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TikTok Trends like ‘Latte Makeup’ and ‘Girl Dinners’: Will They Last?

NEW YORK (AP) — TikTok and its bite-sized videos arrived in the United States as a global version of the Chinese app Douyin. Less than six years later, the social media platform is deeply woven into the fabric of American consumerism, impacting trends and reshaping engagements with food and fashion.

The popularity of TikTok, with its Beijing roots, led Congress to pass a law citing national security concerns. The law mandates the video-sharing app’s ban unless its Chinese parent company sells its stake. ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, and TikTok have sued on First Amendment grounds.

Despite facing uncertain times, TikTok’s influence remains undisputed and arguably unrivaled. Interest in cosmetics like bright pink blush and brown lipstick soared last year after being featured in TikTok videos with looks labeled “cold girl” and “latte” makeup. Similarly, fashion trends with quirky names like “cottagecore” and “coastal grandma” owe their prevalence to TikTok.

Food hacks like “smash burger” tacos and “girl dinners,” which are snack plates requiring minimal preparation, have turned into cultural currency and, sometimes, into actual dollars for creators and brands.

While many TikTok-driven crazes last only a week or two, they challenge businesses to discern which trends are worth jumping on. According to Pew Research Center, a majority of the more than 170 million Americans who use TikTok are under 30, a demographic highly coveted by retailers. Shoppers might have a #tiktokmademebuyit moment without knowing the product’s origin story.

“The impact has been almost immeasurable,” said Christopher Douglas, a senior manager of strategy at the influencer marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy.

What’s TikTok’s secret to becoming a trendsetter compared to predecessors? Researchers and marketing analysts attribute this to the platform’s personalized recommendation algorithm, described as TikTok’s “secret sauce.” The company has disclosed little about the technology it uses to populate users’ “For You” feeds.

Jake Bjorseth, founder of the advertising agency Trndsttrs, specializing in Generation Z, believes the app’s use of an interest-based algorithm to connect like-minded people gave it an edge over predecessors like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, which were more peer-to-peer.

TikTok also changed the standard for desirable social media content. Designed to be easy to use, many videos lacked filters, lighting setups, or production-level audio. “These minimally planned and produced” recordings made TikTok creators seem more authentic, allowing them to develop more intimate relationships with their followers, Bjorseth said.

Early on, TikTok recruited influencers from rival platforms by paying them to join and post content, according to Brendan Gahan, CEO of influencer marketing agency Creator Authority. Even video-makers with as few as 1,000 followers can earn commissions by promoting products in their videos, while those with at least 10,000 followers can join programs paying based on viewership.

The platform naturally has critics. Experts argue TikTok can be addictive, promoting endless scrolling and unnecessary spending. Others accuse it of promoting harmful behavior, like young girls engaging in skincare rituals meant for older women.

Some observers accuse prolific TikTok video-makers of using gimmicks to create ersatz trends or repackaging old looks with new names. Despite detractors, a vocal fan base hopes TikTok doesn’t disappear.

Niki Maragos, a 26-year-old digital marketer from Charlotte, North Carolina, credits TikTok with transforming her personal style. Before using the platform, she wore clothes from a single genre and followed the same makeup routine. Now she experiments with looks like “cottagecore” and “latte” makeup.

“TikTok has allowed everybody to be their own fashionista,” Maragos said. “I have become free. I am going outside the box.”

Casey Lewis, a trend analyst from New York, first noticed TikTok’s fashion influence when videos about Birkenstock’s Boston clogs flooded her “For You” feed in 2022. As more videos appeared, some creators advised followers on where to find the suddenly sold-out clogs.

“I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there’s some psychology where your brain goes from thinking like, ‘How weird? Is that fashion?’ to suddenly being obsessed with it,” she said.

Two other out-of-style shoes, UGG boots and Crocs, saw sales rebounding after gaining a foothold with young consumers. The pace of TikTok-shaped trends was so dizzying that Lewis devoted much of her Substack newsletter to them.

In the last year, “Barbiecore” hot pink ensembles coexisted with “dadcore” looks featuring chunky white sneakers and baggy jeans. “Coastal grandmother” oversized cardigans and linen separates gave rise to “eclectic grandpa,” a unisex aesthetic with sweater vests, loafers, and mismatched prints.

While the rotating cast of “cores” may not drive their adherents to buy entire wardrobes, they’re influencing spending in small ways that add up, Lewis said. TikTok has also helped users on tight budgets find affordable clothes at places like H&M and thrift shops and connected plus-size creators with viewers, boosting confidence in trying new styles.

With easy-to-follow cooking videos and hacks, TikTok became a go-to spot for home cooks during the pandemic, earning endorsements from food world stars. U.S. sales of cottage cheese jumped 34% between April 2022 and April 2024 after videos promoting recipes racked up millions of views. Daisy Brand saw cottage cheese sales double over the last five years due to the trend.

But the eagerness to try trendy foods had its downside. A 14-year-old in Massachusetts died after trying an extremely spicy tortilla chip popularized in the One Chip Challenge videos on TikTok. Paqui, the chip’s maker, pulled it off the market after the incident.

TikTok upended the cosmetics industry by promoting DIY skin and hair treatments, featuring videos of people trying or panning new products. It has popularized “dupes” — less expensive alternatives to pricier products — benefiting brands like e.l.f. Beauty and NYX.

Some veteran TikTok users note the platform is almost too good at being both a tastemaker and a shopping search engine. Videos of influencers “decluttering” barely used products are as popular as those reviewing new purchases. Its defenders credit TikTok with promoting a more inclusive image of beauty and forcing brands to create products for wider skin tones and hair types.

Through all the scrutiny, its defenders note that TikTok has brought a diverse group of influencers to a larger platform to champion or call out brands.

“With TikTok, people who otherwise weren’t heard were suddenly heard,” Lewis said. Watson added that TikTok has helped bring more diversity to beauty videos compared to other platforms.

“I see more diversity on TikTok because (with) every video you’re swiping, you’re seeing somebody new,” she said.

Source: AP