TikTok’s unrealistic beauty standards and how they damage us

7 mins read

“If your forehead, nose, and lower mouth are of the same length, then you have a perfect face.” 

“You’re attractive if you have eight to ten teeth showing when you smile.”

“Apparently this filter shows you how other people see you in real life.”

Sound familiar?

From side-profile challenges to jawline checks, TikTok is slowly becoming the most toxic social media platform to exist. Some, including myself, would argue it’s already there. 

As a TikTok user myself, I have unwillingly come across a few of these dangerous trends myself and often find myself questioning what the Internet has come to, as well as why we repeatedly choose to create such toxicity online and then bring it into our lives.

Credit: TikTok user @/maelynesque

In October 2020, Brig covered TikTok’s toxic trend of #whatieatinaday; since then, the trends have only gotten worse, especially in regard to unrealistic beauty standards. I thought we learned and moved on from the 2013 days when social media platforms like Tumblr ruled the world with their irrational beauty standards by making the words “thigh gap” and “beauty” appear synonymous. 

Only now, rather than narrowing down onto one body part, which already is bad enough, TikTok does everything in its power to dissect everything that makes us us

Credit: Youtube video – “Inverted filter TikTok Compilation”, by tiktoktrends

To begin with, viral beauty trends on TikTok don’t only result in fat-shaming or general bullying, they also happen to be unintentionally promoting Eurocentric beauty ideals, making some filters more exclusive. The Glow Look filter, for instance, which gives you bright blue eyes, a slightly thinner nose, flushed cheeks, bigger lips and is meant to make you look attractive, doesn’t involve other cultures’ beauty standards. 

“It’s so damaging to those who don’t conform to those beauty standards. There are other ethnicities and other cultures that have their own form of beauty. And we just, I guess, don’t match up to those standards,” said TikTok creator Himani Jadeja, whose content focus is centred around Desi lifestyle and culture. 

This only adds to how racist some viral TikTok beauty trends are. Many people that take part in these trends are considered to be “perfect” because they look a certain way; they look the way many people may aspire to look like. Many such people are also white, leaving other white people but also people of colour feeling ugly, unworthy and miserable, simply because they don’t possess the same features.

Taken directly from TikTok’s hashtag page

Videos with hashtags such as #sideprofilecheck and filters like the symmetrical face one have been viewed millions and millions of times, feeding all those people with insecurities about things they were not necessarily worried about before.

I have witnessed people around me succumb to the damaging impacts of TikTok’s challenges, with someone once telling me they wished they had a more symmetrical face because they worried not having one made them ugly and unlovable. How is this okay?

Besides students, TikTok is also used by many impressionable children and teenagers who may take their “imperfections” to heart and develop a negative self-image, body dysmorphia or poor mental health – all because of their differences, some of which cannot be changed. 

Taken directly from TikTok’s hashtag page

What contributes to the danger of these viral trends is that they are started by “normal” people, not by celebrities who can professionally edit their pictures, have make-up artists, or can afford professional fitness trainers. This “normalcy” of TikTok users contributes to the unhealthy mentality of: ‘well, if they are an ordinary human like me and they can look like that, then so can I!’. 

A lot of the trends target plus-sized people, too – notably the ones that focus on back profiles and side profiles. A subsequent trend on how to remove double chins followed, only making the trend more toxic.

Credit: TikTok user @/genevievelongbrake

After the back profile trend became viral, TikTok user @/umbersayian made a video, saying that she will “not contribute to the way this app consistently tells young girls that there is something wrong with them, whether it’s their nose profile, their jawline, their back profile.

“I know that a lot of you post this innocently and unknowingly but I want you to consider the fact that a young girl that has your features, comes to your page and sees your videos and now thinks less of herself because you just called something she had never noticed before really ugly or unattractive.”

It should be noted, though, that men face unrealistic beauty standards, too, whether it’s about being six feet tall, having muscles and abs or a strong jawline. Men shouldn’t have to be expected to be completely ripped or tall, just like girls shouldn’t be expected to be lean or to have full lips. 

Expecting perfection from any gender is wrong, and if perfection is what you’re waiting for then, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you’ll be waiting a while. 

And besides, what kind of boring world would we be living in if we all looked the same and were all “perfect”?

Moving forward, we should think twice before starting and contributing to a trend that harms people’s mental health and self-esteem. No one should have to worry about their looks, let alone those that would go unrecognised; there is no point in worrying about the things we cannot change. Instead, we should direct our focus on things that make us who we are and promote self-love.

Featured Image Credit: Buzzfeed

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A 22 year old aspiring writer.


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