How to TikTok Shop Safely

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Are you more likely to buy a product from a friendly face? TikTok Shop is betting on it, and right now, they’re on a winning streak.

The one-stop shop for everything from home goods to beauty and skin-care steals, TikTok Shop isn’t just the new wish.com or Temu, though it may certainly also be that. It’s also Avon or Mary Kay—just a little chat between friends that ends with a pitch and a little nod to that commission.

All those friendly faces are trying to sell you the only lash serum you’ll ever need or the one product that cured their acne for good. And they’re offering such a good discount—how could you not give it a shot?

Featured Experts

  • Jeanine Downie, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Montclair, NJ
  • Dennis Gross, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in New York and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare

How TikTok Shop Exploded

Opening in September with selling about $7 million worth of merchandise a day in the U.S, and according to Bloomberg reporting, TikTok Shop has its eyes on Amazon and a $17.5 billion goal for 2024.

If that sounds insane, that’s because it is. But TikTok Shop is clearly doing something that’s working, as people’s For You Page becomes crowded with more and more influencers desperate to make a product go viral and snag those commissions. As a viewer or casual Shop browser, your experience is a lot more like the Temus of the world, with the same kind of deals to make you believe it’s actually financially irresponsible if you don’t buy it.

What People Think so Far

People are definitely buying what TikTok is selling, but on other digital platforms, they are expressing more reservations. The r/TikTokShop community on Reddit is awash with users comparing the experience to wish.com or Temu. Complaints of cheap, broken products and users getting tired of being advertised to by TikTokers are also prominent.

“Personally, I’m starting to get really annoyed by how almost every other video on my FYP is someone overhyping a product from the Shop feature to try to get it to go viral and make a lot of commissions,” explains one Reddit user. “It’s great that it’s a new avenue for creators to make money, but I find myself scrolling less and less because I know pretty much every video is just trying to get me to buy some random thing.”

Of course, the sheer number of sales on the platform are hard to ignore. You just have to wonder how many of those purchases left the user actually satisfied.

The Problem With TikTok Shop

It’s difficult to know where product is coming from if you’re not buying from a verified retailer. And while Tiktok does indicate when a brand is selling you product directly, those aren’t where the good deals are, are they?

Shipping beauty products from far away places isn’t inherently dangerous, but there’s no guarantee that what you’re getting is the real thing. And there’s no way to tell if it’s safe, without sending it off to a cosmetic chemist for analysis. That’s not to mention that plenty of what you buy may not show up at all.

And ultimately, yes, those prices might be too good to be true.

“If you’re seeing something online for a steep discount, it very well could be expired,” says Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD. “You should be skeptical of online purchases the same way you would be if you found a Gucci bag for half-off. Ask yourself: Is this a fake?”

But unlike a fake Gucci bag, fake beauty and skin care can have consequences.

“These products are often diluted, counterfeit and/or expired,” explains New York dermatologist and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, Dennis Gross, MD. “Which not only makes them ineffective, but they can also wreak havoc on your skin and cause significant damage.”

Buying Beauty Safely

With the recent report from third-party testers, Valisure, revealing that benzene was found in several acne-fighting products, it’s important to consider what a skin care product goes through before it arrives at your bathroom vanity. The testing Valisure did mimicked conditions of a hot car in Arizona, leading to a breakdown of the safe acne ingredient benzyl peroxide. What was left was the dangerous, cancer-causing benzene.

“Stores and pharmacies are liable for the condition of the product when you purchase it,” Dr. Downie explains. “But when you buy something online, it’s a lot harder to be sure. There’s no danger to buying toilet paper online and it being stored or shipped in very hot environments; it’s just toilet paper. But skin-care products are a different story.”

That’s why almost every expert will tell you to reign in that impulse to go with the biggest sale price, and instead buy from a verified retailer. You’ll be glad you did.

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