Face-Slapping and Formaldehyde: 4 Risky Health and Beauty Trends

Back in my modeling, pre-nutritionist days, I was exposed to countless dangerous beauty and weight control tactics—from disordered eating habits to attempting to sweat off pounds by wearing plastic bodysuits at the gym. While they aren’t always as obvious, these practices aren’t limited to the fashion world. I see them routinely in everyday life, and so, most likely, do you. Many of the most dangerous seem innocent. And the more common they become, the more people embrace them as normal, healthy and worth any adverse consequence.

real beauty facts

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the evening news when a story about face slapping as an “anti-aging” technique aired. What bothered me even more than the the “experts” touting face smacking as a useful way to minimize wrinkles was the fact that the story focused on whether or not the practice is effective—with no mention of the risks or what it says about our culture that people will pay someone to instill pain in an attempt to, essentially, kill the aging process. I can only imagine how many young girls caught the episode and considered a self-smacking makeover.


I could probably spend the rest of my life writing and talking on the air about risky beauty trends without a lack of material. Here are just a handful of the latest biggies. (For more on these and others, listen to my show on the topic using the link below.)

Following a restrictive “lifestyle plan”

Now that most folks realize that dieting doesn’t work, fewer report partaking in recent years. But the savvy marketing world found a loophole to dieting’s popularity loss. Makers of many harmful diets now call their regimes “healthy lifestyle plans.” (“It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!” How often have you heard that?) Very few truly are. If a plan keeps you from leading a healthy balanced, flexible dietary life, it’s a diet—particularly if it heavily restricts calories, carbs or other nutrients.

Taking risky supplements

While many valuable dietary supplements exist, countless more promise unproven results, contain risky ingredients and pose potentially serious health risks. Just because a supplement contains natural ingredients—or claims to—doesn’t mean it’s safe or healthy. Mega-dose and weight loss supplements are particularly risky. (I explored this one pretty extensively on my show.)

Hair straightening and blow-outs using formaldehyde

There’s no way to know how much formaldehyde (aka embalming fluid) these treatments contain. Considered a “probable human carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency, formaldehyde could contribute known to cancer risks, while irritating your lungs and eyes. “Formaldehyde has been shown to cause mutations in cellular DNA,” dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, a professor at Yale School of Medicine told Women’sHealth, “and some may be absorbed through the scalp during the hair treatment.”

“Waist Training”

This corset-training technique praised by Kim Kardashian all over social media is more than a waste of time and money. It can interfere with breathing, digestion, your self-image, emotional health and more. And partaking won’t merely hurt you. By engaging you contribute to the false notion that teeny tiny waists are ideal.

To learn more about these and other risky beauty tactics, check out my recent Girl Boner Radio episode here:

Risky Diet and Beauty Trends via iTunes

As a reminder, #YouSparkle sticky notes and more are now available in my Fem-powerment Shop! Thanks so much to those of you who’ve already placed orders and helped spread the word. ♥

For more myth-debunking, check out my very first Huffington Post piece, 3 Myths About Female Sexuality — And Why We Keep Believing Them. I’m so stoked and grateful for this new opportunity.

Which beauty trend here or on my show most struck you? Is there one you’d like me to explore? I love hearing from you!

Leave a comment


  1. I especially am glad you’re covering hair straightening as my daughter has curly hair. I never knew they did it with formaldehyde. Horrible! Face slapping as far as I know comes from Asia. My Korean friend did (both hands on cheeks but it wasn’t hard or painful) it after putting on face cream. I am not saying it works but that may be its origins. Not sure. If people are really smacking the crap out of their own faces, that’s not right anyway.

    • I’m not sure if all hair-straightening techniques use it, but it’s definitely worth checking into if your daughter’s considering it! It’s so funny/sad how we so often want what we don’t have — curly hair if ours is straight, straight if it’s curly…not that there’s anything wrong with changing things up or exploring different styles. 🙂 And you’re right about the face-slapping having Asian roots. I’m glad to hear that your friend’s approach wasn’t painful!

  2. There’s embalming fluid in hair straightening methods? Yikes! This whole post has me cringing for how the media advertises to everyone – but women in particular. How disheartening. We need more #YouSparkle! Because you’re right, it is a full time job.

  3. Raani York

     /  December 13, 2014

    Jeeeez, August… world’s getting obsessed with “processes” to stop aging by slapping themselves? Holy Smokes! What I find even more shocking is the fact that nobody tells the young girls (and the older one too) that they will not do anything but damaging capillary and facial tissue… I could imagine after practicing this “process” for half a year one might look like a bloodshed-red-cheeked St. Bernard where half the face is hanging to the chin. *sigh*
    As for the corset-training… and Kim Kardashian… I think after three letters to that “lady” I figure half the free world knows what I think about her. In my opinion her brain isn’t working half an inch normally and damaging her inner organs and spine in combination with blowing up her butt to dimensions that make her look like a beer-horse from the back says pretty much everything about her intelligence using this kind of “slimming-down”-process.
    Uhm… I better stop here before it gets worse… this would be unforgivable. LOL
    Thanks for the warning to all of your readers, August!!


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