By Iolee Anagnostopoulou and Martina Sala

As a ’90s kid, I played with dolls and action figures, read magazines and comic books, or played outdoors with the neighbourhood kids. It’s not that we didn’t have any screen time, but it was limited, and anything apart from cartoons and Disney movies needed our parents’ approval. 

Today’s youngsters have smartphones and can access online content from an early age. These kids literally haven’t known a world without the internet, but can they protect themselves from its dark side? 

Social media especially has been under fire over the past decade, mainly for its toxic impact on young people’s mental health and self-image. Enter TikTok, one of the youth’s most popular online connection and video content platforms. Unlike the celebrity-saturated Instagram, TikTok is filled with everyday people criticising or praising their image and encouraging viewers to participate in questionable beauty trends. 

Young people putting their bodies under scrutiny for fun or a chance to go viral is obviously problematic, especially when most of these trends promote discriminative beauty ideals. But the toxicity of TikTok trends doesn’t just extend to creators. 

Looking like the rich and famous Kim K is a long shot for most teens, but getting the thigh gap or clear skin of the much more relatable “normal” TikToker seems doable. So they’ll either feel like crap for not having an X beauty feature or do anything they’re shown to achieve it. What’s more, many of these beauty trends are unfounded or dangerous at worst. 

To determine if five of the most popular viral skincare trends on TikTok are fact or fiction, we asked skin care expert Dr Elias Tam, medical aesthetic doctor and founder of EHA Clinic in Singapore, what he thought. Here’s what he said:

Gua Sha Anti-ageing Routine

This trend promises anti-ageing effects by scraping and rubbing your face with a gua sha, a smooth-edged tool used in traditional Chinese healing.

Dr Elias Tam: Rub or pull too much with the gua sha, and your skin will actually get looser. Applying serum first to reduce friction is certainly a good idea, but does gua sha work? Perhaps for temporarily reducing fluid retention. Beyond that, there’s no scientific evidence to support any other benefits.

How To Get Glass Skin

In this video, the creator recommends her favourite products for achieving a glass skin’ effect.

Dr Elias Tam: The first product contains BHA, which does help with skin renewal and reduces the size of pores and oil clots. However, those with sensitive skin or eczema should use it with caution. 

Next, vitamin C is a good antioxidant, but remember to test on a small spot first in case you are sensitive to it. There are several types of vitamin C, and they’re chemically different, with L-ascorbic acid being the most potent one. 

Lastly, niacinamide is excellent for those with sensitive skin and pigmentary issues. Put simply, renew the skin with BHA, repair with niacinamide and repel the free radicals with vitamin C. Don’t forget to rehydrate with hyaluronic acid and apply a good sunblock to avoid sun damage.

Jade Roller Anti-ageing Routine

Jade rollers have taken the skincare world by storm thanks to similar videos showing how to use them for anti-ageing benefits. 

Dr Elias Tam: Like the gua sha, the jade roller is a nice toy to play with for a feel-good factor but with no significant long-term benefits.

Derma Roller For Acne Marks

If you didn’t know what a derma roller is (raises hand) or how it’s used, read on!

Dr Elias Tam: The derma roller leaves small needle marks on the skin, which helps the topically applied products penetrate better. They come in different needle sizes, but the short one (0.1mm) is sufficient and causes minimal pain and irritation. 

Make sure to carefully sanitise yours to avoid infection. Keep in mind that, for some people, derma rollers may aggravate acne or cause skin irritation. Cheap versions may even have some of the needles breaking off as you roll and stay on the skin, causing irritation and inflammation.

Freckles Hack

And in a world where everyone’s trying to look like someone else, here comes the freckle hack to help you gain the ‘cute’ look using a sieve and – wait for it – root spray. The hack had little success, with some women complaining that it burns.

Dr Elias Tam: Aside from the fact that this hack rarely works, trying to create faux freckles is funny. Love yourself for who you are. There is no need to create freckles when your skin doesn’t have them. If you have them, embrace them. If you don’t, embrace that too. 

So next time you see a TikTok trend, remember to do your own research before trying anything. But, most importantly, ask yourself this: Does it promote self-love and body positivity, or does it leave you wishing you looked some other way?