and irritation.” That’s because when it comes to home devices, the needles and the skin are often not clean, the derm explains.
What to do instead: “I recommend having this procedure done at a medispa, dermatologist office, or esthetician office instead,” says Dr. Shah, stressing that the risk is just too high to do this one at home.
2. The trend: sunscreen contouring
Users like stopiteli claim that combining two different levels of sunscreen can help create the illusion of a contoured face. In a viral TikTok, she uses a base layer of SPF 30 followed by SPF 90 on the places she’d normally highlight, like her jawline and the bridge of her nose. After sunbathing, “the sun will contour your face,” she says. Of course, some users skip the base layer of sunscreen and simply dab SPF on the spots they would like to highlight, and, yeah, you can see where this is going...
The expert take: “While I think this can lead to a contoured look, the uncovered areas are now exposed to damaging UV radiation which can lead to aging, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer,” Dr. Shah tells us.
What to do instead: “I've seen others do a base layer of SPF 30 and then a contoured layer of SPF 50, which is more acceptable in my opinion than leaving certain areas completely unprotected!” In other words, if you give yourself a base layer of at least SPF 30 then this trend isn’t terrible...just don’t skimp on the sunscreen.
3. The trend: coffee grounds face scrubs
You use ‘em in your morning brew, to freshen up the garbage disposal and to feed your compost, but some beauty seekers are also turning to coffee grounds to create DIY face scrubs that supposedly slough off dead skin cells and firm up your skin tone. (The key word here is supposedly.)
The expert take: “Coffee as a face mask is great because the caffeine can help to depuff and improve redness (temporarily),” Dr. Shah tells us. He also explains that coffee contains flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants. “However, coffee scrubs are too harsh for the skin,” he warns. “Also, it’s worth noting that most DIY masks will have limited benefits and can often be time consuming.”
What to do instead: Either use those coffee grounds in an at-home face mask (i.e., no scrubbing), or if you can’t resist the impulse to rub then keep the grounds to the parts of your body that can handle a little rough-housing (think: elbows, thighs and feet).
4. The trend: toothpaste on pimples
OK, we’ll be honest—we definitely resorted to this at-home hack during our teenage years. And apparently, it’s still very much in vogue (at least according to TikTokers who claim it can shrink zits overnight).
The expert take: “Once upon a time, toothpaste used to contain an ingredient called triclosan that had antibacterial properties, that may have had benefits in treating acne,” says Dr. Shah. Which explains why the practice was so popular back in our Boy Meets World days. “Since that time, triclosan was removed by the FDA, and now toothpaste only contains ingredients that can irritate the skin. Toothpaste is meant for the mouth and is not safe for the skin!”
What to do instead: For budding bumps, we’re big fans of these pimple patches.
5. The trend: potatoes on spots
Who needs toothpaste when you can put a potato on your spot instead? User samanthaaramon put the hack to the test and was pretty impressed by the results, claiming the spud totally got rid of her bump. But is there anything to this weird treatment?
The expert take: “Potatoes are an old hack to help with pimples. Some of the reasons it may help is that potatoes contain salicylic acid, which has known benefits in treating acne. Also, the starches may help dry out the pimples. But at the end of the day, the benefits are completely unproven for the skin and it's not really practical to treat spots by taping a potato to the face!” Valid point.
What to do instead: “I recommend a hydrocolloid pimple patch, like the one from Peace Out or Mighty Patch as a simple spot treatment. Benzoyl peroxide is another ingredient that's great for spot treating,” says the derm.