June 27, 2024

New Body Image Trend: Looksmaxxing + facial gum and how students can make positive choices

Be sure to check out the suggested Huddle question at the bottom of this article to discuss this important topic with your students in class, if you feel it is appropriate.

Did you know that 72% of students feel pressured to look perfect due to beauty standards set by social media? One trend, ‘looksmaxxing,’ is a social media trend mainly targeting young male students and encouraging them to change their physical appearance. The trend has been around for a few months, but recently, it got a popular new addition – facial gum, or gum made out of tree resin. Many students are asking their parents for ‘facial gum’ after seeing the trend on social media with the goal of sharpening their jawlines. However, experts warn that these facial gums can harm jawbones due to their tough-to-chew ingredients.  

As students encounter trends such as ‘looksmaxxing’ and influencers promoting facial gum on the social media apps they use daily, they might be influenced to make uninformed decisions that could harm their health or self-esteem. That’s why it’s important for students to be able to engage critically with the products they see promoted online and to find positive and credible influencers on social media. Educators can guide students toward high-character decisions that enhance their well-being by empowering them to find positive influencers online.

Looksmaxxing, facial gum, and how these trends impact students

Facial gum is part of the larger ‘looksmaxxing’ trend on TikTok, where young men take extreme steps, like using steroids and undergoing cosmetic surgery, to change their appearance. One of the trend’s leaders, Kareem Shami, has over 1.5 million followers and sells an online course on ‘looksmaxxing’, which includes lessons on sharpening one’s jawline. Influencers like Shami claim that using facial gum made from mastic tree resin can achieve this effect as it’s more difficult to chew than regular gum. The companies making this gum, like Stronger Gum, say that the chewing difficulty doubles as a jaw exercise.

We know that many students are seeing this trend on social media and are easily influenced by online trends. In one article, a 14-year-old reported that most of his peers want to change their jawline due to seeing the ‘looksmaxxing’ trend on TikTok and because they want to “look like models.” The companies that make facial gum are also meeting students where they are and marketing the gum heavily on TikTok. However, many dental experts say that facial gum likely doesn’t work and can actually put students at risk for jaw pain or even jaw disorders like TMJ. Plus, the prices of the gum can be steep, with some companies pricing it at $90 for six packs. Influencers often don’t highlight these risks or costs, underscoring the need for students to follow positive and credible influencers online. 

In 2023, 69% of Gen Z purchased something they saw on social media, highlighting the significant impact of influencers and online marketing on students. When we empower students to find and follow positive influencers online, students are less likely to be challenged with negative trends like facial gum that could harm their health. They’re also less likely to participate in trends that might impact their self-esteem, like wanting to use facial gum to change how they look, because low self-esteem could hinder their academic success. 

TSI’s Take

Social media is undoubtedly transforming how we interact with students in the classroom. And educators are likely seeing the impact of trends, such as ‘looksmaxing’, in their school communities. While many trends are positive and light-hearted, students might see the facial gum trend as an exercise without knowing that it can negatively affect them by hurting their jaw or giving them headaches.

Additionally, the desire for a sharper jawline can lead to negative feelings about their appearance, affecting their self-esteem and ability to focus on learning. By empowering students to follow positive and credible influencers, educators can help reduce the impact of negative trends and fill students’ social media feeds with positive content instead.

Here are some pro tips on how educators can empower students to focus on positive trends and influencers online:

  • Create lists of positive influencers: Work with students to create a list of influencers who promote healthy, positive, and evidence-based content. This can include influencers focusing on mental health, body positivity, and personal growth. To do this, run the Student Challenge, Building your dream team of people who bring out the best in you. Not a partner? Request access to this challenge here.
  • Encourage huddling: Create a safe space for students to talk about the trends they encounter online. Discuss the potential impacts of these trends on their health and well-being, and provide factual information to counteract any misconceptions. Here’s how
  • Check product ingredients: When an influencer promotes a product like facial gum, encourage students to look into the ingredients and how those ingredients might affect their health. To help them practice analyzing ingredients, run the Student Challenge and analyze what’s behind popular skincare products. Request access to this challenge here

Self-improvement trends like ‘looksmaxxing’ and facial gum can lead to low self-esteem in students, prompting them to make poor decisions that affect their self-image and health. However, when students focus on positive social media influencers and think critically about online marketing and trends, they can make informed decisions about which trends to follow and how they will impact their well-being and self-esteem. To explore more ways to empower students to find their influencers, check out the #WinAtSocial lesson, Recognizing how much online ads and social media influencers influence us

#WinAtSocial Huddle Question

Huddle with your students
Think about the influencers you follow on social media. If you saw them promote a product you might be interested in, would you trust their review? Why or why not?

The Social Institute (TSI) is the leader in empowering students by understanding students. Through #WinAtSocial, our gamified, peer-to-peer learning platform, we equip students, educators, and families to navigate their social world – in the classroom and beyond, online and offline – in healthy, high-character ways. Our unique, student-respected approach empowers and equips, rather than scares and restricts. We incorporate timely topics about social media, tech use, and current events that are impacting student well-being and learning. #WinAtSocial Lessons teach life skills for the modern day, capture student voice, and provide school leaders with actionable insights. Through these insights, students play an essential role in school efforts to support their own health, happiness, and future success as we enable high-impact teaching, meaningful family conversations, and a healthy school culture.