Do these viral skincare hacks on TikTok actually work?

We asked dermatologists to separate the truth from hype.

Maxine McCrann
Healthy or Hype
Originally Published: 

TikTok is basically an encyclopedia for skincare and beauty hacks. I love it as a resource because a lot of the tips you find are inexpensive and allow me to avoid supporting the beauty industry, which is problematic for so many reasons that it warrants a dissertation. The problem with using TikTok as my personal skin consultant is that just because some gorgeous influencer has a preternatural glow doesn’t mean they’re an actual expert on skincare. I asked dermatologists to help me investigate which of the viral skincare hacks trending on TikTok we should actually be doing and which we should definitely avoid.

Massaging your face with ice for redness

I use approximately a dozen products on my skin every day, but I really aspire to be a skincare minimalist. When I saw TikTokers started to talk about the wonders of ice facials, I thought my prayers had been answered. Could the solution to inflammation and wrinkles really already be in my freezer?

“Ice does temporarily constrict blood vessels, which can help with redness and puffiness in the face,” says Muneeb Shah, North Carolina-based dermatologist. “However, there will be no long term benefits with this treatment, and the results will only be temporary. You can use this hack for a quick "jolt" to your skin in the morning, but don't leave it on for too long because it can lead to cold-induced injury — i.e., frostbite,” he says.

Wow, that’s disappointing, but everything Shah is saying makes sense. Shah is a bit of a skincare guru on the Tok — he’s recently been named one of TikTok’s 2022 API trailblazers — so he’s really good at helping people parse out what looks like it works from what is actually effective. Ice facials look like they work on TikTok because the ice does its magic basically immediately but, as Shah explained, those results probably won’t last much longer than a vid.

Smearing on squalane for slugging

Slugging has really captured the attenion of a lot of skincare junkies out there. The basic idea is that you slather yourself in petroleum to lock in moisture and other products. Sounds good, but it doesn’t work for everyone — including me. I tried slugging with petroleum jelly a couple days ago and my face still looks oily and red. Some of us need an alternative. That’s where squalane comes in.

“Squalane mimics our skin’s natural oils, making it an excellent emollient,” says Elaine Kung, a dermatologist in NYC and Professor of Dermatology at New York Presbyterian - Weill Cornell Hospital. “It’s also a natural antioxidant and has antitumor properties, protecting our skin from carcinogens.” Because of these extra benefits of squalane, Kung says that it is better than vaseline. And as a bonus, squalane can also be derived from plant sources, so it is sometimes vegan and is more sustainable than Vaseline.

Shah agrees that squalane is a great substitute for Vaseline. “This is a hack I approve of,” he says. Vaseline is the most effective occlusive moisturizer — a moisturizer that creates a physical barrier, but doesn't have the same and other benefits that squalane has, Shah explains. “Squalane is a skin-identical lipid that is one of my favorite skincare ingredients. It's moisturizing, and softens the skin, plus serves as an antioxidant,” he says.

Scraping banana peels for dark eye circles

I’ve had the dark under eye circles of an aging alcoholic since I was a toddler. Nothing makes them go away and the only concealers that make a dent feel so heavy that they may actually be giving me new eye bags. So believe me when I tell you that I was excited to find out if I could be cured by using the inside scrapings of banana peels.

If that excites you too, well, you may need to calm down a bit because there’s no consensus on the banana peel situation. “Banana peels are found to have high levels of polyphenols and rich in many bioactive compounds, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E,” Kung says. “These phytochemicals have potent antioxidant properties that can help with discoloration on the skin and antigaging.” Sounds promising.

Yes, except that just because banana peels have these great properties doesn’t mean that you can get them by smearing them on your face. “Bananas do contain antioxidants and vitamins but there's no scientific evidence that they're effective for dark circles,” Shah explains. “My recommendation is to keep food in the kitchen and find a great eye cream to combat those dark circles!”

Storing serums in the fridge to keep them fresh

While not every hack you find on TikTok is going to work for you and your skin, some of them just make good common sense. A lot of popular serums — like Vitamin C — will eventually degrade if you store them at room temperature too long. Those skincare mini fridges that were trending for a minute were popular for a reason.

You don’t actually need a separate appliance for your beauty products, but you may want to stow some of your serums next to your vegan creamer. Shah says that not only will doing so extend the life of some products, it make make them more effective. “Put your eye serum in the fridge for morning puffiness,” he says.