IF YOU’VE SCROLLED through TikTok recently, you may have come across a new viral trend known as ‘bone smashing’, which is convincing people, typically young men, to literally break their bones, in the hope of chiselling out a more defined jawline. It’s obviously dangerous, but its advocates claim the process is undeniably effective. Hmmm.
#bonesmashing currently has just under 300 million views on TikTok. Most of the videos under this hashtag either feature someone with a suspiciously sharp jawline preaching the benefits of bone smashing, or a medical professional begging viewers not to engage in the practise. Thankfully, most of the comments on these posts are sceptical, if not outraged. After all, no beauty standard—no matter how idealised a good jawline may be—is worth breaking your face over.
@syrianpsycho BONESMASHING does NOT WORK. ❌ #fyp #based #syrianpsycho #selfimprovement #trending ♬ The Sound of Myself – Disasterpeace
But bone smashing isn’t the first pseudo-scientific beauty trend to gain traction on social media. For as long as we’ve cared about our looks, we’ve devised increasingly unusual methods of refining them. But with the hyper connectivity facilitated by social media platforms like TikTok, these trends appear to be arriving more frequently than ever. They also seem to be getting more extreme.
The concept of ‘mewing’ has also been gaining popularity recently. This involves placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth and setting your teeth shut for long periods of time, with the similar promise of developing an aesthetically pleasing jawline. Mouth-taping also took off this year. And it’s exactly what it sounds like. Participants tape their mouths shut while they sleep, hoping to achieve better sleep, but also for the far more superficial reason of preventing bad breath—why not just have a mint?
@5mirnov 🦴 💥 #selfimprovement #lookism #looksmaxxing ♬ blackpill curse by james sapphire x north – James Sapphire
It’s easy to dismiss these trends as inevitable outcomes of a society where influencers are positioned as credible sources. Half the time on the internet, it’s difficult to tell if health advice is serious or a joke—look at guys like Brian Johnson (aka the Liver King) for example. The man literally convinced a corner of the internet that his brawn was the result of eating raw meet, organs and livers. It was later revealed he’d spent over $11,000 a month on anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs while promoting the “ancestral” lifestyle.
Yet still, the intoxicating promise of getting ripped quickly means that genuine medical advice is often taken with a grain of salt, and increasingly outrageous practises continue to pop up. No one is being forced to take part in these practises, however. And we need to question why people are becoming more open to pseudo-scientific trends, rather than writing them off.
Is bone smashing safe?
In all seriousness, don’t try bone smashing. Its advocates suggest that causing microfractures in your face will result in your bones to healing in a more attractive shape, but that’s just not true. “I honestly never thought I’d have to come on here and say this, but please don’t intentionally break the bones in your face,” said Dr. Prem Tripathi, a plastic surgeon, in a video posted to TikTok. “If you’re not given the genetics to have a jawline, unfortunately, you have to see a professional.”
While bones can heal and regrow in slightly different shapes and sizes than their original forms, there’s no way to control exactly how they’ll heal. Bones can reform in ways you might not anticipate, causing permanent disfigurement, or at the very least, unsatisfactory results for bone smashers.
Where did the bone smashing trend come from?
Bone smashing can trace its origins to incel (involuntarily celibate, for those unfamiliar with the term) culture. This is one of the darkest corners of the internet, and its not a place we’d recommend visiting unless you enjoy rampant misogyny and constantly hearing terms like ‘looksmaxing’.
The hyper-masculine realm of incel culture is one that’s obsessed with physical appearances. After all, the quest for validation from peers and the opposite sex is what fuels these people. As a result, desperation to achieve a validation-worthy appearance is at the top of the agenda for incels, and they’ll do anything to attain their desired look. That often crystallises in the form of adopting the scripture of absurd beauty trends like bone smashing.
Trends like bone smashing can be seen as a consequence of incel culture entering the mainstream, but they’re also symptomatic of a society which places far too high a value on looks. There’s a reason the people who engage in these practises do so, and it presents a worrying prospect for the rest of us.
Why do bizarre beauty trends keep gaining popularity?
Statistics show that, more than previous generations, Gen Zers are increasingly unsatisfied with their appearances.
Plastic surgery is at an all time high, and Gen Z’s penchant for reshaping their faces is a big reason why. 75% of plastic surgeons in the United States have reported increased bookings from clients under 30. And it isn’t just women. According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 265,000 men received botox injections in the USA in 2020. That’s a 182% increase on the numbers from the turn of the millennium.
Personal preferences aside, there’s nothing with getting plastic surgery, but such a sharp and sudden increase needs to be addressed. It seems like a bit of a stretch to suggest that men have, all of a sudden, collectively realised they’d all fancy some facial reconstruction and are acting accordingly. No, the rise in plastic surgery is emblematic of an issue that’s been plaguing women for decades, but has now become similarly entrenched amongst men: unrealistic beauty standards.
Men have always had beauty standards, perhaps not as high as those attached to women, but they’ve always been there nonetheless. Now, these standards aren’t reserved for the more fashionably inclined and health-conscious man, but for the common man too. And it’s the allure of the unattainable that’s driving more and more men towards altering their appearances. Whether that materialises in the form of plastic surgery, or in partaking in a dangerous beauty trend, likely varies with each individual. But as the pressure to reach heightened standards of attractiveness continues to increase, we can only expect trends like bone smashing to stay in the spotlight.