TikTok has emerged as one of the most popular social media platforms for young people since its launch in 2016. With over a billion users recorded in 2021, the app continues to attract a wide audience from across the globe who log on to consume stylish, quirky and often inspiring short video content.
The surging popularity of TikTok, particularly among a younger audience, has unsurprisingly led to some controversies, with questions raised about whether the app is safe for children to use without supervision from their parents.
One area that has raised alarm bells for many is the seemingly unregulated promotion of cosmetic surgery procedures across the social media platform. An alarming number of untrue “trends” have emerged relating to cosmetic procedures, many of which could be dangerous if tested.
In this blog post, we debunk some of the most worrying TikTok cosmetic surgery myths, aiming to raise awareness of the dangers of such trends.
Myth 1: You can get a free nose job by proving you have a deviated septum
According to a trend doing the rounds on TikTok, you can get a free nose job by proving you have a deviated septum. Videos have shown people wiggling their mouths from side to side to see if the inside of their nostrils looks different.
TikTokers are claiming that if there is a big disparity between the two nostrils, you have a deviated septum and can get surgery on the NHS or, if you live in the US, via health insurance.
Why it’s not true
Firstly, cosmetic surgery is only provided by the NHS in exceptional circumstances - for example, if it will improve your overall health.
It is also unproductive to tell people they should have surgery to resolve non-existent problems.
A deviated septum is when the middle piece of cartilage separating the nostrils isn’t even, making one nostril larger than the other. In some cases, this can cause breathing difficulties.
It’s not possible to see if your septum is deviated through a simple wiggling movement. Instead, a deviated septum will be diagnosed by a doctor using an external or internal probe.
If you’re having trouble breathing, whether you think it’s to do with your septum or otherwise, you should speak to your doctor and see what they can do to help. They may suggest a septoplasty (where your septum is repositioned – not the same as a rhinoplasty) - but only if it’s medically necessary - not for cosmetic reasons.
There are also some risks to this treatment including bleeding, scarring, a hole forming in the septum, an altered nose shape, discolouration of your nose, and a decreased sense of smell.
Myth 2: Using a nail file on your teeth will give you a perfectly straight smile
People using TikTok are filing their teeth down with a nail file to make them appear straighter, spurring dentists to post videos to highlight the dangers around it.
Why is it so dangerous?
This trend could cause permanent damage to the tooth structure, as well as the enamel around the edge of the tooth. Tooth enamel can’t be regrown, so the damage is irreversible. Anyone who carries out this act will need to seek professional dental treatment to help repair any damage.
This could cause sensitivity and pain. Treatment could involve cosmetic dentistry or needing to have teeth filled, rebuilt or have crowns fitted.
If it is not carried out by a professional dentist, tooth filing could crack the teeth and leave roots exposed to infection. This could lead to pain, bone loss and the need for extensive dentistry work.
Russell Sutton, Head of Dental Claims at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, said: “Filing your teeth down using a nail file could have serious long-term effects on your teeth and should never be attempted. If you have a desire for a straighter smile, you should always seek the advice of a qualified dentist. Dental treatment can be costly; however, taking shortcuts such as these are not recommended.”
Myth 3: Rubbing bleach on your teeth will make them whiter
TikTok users have been rubbing bleach directly onto their teeth with a cotton bud in an attempt to make them whiter. One video with over 15 million views sees a teenager explaining that she uses hydrogen peroxide - the main ingredient in whitening strips - on its own to improve her smile.
In the clip, she applies the product to her teeth with a cotton bud, explaining that the results were “so good” that she could stop carrying out the “treatment” after four days. Worryingly, since the TokTok video was uploaded, there has been a huge spike in sales of hydrogen peroxide.
Why it’s not true
Rubbing bleach on your teeth could cause serious damage, leading to painful tooth sensitivity and potentially more serious issues - like burns on the inside of the mouth, lips and gums. In some cases, it could result in the need for gum grafts and lead to tooth loss, which can be difficult to resolve. Bleach can also be deadly if consumed.
Russell Sutton said: “The danger here is that the results may instantly be satisfying; however, applying bleach to your teeth can lead to lasting damage to your teeth and gums, but, more importantly, it can cause serious health implications.”
“Treatments that can be purchased on the internet, like hydrogen peroxide, are much stronger than over-the-counter alternatives, bringing with them the risk of burns and tooth damage. It is essential that teeth whitening is only ever carried out by a qualified dentist.”
Myth 4: Apple cider vinegar can be used to remove moles and skin tags
People are attempting to remove their own moles and skin tags themselves at home by using apple cider vinegar or a DIY skin tag removal kit, which is available over the counter. Worryingly, one video showing someone carrying out this DIY ‘procedure’ had almost 10 million views.
Why it’s so dangerous
Dermatologists would never recommend at-home removal of moles or skin tags. The lesions could actually be dangerous - such as dysplastic nevi (atypical moles that have a chance of turning into skin cancer) or melanoma.
Even by removing what’s on the surface of the skin, the lesion could still have remaining cells underneath the skin that continue to grow and possibly spread. Removing them could also cause unsightly scars, infections or admission to the hospital.
Myth 5: Putting an ice cube in your vagina will make it tighter (and cure your depression)
Some TikTok users have revealed they have been inserting ice cubes into their vaginas amid misinformation that doing so can help with depression and anxiety, while also making it tighter. Followers of the strange trend have wrongly called the ice cube trend “cryotherapy”, which is inaccurate.
Why it’s not recommended
There are a number of risks involved with this trend. Firstly, the ice could stick to the delicate skin of the vagina and cause an ice burn, and once the ice is removed, it can cause injury. You could also disrupt the pH level of the vagina, which could cause an infection.
People should always seek medical advice in regards to any cosmetic treatments and make sure they conduct research before trying out any DIY kits.