Is Looksmaxxing the Next Evolution in Body Shaming?

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Is Looksmaxxing the Next Evolution in Body Shaming? featured image
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Girls and women have been cramming ourselves into shapewear and practicing our camera smiles for a long time. Societal pressure to be a certain type of woman has left an impact on hundreds of millions of girls and women around the world. But now that social media has brought everyone much closer to that societal pressure, boys and men have joined the body-conscious crew. And they’ve given it a fun new name: looksmaxxing.

Unfortunately, as many of us know, there’s a big difference between self-improvement content and a toxic, unhealthy obsession. The good news is, there are a lot of influencers and professionals stepping in to encourage a more healthy relationship with your looks.

This TikTok from the DailyMail shows a user using Looksmaxxing methods to alter Jeremy Allen White’s face.

What Is Looksmaxxing?

“‘Looksmaxxing’ is basically making yourself look like the best version of yourself,” explains celebrity makeup artist Emily Gray. “This may involve facial exercises, massages, icing your face, a skin-care routine, etc. Anything that will add to looking your very best.”

For men and boys online, the idea is to become the sharp-jawed, shredded hot guy. The parts of the internet that are flush with incel culture call this aesthetic the “Chad,” but the ideal man is essentially the Ken to society’s ideal Barbie.

And to be the best version of yourself, a lot of looksmaxxers are really rebranded life or fitness coaches.

“Looksmaxxing also involves maximizing your personal aesthetic via strategic nutrition, exercise, self-care and wardrobe choices,” says beauty industry expert, journalist and communications professor Rachel Anise. And when it’s put like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. “I am an advocate of maximizing one’s own potential and when you can do that with relatively simple lifestyle changes and positive habit building, it’s a win.”

Old Myths Get a New Face

If you’ve been anywhere near a teen boy in the past few months, you may have heard of “mewing.” Mewing is a facial exercise that’s meant to give you the sharp jawline of your dreams. It’s the secret to every celebrity’s perfect smile, so it should be fool-proof. The only problem? It doesn’t really give you the sculpted look for more than a moment.

Mewing is great if you want to pose for a flattering photo. But you’re not going to find any doctor subscribing to this practice for long-term changes.

A lot of the more toxic, body image and self confidence issues come from these looksmaxxing myths that don’t really provide the kind of benefits you might be imagining. A good example is the viral hoax trend of bone smashing, where jokesters pretending to use percussion massagers on their face to create microfractures spiraled out of control.

Other examples include pulling and massaging the skin around your eyes to create a “hunter eye,” which is meant to indicate dominance and an alpha personality. You can see how quickly what starts as “how to look better in a photo” can explode into unhealthy and even inherently toxic ideas.

The Man-O-Verse

If you’ve heard anything about Andrew Tate, you might have some idea as to what this online community is like.

Misogynistic and obsessed with looking flawless and being rich, alpha male culture is a pit many young boys are easily swept into. It’s important to know if the looksmaxxing influencers you’re following are only talking about making healthy lifestyle improvements, upgrading your style, how to find the right hairstyle for you, etc.

Helping Men Feel Better

In a sense, it was only a matter of time for men and boys to start participating in the deluge of beauty and aesthetic content.

“You know it’s funny because I do think about this a lot,” Gray says. “When I was growing up, there was not this kind of content all over the place! My mom let me finally wear some mascara and lip gloss when I was in middle school, but now kids and teens are seeing all this makeup and skin-care material and they think they have to do all that.”

Puberty is such a difficult age already. The exposure to so much content can be overwhelming, and lead kids to abandon the childish too soon. We’ve all seen young kids in makeup that ages them. And we’ve seen the erasure of the awkward tween stage right before our eyes. It’s important that men know that while this pressure is real, you actually are beautiful just the way you are.

“No one needs makeup, and especially not young children and teens,” Gray says. “Enjoy your natural beauty and youthful skin! Honestly, we’re all trying to replicate what we once had when we were all younger. It’s a little backwards to see really young people doing the same techniques when they already have it. I sound like an old person saying this, but enjoy being the age that you are. Maybe it sounds weird coming from a makeup artist, but I love natural faces and beauty.”

How to Keep Changes Healthy

That doesn’t mean that you can’t want to improve yourself.

“Any worthy pursuit can become an unhealthy obsession if balance isn’t at the forefront,” Anise explains. “Make sure to offset looksmaxxing goals with other priorities like friends, family, workplace growth and creative endeavors to keep things in perspective.”

Just like women and girls (and any one who wants to wear it) have to come to terms with how to use makeup without sacrificing your self image, boys and men will also have to negotiate this line. And with AI filters and more young people interested in aesthetic treatments than ever before, that’s getting harder to do.

When you know you do want to make changes, be careful what kind of content you’re consuming. There’s nothing wrong with having healthy goals, but no one should feel like they are currently ugly or unlikable.

That’s probably why the tag on TikTok now comes with a message about body positivity.

This TikTok message appears above any search results for “looksmaxxing”

Looksmaxxing Without Harm

For makeup artists like Gray, that means embracing how makeup can make her feel like the best version of herself.

“If I need to look like my best self with makeup, I’m starting with a glowy base with a sheer to medium amount of coverage,” Gray explains. “I would reach for a foundation like Catrice’s True Skin ($10), which is ultra lightweight, radiant and keeps my dry skin hydrated throughout the day.” After pampering herself with skin-loving cream bronzer and blushes, Gray is ready to take on her favorite step: lips. “Now my lips are my favorite feature and I love a little pop of color on them. I will overline slightly on my cupids bow and bottom lip using Catrice’s Plumping Lip Liner ($4) in a nude shade (Manhattan and Understated Chic are my go-tos) and follow with a tinted lip oil. The red shade, Drama Mama, from Catrice’s new Glossin’ Glow Tinted Lip Oil ($6) is the perfect amount of color and shine for my best self makeup look!”

Anise suggests that the best course of action is to start small.

“Focus on one targeted area at a time rather than pursuing a total overhaul. That can feel insurmountable,” Anise explains. And for any men who might feel embarrassed by investing in things like skin, hair and nail care, Anise says you can think of it like detailing your car.

“If you feel self-conscious, think of it this way—no one is embarrassed to be seen taking care of their car. Washing it, getting it detailed from time to time and regular maintenance are all parts of being a vehicle owner. Consequently, shouldn’t we be putting more time and effort into the mind and body that take us through life?”

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