TikTok, Please Stop Idolizing Sharp Jawlines
The trend perpetuates fatphobia and toxic beauty standards.
Whoever coined the saying, "history repeats itself" may not have known it at the time, but they created a phrase that perfectly applies to problematic beauty trends. While we'd hope that we learned from disasters like the Kylie Jenner lip challenge (which sent people to the hospital with dangerously swollen lips) and the Kardashian-promoted flat tummy teas (which are essentially laxative-laced drinks that can put internal organs at risk), these trends are still happening today. The latest beauty trend with hazardous side effects comes from influencers on TikTok who encourage people to "exercise" their jaws to achieve a more razor sharp jawline.
There's an extremely predictable trajectory with beauty trends like this: They always start with a societally enforced beauty standard (plump lips, a flat stomach, a chiseled jaw, etc.) that's difficult to achieve unless you were born with it. Next, come the products marketed to help people attain the often unattainable standards. Then, finally, come the wave of experts cautioning against these trends or products, and the horror stories from people who have been scarred by them.
If you search #jawlinecheck on TikTok, you'll find videos with a cumulative 216.2 million views, featuring people showing off their sharp jawlines, their before and after pictures from jaw surgery, and tips for how to get a more defined jawline. One TikTok video, which has 8.8 million views, reads, "Ur not fat! Just suck your tongue," and shows user @shanndv demonstrating how she sucks in the skin underneath her chin for the appearance of a sharper jawline.
While some of these videos may not seem all that consequential, they all reinforce the idea that sharp jawlines are the ideal beauty standard and that, subsequently, softer, fuller jawlines are not. With more reinforcement of this beauty standard also comes the increased pressure to meet it.
At the time of writing this article, the Google search for the term "how to sharpen your jawline" was up by 200% YOY, as was the search for "how much is jawline filler." Konstantin Vasyukevich, M.D., a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon, says he's seen "interest in a sharper jawline from younger people" increasing over the past years. "Typically, at this age group, we do two treatments—either liposuction for people with fullness and a little bit of extra fat, or we use fillers to sharpen the jawline," he tells HelloGiggles.
While the sharp jawline trend can't be attributed specifically to TikTok, many creators on the platform have been steadily—and sometimes dangerously—pushing the trend forward. Responding to those popular queries on "how to sharpen your jawline," content creators and influencers have been promoting a "facial workout" product called Jawzrsize, a small, ball-shaped device you chew on to supposedly define and tone the jawline.
A TikTok user formerly known as @thelifeofbei gained a lot of attention for her promotion of this product and the results she claimed to get from it. In a since deleted video opening with the words, "How I got rid of my double chin in 57 days," the content creator showed footage of herself using the "jawline exerciser" device, along with before and after photos of her side profile.
While the "after" photos of her distinctly more defined jaw were enough to convince some to buy the product, it didn't take long for people to flag the video as false advertising. One TikTok dentist, by the username @thyrants, took particular issue with the video, calling out the claims in his own TikTok captioned, "the tale of the seriously problematic non-functional jaw exercise product."
In the video, @thyrants displayed screenshots from @thelifeofbei's previous videos about her weight loss journey, including a comment in which she wrote, "I run for 30-40 mins straight every day, I jump rope for 1hr straight. I ate 1800 calories a day and my jawline is from my mom and dad's genes." He then showed an illustration of temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), and accused @thelifeofbei of "shilling for a company that sells a product that can damage your TMJ." He ended the video with the assertion, "these influencers are lying to you about their jawlines to make money."
Another doctor, Charles S. Lee, M.D., FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, also responded to @thelifeofbei's original video to debunk her claims. "There's no way that device can get rid of a double chin," he said, using the green screen feature over her original video. In his TikTok, posted under the username @drlee90210, Dr. Lee gets into the anatomy of the jaw, explaining how devices like Jawzrsize work the masseter muscle, "which is responsible for chewing," rather than the platysma muscle, "which is the only thing that's near the whole jawline," where a double chin would be. Overuse of jaw exercising devices, he said, can cause TMJ, damage teeth, and create a "masculine square jaw."
Dr. Vasyukevich echoed these concerns of jaw strain, TMJ, and dental damage, saying he thinks dentists should be concerned with this trend. He also expanded on the misconceptions around exercising the jaw and what it actually does. "People think if they exercise a certain part of the body, that part is going to get slimmer, which is not the case," he says. "Either the whole body gets slimmer if someone exercises, or it doesn't, so, exercising the jaw to make it slimmer doesn't make any medical sense."
What does happen when someone exercises the jaw, he explains, is that "the chewing muscles on the side of the jaw, [the masseter muscles], become more prominent." While this can add more muscle structure on the side of the jaw and lead to the appearance of a sharper jawline, he says, the results all "depend on the person's individual facial structure"—and these jaw workouts can do much more harm than good.
Dr. Vasyukevich further explained that exercising the jaw can have similar side effects to teeth grinding. "Teeth grinding is not a good thing because it causes a lot of issues with the joint that connects the jaw to the head," he says. "And when too much pressure is put on that joint, it starts malfunctioning, causing pain, clicking, and the jaw starts dislocating, so it's a fairly significant problem."
So, hopefully, the above doctor advice is enough to convince you not to invest in a dangerous jaw exercising device. However, when it comes to the reason the sharp jawline trend is problematic, that's not where the conversation should end. While there are several other videos under the #jawlinecheck hashtag that don't promote products, they still promote a beauty standard that isn't achievable to most without the use of reconstructive surgery, fillers, or significant weight loss.
One of the common #jawlinecheck challenges involves users showing their side profiles with their jaw relaxed and an intentional double chin, before stretching out their necks to reveal a more defined jawline. While this challenge doesn't directly tell viewers that they need to make any changes to their appearance, it still presents a before and after dichotomy in which the before (the softer, double-chinned jawline) is seen as bad and undesirable and the after (the sharp jawline) is seen as good and desirable. So, if someone is watching these videos and their jawline never looks like the "after" version, then they're getting the message loud and clear that they don't fit the standard.
Videos like these also fall under a trend of TikTok challenges that say things like, "if you have [this specific feature], you're attractive," often centering Eurocentric beauty standards and perpetuating a culture of fatphobia. Other videos include challenges that favor small noses, big lips, and symmetrical faces. While some of these trends are presented as confidence boosters and opportunities for people to show love to themselves, they gatekeep who gets to feel confident, attractive, and worthy of praise in the comments section. That's because, for every new "show off your X" beauty challenge, there are people who aren't invited to participate and body types or features that are juxtaposed as the opposite to whatever is being praised.
Plus, when we look closely, these beauty trends aren't new at all but are instead just new spins on age-old messaging about what society considers attractive. So, before participating in any existing beauty challenges, or creating new ones, we should always be considering whether we're bringing people in or leaving people out. The goal should always be the former.