Cyanide has an eerie connotation. When we hear cyanide, our body immediately rejects the thought knowing it’s a potentially deadly substance. Meanwhile, the younger generations are being duped by pseudo-experts on TikTok, claiming consuming cyanide can help reduce acne. According to the CDC, cyanide is released from natural substances like some foods and plants, such as the pits and seeds of fruit. Long-term effects of significant exposure can include heart, brain and nerve damage, warns the CDC.
We asked board-certified dermatologists about this trend, and Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby begins with, “Oh brother,” which pretty much sums up our feelings on consuming cyanide in the hopes that it will clear skin, which won’t work. “It’s truly disheartening to witness a concerning trend where individuals are sharing life-threatening procedures on platforms like TikTok, disguising them as helpful advice,” says Dr. Allenby.
Dangerous try-at-home trends seem to be on the rise as people put misguided trust in strangers on the internet. “The extent to which people are readily embracing the most absurd notions without any factual verification is alarming,” says Dr. Allenby.
The dangers of consuming cyanide
“Consuming even small amounts of cyanide can have severe and potentially fatal consequences,” warns New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD. It can interfere with essential processes of the body, like cellular respiration, which is vital for energy production, she explains.
“When ingested, cyanide swiftly disrupts the oxygen supply to red blood cells, leading to a suffocating demise,” says Dr. Allenby. “The symptoms that accompany this process—feeling dreadful, experiencing dizziness, and uncontrollable vomiting—paint a grim picture of the excruciating fate that awaits those who fall victim to such misguided advice.” Even if you escape the immediate side effects and potential fatality, other symptoms can stick with you if you make a habit out of consuming cyanide, as the trend suggests. “Chronic exposure to low levels of cyanide can also lead to long-term health problems affecting the neurological, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems,” says Dr. Levine.
What is cyanide, and could it even help acne?
The basis of this trend is that consuming cyanide helps reduce acne, but this isn’t accurate. “Cyanide is a highly toxic chemical compound that can be extremely harmful to human health. It contains a carbon atom bonded to a nitrogen atom. It disrupts the body’s ability to use oxygen properly,” says Dr. Levine.
“There is no scientific basis to suggest that cyanide could help with acne. Such claims are unfounded and dangerous,” Dr. Levine warns. “The use of cyanide for treating acne or any other skin-care purpose is not only ineffective but also poses a significant risk to health and should be strongly discouraged.”
Be discerning about TikTok trends
While some TikTok trends are innocent and fun like strawberry girl makeup or skin streaming, others can be hazardous and even fatal. It’s important to do your own research on reliable sites before trying a trend. Discuss anything new you’re looking to try with a board-certified dermatologist before going through with it.
“This is a disturbing scenario of individuals propagating harmful information on TikTok,” says Dr. Allenby. “It’s essential for all of us to exercise caution and critical thinking in the face of sensational yet perilous trends circulating on social media.”
In this modern age, we’re witnessing the emergence of various potentially dangerous trends driven by misinformation and sensationalism, so we have to be discerning, says Dr. Levine. “These trends can encompass harmful dietary practices, unproven medical treatments, self-harm challenges, or other risky activities,” she says. “It is crucial for individuals to critically evaluate information, rely on credible sources, and consult with medical professionals before attempting any new treatment or engaging in trends that could jeopardize their health and safety.”