TikTok is full of various trends, there are new ones every week and they can appear and disappear very quickly. In and amongst culture trends such as tradwives, fun trends such as the soulmate moon phase and downright bizarre trends such as Jasper the doll, there are many trends which claim to help improve health and wellbeing. But they could actually be doing more harm than good.
This article lists eight trends and challenges which have appeared on the popular social media platform which aren’t actually healthy at all - even though millions of users claim they are and the videos have racked up billions of views. TikTok themselves state that their community guidelines prohibit dangerous challenges. A statement on their website reads: “Online challenges or dares typically involve people recording themselves doing something difficult, which they share online to encourage others to repeat. The majority are fun and safe, but some promote harmful behaviours including the risk of serious injury”. The platform also advises people to think about whether or not what they are seeing is harmful or safe and then act accordingly and not mimic what they see if they are unsure.
Please be aware that experts advise that you should not follow any of these trends, especially without seeking advice from a medical professional first as they may cause injury, mental or physical health issues and in some cases they could even be fatal.
NationalWorld has spoken to medical and health professionals for their views on these trends, but if you want personal health advice then please speak to your doctor. To keep up-to-date with TikTok trends, take a look at our dedicated TikTok page.
The BORG drinking game challenge
BORG is short for “blackout rage gallon”. The challenge involves a person mixing a half-gallon of water with a half-gallon of alcohol, typically vodka, with an electrolyte flavour enhancer and then drinking it. TikTok users are posting videos of themselves participating in it and claiming that it helps them to drink more without feeling the effects of the alcohol, while also keeping them hydrated. Videos with the hashtag #Borg have almost 130 million views on the platform. But, the game is potentially very damaging, and students in America have already been hospitalised after taking part.
Doctor Ross Perry, is a GP and Medical Director of Cosmedics skin clinics, said the trend could even be fatal. “This trend encourages binge drinking which can be really dangerous, and even fatal depending on the amount of alcohol you’re adding. Some BORG recipes contain almost a gallon of vodka and this level of alcohol consumed by one person in one sitting could result in death.”
Doctor Gareth Nye, a senior lecturer of anatomy and physiology at Chester Medical School, said drinking so much alcohol could also cause serious long term damage to the body: “Consuming excessive levels of alcohol can lead to a full range of health risks including those related to the physiological handling of alcohol, such as liver function decline and alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can lead to serious complications like liver and heart failure as well as damage to other organs like the brain through severe dehydration. The compromised brain activity could also lead to falls, and related injury, and loss of consciousness.”
In the beauty industry, contouring is a way of highlighting certain features on your face using light and dark make-up products. There are some TikTok users who are promoting a way of contouring that does not involve using any make-up - instead they use suncream to control the areas of their face where they get a tan. There’s over six billion views on videos about this, but people are being warned that they should apply sunscreen to all areas of their face - and body - to protect them from the sun’s UV rays.
Dr Perry said: “Getting a tan increases the risk of sun damage and in turn skin cancer. No tan is a safe tan and unfortunately the facts are that everyone is at risk of skin cancer. Sun exposure is a known factor for increasing the risk of skin cancer and even the British sun can, over time, accumulate and cause sun damage. I advise everyone to wear SPF all year round as even on cloudy and cooler days, those harmful UV rays can still penetrate the skin and cause damage. SPF only works as well as you apply it and by not covering certain areas of the body and exposing it to the sun you are risking developing skin cancer and UV damage such a premature lines, sun spots and pigmentation on the body which, although would possibly fade over time, will still leave you looking discoloured and patchy.”
Dry-scooping workout powder
Dry-scooping is just what it sounds like - eating protein powder dry instead of mixing it with water or milk and turning it into a drink as this supposedly maximises the effects of the amino acids, vitamins and creatines in the powder. But, a 20-year-old woman called Briatney Portillo had a heart attack after doing the challenge. Personal trainer Chris Beavers said that of all fitness trends he’s seen, this is “one of the most worrying”. “Pre-workout and protein powders contain compounds like caffeine and creatine that can cause gastrointestinal stress, especially if not mixed with the right amount of liquid, let alone no liquid at all. There is a big risk of inhaling dry powder which has extremely negative effects on an individual's lungs, or cardiovascular system, with reports of heart issues and hospitalisation as a result.”
Dr Nye said the trend could also pose huge risks to young people under the age of 18. “Pre-workout powders contain large doses of caffeine in the range of around three cups of coffee. While most people can cope with this amount of caffeine when the powder is mixed with water and gradually consumed, dry scooping introduces a huge dose of caffeine into your body all at once which can be too much for those with underlying heart issues or those under 18. The levels of caffeine will also increase blood pressure and cause irregular heart beats.”
When you search for the hashtag #dryscooping now, TikTok does show a warning message. The message reads: “Some online challenges can be dangerous, disturbing, or even fabricated. Learn how to recognize harmful challenges so you can protect your health and well-being”. People are also advised to think about whether or not the people in the videos have special skills, if something could have gone wrong, and if they are confident that they will be safe if they do it themselves. Another message from TikTok reads “if a challenge is risky or harmful, or you are not sure if it is, don’t do it.”
The 30 gallon water challenge
This TikTok trend promoted drinking a gallon of water every day for 30 days. A gallon is about 4.5 litres. The hashtag #30gallonchallenge has over 25 million views on TikTok, with people claiming it helps to flush out toxins in their body and makes their skin glow. While the benefits of drinking water in general are well-known, there is concern about drinking quite so much.
Dr Perry said there is no evidence whatsoever to back up these claims. He said: “The NHS advises us to drink around 8 glasses of water a day which is 1.5 to 2 litres. This of course depends on how active you are. Drinking too much water can make you more thirsty, which can flush out sodium and cause an imbalance in blood salts and impact the brain. Listen to your body and what it needs rather than relying on a TikTok trend.”
Dr Nye also said that “there is very little evidence linking increased water intake with health benefits”. He said: You can over hydrate and this has led to the deaths of a number of athletes. Overhydration leads to alterations in your cells ability to maintain shape and function and electrolytes from our blood are out of balance. This can lead to changes to heart rhythms, muscle function and brain activity.”
The egg diet
People taking part in the egg diet eat eggs for every single meal for 10 days, and the goal is to lose weight and improve overall health. It’s a very restrictive diet, and there are over 124 million views for videos showing this trend. People have posted about the side effects, which can include increased hunger, low energy, headaches and irritability, but there are also lots of videos where people showcase their weight loss and praise it.
Dr Perry said the diet isn’t particularly dangerous, but it’s still not a good idea. He said: “Eating nothing but eggs every day 10 days in a row is really just another fad type diet. Of course you’re likely to lose weight, as you would doing any form of restricted diet, but you’re not getting the right nutrients or vitamins during this time. Side effects might include headaches, nausea, lack of energy and quite possibly binge eating following the 10 days, meaning that any weight loss will quickly be regained.”
The Benadryl challenge was encouraging people to take large quantities of over-the-counter allergy medication Benadryl to experience highs from legal drugs. But, people were being hospitalised after taking too many of the tablets, and those who took part in the trend were also warned that they could be putting themselves in a potentially fatal position. The manufacturer of the drug, Johnson Johnson issued a statement saying that the trend was “extremely concerning” and “should be stopped immediately”.
Those searching for the trend on TikTok now also find the warning from the platform described above. Dr Perry described the trend as “utterly ridiculous” and “dangerous to even attempt”. He said: “In worst case scenarios this can result in death. Even in mild cases, taking Benadryl can cause side effects such as sleepiness, dry mouth, constipation, and inability to pass urine. You may also experience delirium, psychosis and seizures.”
Dr Nye said that overdosing of particular antihistamine medication can lead to the poisoning of receptors found throughout the body in nerves, cardiovascular system and organs. He said: “Poisoning these receptors leads to paralysis, coma, delirium and in many cases death. Long term use of this medication can also impact your long term ability to fight off infections, disrupt your stomach activity and can impact sexual function.”
75 hard challenge
The 75 hard challenge isn’t named that for no reason, it is particularly intense and requires people to perform high impact workouts every day for 75 days. Dr Perry described this as “a rather odd challenge” combining other TikTok trends which involves two 45 minute workouts per day, one of which needs to be outside, drinking 4.5 litres of water each day, taking a progress photo and also reading 10 pages of inspirational non-fiction per day. He added: “The work-outs are absolutely fine, but definitely dedication and time are needed to do this across 75 days. It will be gruelling and exhausting. The recommended amount of exercise per day is at least 30 minutes.
“Getting outside is great for mind, body and soul, but equally this amount of exercise could result in injury. Of course you need to keep hydrated during the day, and more so if you’re exercising, but again 4.5 litres is so much and can have entirely the opposite effect. With the daily photo element, it is also your diet during this trial that will determine how you look after 75 days - and if you’re not seeing vast changes in the photos, it could affect your mental health and overall wellbeing.”
Mouth taping during sleep
Videos about mouth taping have over 62 million views on TikTok, and the trend sees people using a special kind of tape to seal their mouth before they go to sleep so that they can only breathe through their nose while they sleep. The purpose of this is to try to stop them from snoring, which is a frustrating sleep disorder that many people can suffer from. There are concerns around this trend as cutting off a method of breathing could be very harmful and also the tape could move overnight and pose a choking hazard, but there may also be some benefits - if it’s done correctly.
Dr Perry said: “Training your body to only breathe through the nose is a challenge but may have some health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, fighting allergens, regulating the temperature of your breath, humidifying the air you breathe and moisturising your throat, and decreasing anxiety. However, on the flip side of this, it can cause sleep disruption, bad breath, sore throat and dry mouth. There is no real evidence to suggest that this method helps with snoring or has any real health benefits.”
Dr Nye said mouth breathing could also be more helpful in certain circumstances. “Most people will subconsciously breathe through the option that provides the best oxygen intake for the whole body and there are instances where mouth breathing is required. This includes nasal congestion, sleep apnoea or those with underlying anxiety. Although you can buy porous mouth tape for sleeping, there is a growing body of evidence of people recreating this trend without the suitable products which can lead to blocked breathing through the night. It makes more sense to work on the nose in the first instance through dilators or nasal strips, ensuring you are hydrated well and that you use decongestants when needed. This will improve nose breathing more than mouth taping will.”
The blackout challenge encourages people to hold their breath for a set amount of time until they start to feel light-headed and pass out due to a lack of oxygen - and then film the supposed adrenaline rush they will feel when they regain consciousness. A report has, however, found that the extremely dangerous challenge has been linked to the deaths of 20 children in 18 months. The challenge may have led to the death of Archie Battersbee, the 12-year-old boy who died last August after spending four months in a coma following being found unresponsive at his home. Later in the same month, the mother of another youngster, Leon Brown, blamed the challenge for his sudden death.