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U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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To the ‘maxx: Lifestyle trend ‘looksmaxxing’ takes self-improvement culture to extreme

Eliza Dearing
The Editorial Board argues that while self-improvement culture is not a new phenomenon, looksmaxxing takes the concept of wellness to a dangerous extreme.


Going to the gym, changing a skincare routine, getting a haircut. These activities are common ways individuals frequently alter or change their appearance, now being categorized under the recent social media phenomenon of looksmaxxing, the process of maximizing one’s physical attractiveness.

Wanting to enhance one’s appearance is not a new phenomenon. But looksmaxxing as a trend and a lifestyle has taken the concept of self-improvement to an unnecessary, potentially dangerous, extreme. In order to engage in these activities safely, individuals must manage their expectations of these practices — and the people who promote them — while being cognizant of the inherent dangers associated with desired treatments.

Social media has been criticized for its perpetuation of toxic social environments. A May 2023 advisory report by the United States surgeon general shared that several indicators have shown the potential for social media to have a profound risk of harm on adolescents and children. 

As prevalence of social media has risen, so have reports of anxiety and depression as well as emergency room visits for self-harm and suicidal ideation. With millions of supporters on platforms like TikTok, looksmaxxing is simply the latest trend exacerbating the toxic social environment these sites create. No matter what form the trend takes, it has ties to violence and unattainable beauty standards, making it a threat to an individual’s mental health if not approached with caution.

In addition to posing mental health risks, looksmaxxing activities can be physically unsafe. Many popular health fads and lifestyle trends harbor hidden dangers, which individuals may not realize until it’s too late. “Softmaxxing,” a less intense, non-invasive subset of looksmaxxing, involves facial cleaning through an extensive skincare routine, which may include products containing harmful chemicals and other contaminants, especially in increasingly popular international brands. “Hardmaxxing” refers to more extreme techniques, even surgical operations and cosmetic procedures — like employing “bone-smashing” to chisel one’s chin by taking a hammer to the facial region — while “starvemaxxing,” encourages curbing food intake and extreme dieting.

Extreme caution must be taken when following looksmaxxing techniques. Do not take what is portrayed on social media as fact and direction. Even seemingly harmless products like diet supplements and protein powder can be dangerous, especially if taken without guidance or professional opinion.

Finally, engaging in social media activities that pertain to physical appearance is harmful to an individual’s personal wellbeing. A November 2023 report by the Dove Self-Esteem Project revealed that 90% of girls aged 10 to 17 are exposed to toxic beauty content on social media. Over half say this has a negative impact on their self-esteem and that they feel they can’t live up to the beauty standards projected on such platforms. Similarly, February 2023 research published by the American Psychological Association shows that reducing social media use significantly improves body image, and perception of personal weight and overall appearance.

The looksmaxxing trend perpetuates the concept that a perfect appearance is directly attainable — a false reality. Social media makes it incredibly easy to get roped into pursuit of unrealistic beauty standards, qualities and trends that are constantly changing. In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all fix to obtaining any single desired trait. People should be willing to reject conformity to a perfect look.

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About the Contributor
Eliza Dearing
Eliza Dearing, Artist
Eliza Dearing is a member of the Class of 2024 and is an artist for the U-High Midway. Awards: 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, original editorial cartoon, drawing or comic: superior 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Second place, art/illustration: hand-drawn, “Affirmative Apprehension”

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