If you spend more time than you’d care to admit on TikTok every day, you’re in good company. More than 150 million people in the U.S. (and over a billion worldwide) are on the social media platform, which is chock-full of user-generated content featuring information on just about every topic imaginable. Many of the posts on TikTok are forms of creative expression—people lip-syncing, dancing, and being comedic—but there’s also a great deal of news-based hot takes that delve into the areas of politics, spirituality, and yes, health.
A good deal of the creators who focus on health are credentialed experts, and the information and tips they offer are valuable. On the flip side, there are plenty of creators who fancy themselves experts but have little to no meaningful experience to back up their health claims and advice. This has actual experts quite concerned. “Younger generations aren’t watching traditional news networks like generations of the past; they watch an influencer on TikTok talk about a diet product, style of eating, or an exercise routine and make their decision about its validity based on that user’s believability,” explains chiropractor Allen Conrad, D.C., C.S.C.S., owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in Pennsylvania.
And while the ability to exchange ideas and opinions with a large community is one of social media’s greatest positives, it’s also made platforms like TikTok breeding grounds for all sorts of troublesome health trends. Here are a few of the TikTok health trends that experts recommend steering clear of.
- About Our Experts: Allen Conrad, D.C., C.S.C.S., is a chiropractor, strength and conditioning specialist, and owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in Pennsylvania. Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. Jordan Duncan, D.C., is a chiropractor at Silverdale Sport & Spine in Washington. Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., is a doctor of nutrition and the owner of eatrightfitness. Dana Cohen, M.D., is an integrative medical doctor based in Manhattan.
1. Dry scooping
Pre-workout supplements have long been hailed for their ability to boost performance in the gym. Though many of the products out there have unique formulas, these powdered powerhouses are all designed to be mixed with water—and for good reason. The water helps dilute the powder, making it easier to swallow, digest, and absorb.
Unfortunately, TikTok has been the home of certain creators who practice consuming the powder as is, sans water, which is known as ‘dry scooping’.
“Not only can tossing back a bunch of dry pre-workout powder lead to choking and irritation to the lining of your mouth and throat, but it can also cause the stimulants in pre-workouts to get into your body too fast and cause heart issues like elevated blood pressure and arrhythmias,” warns doctor of nutrition Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., owner of eatrightfitness. He recommends following your pre-workout’s directions—which normally instruct to mix it with water or another non-acidic beverage—to a tee in order to reap the benefits without any undesirable effects.
2. At-home microneedling
This skin-care procedure, which involves creating tiny punctures in the skin to stimulate collagen production and improve the appearance of scars, stretch marks, and fine lines, is best left up to a professional. As scary as sticking yourself with a bunch of little needles may seem, DIY microneedling is nevertheless a concept currently circulating through TikTok—and it’s making dermatologists, like The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council member Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., quite nervous. “Oftentimes, at-home [microneedling] devices are limited in how much of a benefit they can deliver and come with the risk of injuring the skin, which can lead to irritation, scarring, or hyperpigmentation,” she warns. “Since the risks outweigh the benefits, it is preferred to do this procedure in an in-office setting.” Leave the skin-pricking to the professionals, okay?
3. DIY Chiropractic
When scrolling through TikTok, Jordan Duncan, D.C., a chiropractor at Silverdale Sport & Spine, is always put off by the countless back- or neck-cracking videos he sees, which essentially aim to teach viewers how to become their own chiropractor. “Not only are the techniques in these videos, which consist of different positions and movements designed to elicit a ‘pop’ from the joints of the spine, often ineffective, but they could actually be harmful,” he says. “Chiropractors receive years of specialized training to learn how to treat patients and this cannot be replicated in a short video.” If you’re dealing with back or neck pain, he recommends seeking out a licensed chiropractor rather than trying to attempt what they do on your own.
4. Drinking ‘lemon coffee’
Some TikTok influencers are suggesting that people put lemon juice in their coffee instead of milk or cream. Uh, why? According to these content creators, it’s to encourage weight loss and even supposedly relieve headaches and diarrhea.
Firstly, these outcomes are totally unproven by science, says Adams. Not to mention, such a combo can cause unpleasant symptoms, like stomach irritation and acid reflux, and may even reduce the enamel on your teeth due to its high acidity, he warns. If you’re looking for something new and novel to add to your morning cup of Joe, Adams recommends oat milk, which can offer fiber, vitamins, and minerals, all of which boost the nutritional content of your coffee (while making it smooth and creamy).
5. Putting garlic inside your nose
Yes, this is really a health trend that’s cropping up all over TikTok. The claim is that corking your nostrils with full cloves of garlic encourages snot to come out and, thus, relieves you of a stuffy nose and general congestion.
While it’s true that snot does come out after 10 to 15 minutes of chilling with garlic cloves up your nose, it’s not the congestion you were hoping to eliminate, but rather additional mucus that your body expels in an attempt to get rid of the garlic, says Adams. “This can cause great irritation to your nasal cavity and even lead to more issues, plus the garlic could actually get lodged up there,” he says. “If you experience nasal congestion, a safer alternative may be to do a saline nasal rinse.” (Try Xlear’s Natural Nasal Spray or Beekeeper’s Naturals Propolis Nasal Spray.)
6. Drinking raw potato juice
TikTokers have caught on to a dangerous health trend that involves drinking raw potato juice to “cure” strep throat, which is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. The theory is that potato juice, which contains some nutrients like vitamin C, can act as a treatment for a sore throat. No surprise, there’s zero scientific evidence to support this.
The treatment for strep has long remained the same: antibiotics. “While it’s not harmful to drink raw potato juice—in fact, it contains beneficial vitamins and minerals—it is harmful to assume it can rid the body of a bacterial infection like strep throat,” says Dana Cohen, M.D., an integrative medical doctor based in Manhattan.
If you’re dealing with a sore throat that comes on suddenly and is accompanied by a fever, red, swollen tonsils that feature white patches, and flu-like symptoms such as body aches and headaches, make an appointment with your primary care provider who can prescribe a course of antibiotics.