With the recent increased pressure on the NHS, it seems more than ever that people (specifically Gen-Zs) are turning to TikTok for health advice rather than their GPs. This has bred a new wave of dangerous and potentially damaging TikTok trends of “DIY health advice”.
From removing your own moles at home to using bleach to brush your teeth, it’s becoming ever more important to separate fact from fiction. To that end, experts at the health and well-being app, Evergreen Life, have taken a look at these TikTok trends to debunk the nonsensical health advice that is growing ever more popular.
Garlic cloves up your nostrils to clear sinuses
A recent “garlic nose hack” trend has seen users peeling cloves of garlic and shoving them up each nostril for 15–30 minutes to unclog their sinuses. Apparently, once the time is up and the cloves are removed, the excess mucus streams out of the nose and clears the nasal passage. While TikToks appear to show this, it is not known how effective this actually is.
TikTok views: Searches for #garlicsnots have 115.2K views on the app.
Evergreen medical expert, Dr Brian Fisher, said: “Although garlic has well-known activity against bacteria and viruses, putting garlic up your nostrils could damage your nose and sinuses; the garlic chemicals can cause irritation, and bits of garlic could get stuck up your nose. Garlic as an infusion would be much safer.”
Teeth whitening using hydrogen-peroxide
TikTok “dentistry hacks” are here with a teeth whitening trick using 3% hydrogen peroxide on cotton swabs, which are then wiped across the teeth. This method of whitening is extremely concerning to dentists and our experts alike due to the risks associated with these chemicals.
TikTok views: #hydrogenperoxidechallenge has over 2.2 million views.
Evergreen medical expert, Dr Brian Fisher, said: “Frequent usage of hydrogen-peroxide can cause serious and long-lasting damage to gums and teeth, not to mention the dangers of having bleach in your mouth that could potentially be swallowed.”
Removing moles with vinegar and DIY chemical peels
During the pandemic, a high volume of people on TikTok turned to vinegar and DIY chemical peels to scrape off their unwanted moles rather than seeking advice and treatment from a dermatologist. This dangerous trend can be hugely damaging to the skin, with dermatologists warning it can cause wounds which could become infected and even leave scars.
TikTok views: #moleremovalovernight has racked up 359.8K views on the app.
Evergreen medical expert, Dr Brian Fisher, said: “The issues outlined by dermatologists are very real, however, this is only secondary to the potential dangers below the surface; with some moles being cancerous. We recommend getting your moles checked by a verified professional for this reason.”
This somewhat interesting trend sees a huge number of users strip off and point their bums up towards the sun in order to gain the apparent benefits of ‘sunning your holes’. General benefits supposedly include boosting vitamin D intake, improving concentration and creativity, and bettering sleep.
TikTok views: #perineumsunning has garnered over 2.8 million views
Evergreen medical expert, Dr Brian Fisher, said: “The skin down below is particularly sensitive, so I’d strongly warn against this practice as too much UV exposure can lead to sun damage and, in some cases, skin cancer.”
Eating raw meat
Brought into the mainstream by the rise in popularity of characters such as Brian Johnson, aka “The Liver King”, this recent trend promotes eating raw meat for its apparent health benefits of increased cardiovascular health and weight loss. If stored and prepared incorrectly, raw meat can be harmful and dangerous to humans when ingested due to potential bacterial contamination.
TikTok views: #rawmeatdiet reached a massive 225.6M views.
Evergreen wellbeing expert, Anna Keeble, said: “Caution needs to be applied here as viruses and parasites from raw meat stored and prepared incorrectly can cause food poisoning and lead to diarrhoea, sickness, and stomach cramps. Some meats, such as chicken or turkey, should never be eaten raw due to the high risk of salmonella.”
Raw onions in your socks to cure a cold
Although it isn’t a revolutionary finding, a cold and flu remedy that dates back to the 1500s – slicing up onions and putting them into your socks as you sleep – has had a resurgence on TikTok. While this isn’t a dangerous practice, there aren’t any proven advantages and it may leave your bedroom with quite an odour.
TikTok views: #onionsinsocks has 408.7K views on the app.
Evergreen medical expert, Dr Brian Fisher, said: “The apparent benefit of absorbing germs or toxins from the body via the feet has never actually been proven, so you may be better off using them to create a warming soup rather than sticking them in your socks.”
Sun cream contouring
Some TikTokkers are taking make-up to the extreme with a trend which shows users applying sun cream to only certain parts of their face and allowing the rays from the sun to colour (or damage) the skin to save them from contouring daily. Despite the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of UV protection for your skin, this ‘trend’ has had over 325K views.
TikTok views: #sunscreencontour has 325.2K views on the app.
Evergreen medical expert, Dr Brian Fisher, said: “The significant dangers of UV exposure to the skin are being severely overlooked in priority of ‘looking good’. If the sun is strong enough to bronze or burn you, you need to use SPF on all exposed skin.
‘What I eat in a day’
The currently popular ‘What I eat in a day’ trend often features videos of the slim and toned bodies of TikTokkers alongside small quantities of food, more often than not accompanied by the calorie count per serving. These types of videos can give impressionable viewers distorted views of calorie counting and dieting based on someone else’s low-calorie diet.
TikTok views: #whatieatinaday has 14.7 billion views on the app.
Evergreen wellness expert, Anna Keeble, said: “Social media can be great for accessing valuable and inspiring content on how to eat well from nutrition experts. However, there is also a wealth of content from unqualified people that can potentially fuel body dysmorphia and disordered eating through misleading content that focuses on calorie counting rather than nutrient density.”
Our resident medical expert at Evergreen Life, Dr Brian Fisher said: “Here at Evergreen Life, we are very supportive of people increasing understanding about their health and healthcare. However, the significant rise in the usage of social media apps such as TikTok, especially by the younger generation, to self-diagnose their medical anxieties is extremely worrying and could be dangerous.
“This new phase goes one step further than Dr Google, which was the main source previously for people’s medical queries. Google can serve a purpose as a first port of call as long as the website is credible and trustworthy, however, on TikTok, this is more difficult to ensure. If you are worried about a medical ailment or issue, your GP or NHS 111 are the best places to get advice.”