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Wellness > Health

How TikTok Has Become a One Stop beauty salon, doctor’s office, and therapist

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KCL chapter.

When TikTok came out in 2016, it quickly rose to be one of the top social media apps in the App Store, and is now what comes to mind when we think of modern influencers. What started out as a recreation of Vine, and a platform for dancing and comedy soon turned into so much more. A recent trend is accounts that specialise in giving all kinds of advice, from beauty tips to diet hacks. While for many these videos are entertaining and often helpful, there is a hidden danger in unsolicited advice.

Beauty and wellness advice is no new trend and has been around on Facebook and YouTube for over a decade. It can be nice to feel understood and sometimes it almost feels like having an older sister or trusted friend guiding you through life. Personally, I learned how to apply mascara thanks to a YouTube video I watched at 14, and even now I learn new things every day thanks to the internet. However with TikTok’s short video style and For You Page, it sometimes feels like we’re receiving an unreasonable amount of information, and it’s hard to know what to trust. Now, this might not seem like a big deal when deciding between a Mac lipstick and NYX gloss, but what happens when the subject matter gets more serious?

It’s important to understand why there is such an audience for this sort of content, especially with American users. For many, proper healthcare can seem out of reach for a number of reasons, but notably due to finical limitations. Many doctors and medical professionals on TikTok pride themselves on giving out free medical advice to followers to help raise awareness and promote general health. A lot of this has actually done a great deal of good in destigmatising illness and inspiring people to lead more well-rounded lives. An especially popular genre of wellness advice is centred around reproductive and sexual health— something which is seldom discussed in education. All of this is leading us to a place where we feel more comfortable talking about these health struggles and can reach out when in need.

The other side of this of course is that anyone can put unsolicited health advice on TikTok and it can lead to a lot of self-diagnosis— which can be more than dangerous. Sometimes this advice doesn’t come from licensed professionals, but simply from people struggling with a certain illness. This again can be beneficial, and oftentimes it helps us to see someone struggling with something that we too experience. However, followers of these influencers will sometimes identify similar symptoms in themselves and assume they must suffer from a similar condition. Medical conditions and mental illness present a whole range of symptoms and look different for everyone involved. This is why proper medical diagnosis is always best when one is in doubt.

To take things further, creators will make videos describing symptoms and let themselves be diagnosed in the comments. This completely divulges from the original model where a doctor uses their platform to give expert advice and spread information. In this new format, anyone can weigh in. The TikTok community helps users feel safe in sharing concerns and receiving advice, as though they were speaking with friends and not complete strangers. It’s hard to know what intentions or hidden agendas someone may have when giving advice. This is evident with diet advice, which can often be dangerous if it doesn’t come from a trained dietitian. An influencer might want to promote a certain style of eating because it helps elevate their brand or advertise a product, and the welfare of users gets lost in this message. We forget how many young and impressionable people use TikTok and how diet, health, and even beauty content might start to get to them.

It’s difficult to understand if these trends do more harm than good, and to know where to draw the line. The beauty of the internet has always been its open format, which allows users to become creators and participants. But it’s important to take everything you hear online with a grain of salt and follow up with a trained professional or trusted source when concerns arise.

Grace Honan is the treasurer of the Her Campus chapter at King's College London. She oversees the budget for the group, and helps with recruiting and onboarding new writers and editors. This year she is focused on expanding the community of Her Campus and creating a safe space for its members. She enjoys writing articles centred around wellness, technology, and uni life. Grace is in her second year of undergraduate study at King's College London in the liberal arts program; her major is Politics and she is pursuing a minor in media. While this is only her second year writing for Her Campus, she has been writing for years, getting her start at her High School newspaper. When she is not writing she enjoys watching true crime documentaries and listening to sad songs. She has two cats, but if she had it her way she would have a snake too.