Sunscreen contouring: The dangerous TikTok skincare trend you should avoid

TikTok loves a good skincare hack, but if there is one product that should never be messed with, it’s SPF.

Sunscreen Contouring: The Dangerous TikTok Skincare Trend You Should Avoid
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The sun is finally out, which means now more than ever, it’s vital to be wearing and reapplying your SPF. After all, sunscreen is the most important skincare product when it comes to protecting your skin against UV damage and preventing the signs of ageing...which is probably why it should never be used as a contour tool.

For the second summer in a row, a TikTok skincare hack has seen people using their SPF to create a ‘natural suntan contour’, with the original video racking up over 12 million views. Needless to say, any dermatologist will tell you that the practice comes with some serious risks.

What is SPF contouring?

The original video shows one TikToker layer her face in an SPF 30 sunscreen before adding an extra thick layer of SPF 90 to the high points of the face. The aim of the hack is to create a facial tan that resembles contour and highlights for a ‘naturally snatched’ look.

However, the TikTok skincare hack seems to ignore that the very purpose of SPF is to protect your face from UV exposure and sun damage.

Goop’s very own Gwyneth Paltrow also came under fire earlier this year for using a similar technique. In a Vogue video, the ex-actress revealed that she only used SPF ‘where the sun really hits’, applying delicately to the tops of her cheekbones and down her nose.

Gwyneth’s shocking SPF application famously infuriated skincare professionals everywhere, with many of them taking to social media to set the record straight.

Why SPF contouring is dangerous

Speaking about the TikTok contouring trend, dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD told Refinery29:

This is absolutely not a safe treatment. We know that direct UV light exposure is the single greatest risk factor for the development of both premature aging as well as skin cancers.

Essentially, there is no such thing as a healthy tan. When you use the sun to contour your cheekbones, you’re effectively subjecting them to sun damage. And, if the threat of skin cancer isn’t enough to throw you off the trend, imagine what it could mean for the future of your face. By selectively protecting certain areas of your face from SPF and not others, you’re also selecting which parts of your face you want to age faster.

Here’s how you should be applying your SPF

To ensure your skin stays its healthiest, you should be applying the right amount of sunscreen at regular intervals throughout the day. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a full shot glass worth of SPF to cover the whole body, which equates to about half a teaspoon for your entire face and neck and reapplying every two hours.

Using an SPF with the proper protection level also goes a long way. Sunscreens with an SPF of 50 upwards is always a good choice. Make sure the product is also broad-spectrum, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. For more information on incorporating SPF into your skincare routine, check out our guide here.