Confession time: I am deeply gullible, especially when it comes to TikTok. Claims about mixing balsamic vinegarette and your La Croix flavor of choice tastes exactly like Coca-Cola? I'm on my way to the store. A primer that claims to make pores look like they got hit with a Blur tool? I'm already on the order confirmation page. Digital tarot cards promising a financial windfall? I'll take lotto numbers 13, 9, and 49! It's a strange world we live in, and perhaps I should be a little more cynical. But, then my FYP serves up something as eye-popping as "face tape" hacks, and I'm instantly intrigued again—even celebrities swear by the skin-snatching trick.
But, assessing the validity of something like face tape requires legitimate experts. To make sense of the growing fad, I spoke with a top cosmetic surgeon, and a celebrity makeup artist for a professional's take on all things face tape.
What Is Face Tape?
"Face tape has a long history of being used in film and theater to define and lift the face and jawline, typically hidden by wigs and costumes," explains Alana Wright, a top-rated makeup artist who's worked with stars like Nicole Richie, Yvonne Orji, and Elaine Welteroth. "Eventually, it spilled over into fashion and the world of glam to tighten the face to give a 'snatched' look." Face tape is just that—actual sticky tape, often connected by a thin string or thread that physically grabs onto the skin to make it more taut and sculpted. While Wright says she doesn't use face tape on her clients very often, when it is requested, it's to get an instant "face-lift effect" or a more chiseled jawline.
Despite the practice's place in cosmetic history, it's only very recently that celebrities are getting candid about their experience with face tape. In an intimate interview with Vogue, Bella Hadid opened up about using face tape to alter her own eye shape. "Whoever thinks I’ve gotten my eyes lifted or whatever it’s called—it’s face tape," she told the magazine to some controversy. "The oldest trick in the book.”
Just weeks later, the love-it-or-hate-it reality show Selling Sunset featured a scene in which one cast member's face tape falls off at lunch. And, of course, TikTok is rife with face tape transformation videos, all featuring comment sections that seem to be firmly divided about the technique's efficacy and necessity. "Is this what we're doing now?" one commenter asked the void on a video with more than 100 million views. More than a few people have expressed skepticism at normalizing face taping for day-to-day use. Still, others compared it to a real-life filter (a compliment from some).
Does Face Tape Work?
As is the case with approximately everything on TikTok, the answer is that it kind of works most of the time, and it works well only some of the time. However, even with perfect use, it's not without some serious downsides. "I've been seeing eye taping for years in my practice, where patients use eyelid tape to help reduce the excess upper lid skin, thus giving them a good idea of what they would look like if they wanted something more permanent like upper eyelid surgery," explains Dr. Christopher Zoumalan, MD FACS, oculoplastic surgeon.
Is It Safe for Everyday Use?
Though Dr. Zoumalan says the practice is a common and accepted way to see the potential results of surgery in your doctor's office, that specific (and short-term) use case is about as functional as it gets. Zoumalan points to skin irritation from the tape adhesive as just one pitfall, while Wright explains that frequent taping (and therefore stretching) of delicate facial skin can actually speed up the natural aging process, which leads to sagging. "Face tape is only meant to be worn for a few hours. I wouldn’t recommend wearing for long periods of time," Wright warns.
Why Are People Using Face Tape?
Just like fillers and injectables, face tape is growing in popularity as a non-surgical alternative to facial contouring, especially around the eyes and jawline. In 2020, the problematic "fox eye trend" took over TikTok to the dismay of many—especially among AAPI communities who have these traits naturally, but have been derided for them in the not-so-distant past. But outside of full-on shape altering, many who seek eyelid surgery, in general, do it in pursuit of bigger eyes or more alert-looking eyes.
"There has been a tremendous uptick in eyelid surgery over the past two years, especially with the WFH lifestyle," Dr. Zoumalan tells Byrdie. "With the constant Zoom calls and mask-wearing, people are becoming hyper-aware of the changes with aging around their eyes." In fact, he's personally seen a 50% uptick in blepharoplasty (upper eyelid surgery) demand in the past two years alone. "The procedure immediately improves the constant tired look that everyone keeps asking you about and can create a more 'snatched' appearance because you’re literally removing excess fat and skin."
The Bottom Line
So, is face tape worth it? There certainly seem to be some instances in which it could be pretty useful, like contemplating a procedure in your doctor's office or a moment on stage. Otherwise, it seems like this trend is best avoided. Not only could you end up irritating your skin, making it sag more quickly, or failing to conceal the (pretty obvious) tape and strings, but I'm also not sure anyone needs another daily standard to add to the list. I don't know about you, but my routine is full. I'll be keeping my eyes and jawline tape-free.