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Skin-deep dangers: Navigating TikTok's skin care community

Companies like Drunk Elephant are facing scrutiny as their products gain popularity among a younger audience on TikTok. – Photo by TikTok

Chances are that if you have any interest in beauty and makeup, you've noticed the increasing popularity of skin care products and routines online over the past few years. TikTok, in particular, has helped certain brands and products go viral, causing the hype around the skin care industry to grow even more and become a mainstream topic of discussion.

On the surface, this sounds like a positive thing — how could encouraging more people to take care of their skin be bad?

For the most part, it's harmless. Short-form content, one of the pitfalls of TikTok, has caused major problems. When a creator is talking about a skin care product they enjoy or a brand is promoting a new line in a typical TikTok, there's only a couple of minutes to dive into all the ingredients, benefits and risks.

Responsible users will certainly take the initiative to research brands outside of TikTok, but they're the exception. And brands like Drunk Elephant continue to entice new customers, including children and teenagers who don't always have the skills or interest to do this kind of comparative research. Without this essential research, young people might not realize the potential damage they're doing to their skin. 

One topic that's being discussed on TikTok is whether products with retinol are safe to use for children and young teens. Some creators working in the beauty and skin care industry claim that retinol is dangerous for young skin. Others say that the risks of retinol are low, but pricey retinol-based products are unnecessary for younger people. 

Just as it's difficult to actually get the full overview of ingredients in a moisturizer or skin serum in a TikTok, it's also difficult to understand the full scope of risks and benefits of a certain ingredient. 

Ultimately, this phenomenon just goes to show the importance of doing research on skin care products before buying them, regardless of what your favorite creator says. Videos like this one, that have millions of views and give reviews with absolutely no explanation, don't actually help people decide if a product is worthwhile or not. 

The skin care boom on TikTok seems grim, but it doesn't have to be so hopeless.

Parents have a responsibility to look more into the products their kids are asking for. Older teenagers and adults should rely on different websites to help them break down ingredients to determine what they actually want and need for their skin.

In a world where influencers are constantly promoting new and emerging items, especially on TikTok, it's best to not blindly trust any advertisements or reviews.

What's important is making sure you consider the needs of your own skin and health before buying anything instead of impulsively following influencer recommendations. After all, everyone has different skin types, budgets and experiences with skin care — experiences that are much more complex than a story that can be summed up in a TikTok video.

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