TikTok is chock full of beauty, health and self-care tips. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to parse through which are legit and which are based on myth – especially since so many videos are often filtered and doctored.
To help consumers and marketers understand fact from fiction, here are several of the top TikTok health trends that have been making the rounds as well as what experts are saying about their usefulness, efficacy and safety.
1. Rice water hair
One common self-care trend involves letting rice soak in cold water for a few days, then spraying the resulting “rice water” onto your hair to spur “extreme hair growth.”
With more than 600 million views, the tag “rice water for hair” is a pretty popular search on the platform.
Interestingly, there may be some validity to rice water hair.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, rice water has inositol in it — an ingredient that’s been associated with hair growth, though evidence is a bit lacking. At the very least, rice water doesn’t have any toxic chemicals in it, so it can be safe to try.
Other videos under the tag, however, caution users to be careful with the rice water trend, arguing it can also cause hair breakage depending on your hair type.
2. Benadryl challenge
Among the more harmful trends that have also been circulating is the Benadryl challenge. This phenomenon encourages people to take large doses of Benadryl to get high and experience hallucinations.
Taking too much of the drug, which is an over-the-counter medication used for allergies, can lead to overdosing or even death.
Several hospitalizations and even a death among teens trying the trend prompted health officials to make announcements to warn people to stop taking doses that were too high.
In September 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged parents and healthcare providers to be aware of the trend and asked TikTok to remove videos associated with it.
Johnson & Johnson, which manufactures the drug, also released a statement responding to the challenge, noting it was “extremely concerning” and “should be stopped immediately.”
3. Nature’s cereal recipe
Among the millions of diet fads and recipes on TikTok, a few stand out as being quite healthy.
One is called “nature’s cereal,” and is a pretty simple trend. A person gets some blueberries, raspberries or other berries in a bowl, pours coconut water over it and eats it with a spoon, thus having cereal, without the cereal.
This one is undeniably healthy and harmless – even though it might seem strange to eat fruit with coconut water with a spoon.
4. Sunscreen contouring
For those familiar with makeup, contouring is a way to sculpt features on your face using light or dark highlights or contour.
However, instead of the typical way of purchasing makeup products for this purpose, some people are engaging in a trend on TikTok that involves using the sun to contour your face for you.
In other words, they’re using sunscreen only on select parts of their faces so other parts become more tan.
Still, the results of this may be dubious and experts stress the importance of using sunscreen on all parts of your skin to protect it from UV rays, which are associated with cancer and skin aging.
5. 12-3-30 workout
One treadmill trend is encouraging people to try a workout for 30 minutes, with the incline level set to 12% and the pace at three miles per hour.
While it may not seem like a lot, users say the workout is quite intense – and can be a good way to start a weight loss journey.
Cleveland Clinic experts note the trend can be quite healthy if done in the right way, as finding ways to increase physical activity can be helpful for weight loss or simply for increasing stamina and boosting overall health.
Checking in with your body, however, is important — and dialing down the incline or cutting the time short to start out is a good way to ease into it.
Last year, some TikTok users were trying to drink liquid chlorophyll — the green pigment that gives plants their color — in the hopes it would help clear up their skin and offer some anti-inflammatory properties.
The evidence behind chlorophyll as a health supplement is lacking, however. While it may not be dangerous if used in moderation, it’s not exactly scientifically proven to help you in any way.
Supplements as a whole can be a questionable industry, with evidence often lacking to support claims on various vitamins, fish oil or melatonin and other products, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
7. NyQuil Chicken
The FDA recently flagged another dangerous TikTok trend dubbed ‘NyQuil Chicken’ — a challenge that entailed people cooking chicken in cough syrup.
“Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways,” the FDA noted.
Unsurprisingly, health experts urge people to not partake in the NyQuil Chicken challenge, noting it could be very dangerous.
8. Proffee (Protein + coffee)
Combining protein into coffee drinks is another big trend on TikTok, with people touting its nutritional benefits.
The #proffee tag has more than 27 million views on the platform, and is filled with videos of people making their own versions of the drink — whether with ice, creamer or milk, and non-sugar sweeteners.
The idea of the drink is pretty simple: Just combine a scoop of protein powder or protein shake into your favorite coffee drink to get both an energy boost and some protein.
For people who skip breakfast, proffee could actually be a helpful addition to balance out the caffeine jitters.
Still, other health experts warn people to drink proffee in moderation, as most Americans already consume enough protein — or too much protein — in their diets. Most Americans already eat twice the amount of recommended protein per day.
9. Dry-scooping workout powder
Most people use protein or pre-workout powder mixed in a shake or smoothie, but a new TikTok trend involves eating the powder… dry.
While this may not seem like a big deal, health experts are warning of its potential risks.
According to Healthline, dry scooping is dangerous and can lead to heart palpitations, lung infections if the powder is accidentally inhaled, and digestive problems. Use the powder as instructed on the label, mixed with water.
In fact, when searching “dry scooping” on TikTok, the platform redirects users to a resource page about online challenges. It urges people to stop and think about a challenge before doing it: “If a challenge is risky or harmful, or you’re not sure if it is, don’t do it,” TikTok states.
10. Lemon coffee
Touting weight loss, some users are promoting drinking lemon coffee — or coffee mixed with lemon juice in the morning. The trend consists of people drinking the mixture on an empty stomach, hoping it will help them lose weight.
Lemon juice mixed with coffee isn’t inherently dangerous or unhealthy, and can be fine to drink. But it won’t necessarily lead to weight loss.
Weight loss is a promise often linked to TikTok diet trends, but many aren’t accurate or don’t show clinical benefit. One recent study published in PLOS One found that dieting trends on TikTok can have a harmful impact on eating disorders and body image. In other words: Take the TikTok trends with a grain of salt.
This story first appeared on MM+M.