Why Experts Are Warning Against This TikTok Contouring Trend

Fashion and beauty trend factory, TikTok, is at it once again. The latest makeup hack to go viral on the platform, promoted by popular users like Eli Withrow, involves a new and "natural" way to add semi-permanent contouring to your face. Sir John Barnett, makeup artist to Beyonce herself, even advocated for the technique on the beauty podcast "Fat Mascara" way back in 2017. So, why are other makeup artists and dermatologists now warning against the practice and calling it dangerous?


Even if you decide to go through with trying this makeup-inspired technique in the end, arming yourself with accurate and unbiased information about the potential risks beforehand is the most responsible route to take. Here is a guide to everything you need to know about the latest contouring method to hit social media and what it could mean for your skin and your overall health in both the long-term and the short-term.

TikTok trend alert: SPF contouring

As detailed by TikTok user Sarah's Super Spa, SPF contouring, also called sunscreen, sun, or sun lotion contouring, involves applying sunscreen to block the sun from reaching the areas of your face that you would normally lighten or highlight with makeup. The areas of your face that you would normally darken with bronzer, according to the method, should either be left without sun protection or coated with a much weaker strength SPF lotion than the area you wish to highlight, depending on which proponent you subscribe to.


Once you've applied your strategic sun protection, you're theoretically ready to go sit in the sun for several hours. The next day, you should be able to see the resulting tan that darkens only the areas of your face you'd normally contour with makeup. Since a tan can last for months with continued exposure, your new contour is touted as a potentially semi-permanent replacement for expensive and time-consuming cream and powder products. Even a one-time tan can last you up to a week and a half, according to Healthline.

The risks of SPF contouring

Not long after the SPF contouring trend reached social media, experts started posting their own videos calling the technique out for its obvious health risks. An esthetician on TikTok known as @lipgloss_aftershave even offered a safe alternative method that involves applying tinted SPF creams to the face in different shades to achieve that same contoured appearance with full sun protection.


The main problem with SPF contouring is that is directs people to purposefully under-protect certain areas of their face from the sun. Any time sun exposure alters the natural pigment of your skin, there is sun damage occurring at the cellular level as a result of the sun's ultra-violet rays. Over time, this damage can accumulate and result in skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop this type of cancer by the time they turn 70. No beauty trend, no matter how time-saving, is worth risking a life-threatening cancer diagnosis.