Viral social media trends are usually harmless stuff like dancing or cats doing something specific and hilarious, though they can easily get out of hand if left unchecked. There have been quite a few bizarre – and sometimes downright dangerous – trends that went popular on websites like YouTube or TikTok in the past few years. Some of them – like the infamous Salt and Ice Challenge – even caused quite a few real-life injuries, forcing local authorities and social media networks to intervene and restrict them until they died down.
10. 100 Layers Challenge
While not as dangerous as some of the other trends on this list, the 100 Layers Challenge was still a bizarre and pointless trend that managed to gain viral recognition. As the name suggests, it involved applying 100 layers of any product, usually makeup or clothing, and sharing it online. The challenge was first started by a beauty vlogger back in 2016, when she uploaded a video of applying 116 coats of nail paint to her YouTube channel.
Despite its relatively-harmless nature, the 100 Layers Challenge became a hugely-popular social media trend, with videos attempting it garnering millions of impressions overnight. It was particularly popular among beauty enthusiasts and social media influencers, as everyone raced to see how far they could take the concept. The experiments included traditional 100-layer products like mascara, lipstick, foundation, and various types of clothes, while others went for the more unconventional options like face masks and hair extensions.
9. Halo Brows
Halo brows were largely an Instagram trend that became popular some time in 2018, spreading to other networks like TikTok and YouTube in a short span of time. Also called reverse unibrows, it involves creating a rounded brow shape that appears to be connected above the bridge of the nose with a variety of makeup techniques, creating a halo-like effect around the forehead.
According to Cosmopolitan, the idea first showed up in an Instagram post by a 16-year old Britisher called Hannah Lyne, which inspired other people to try out their own halo brow designs and get the trend going. When it reached its peak in 2019, makeup artists and influencers across the Internet were experimenting with it, turning it into one of the most popular social media trends of the time.
8. Devious Licks
According to Urban Dictionary, a lick is a ‘successful type of theft which results in an acceptable, impressive and rewarding payday for the protagonist’. Some time in September 2021, students in schools across America took to filming themselves stealing or vandalizing school property, and then posting the videos on social media with the hashtag #deviouslicks. While it started on TikTok, the phenomenon soon spread to other platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
It mostly gained popularity due to the shock factor of the videos, which showed students stealing everything from soap dispensers to fire extinguishers from school premises. As it grew, however, #deviouslicks got a lot more extreme, with reports of students stealing things like entire classroom doors and causing thousands of dollars in damage. While it was eventually restricted by social media networks and died down, Devious Licks – also called Diabolical Licks or Dastardly Licks – led to thousands of dollars in damages across the United States.
7. Fire Challenge
The Fire Challenge was a TikTok trend that first gained popular attention in 2014, when a slew of accidents left many of its participants severely burned and injured. At its most basic, it involved people dousing themselves with various flammable substances and setting themselves on fire in different ways. The challenge quickly gained niche popularity on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, though it really went mainstream when a 15-year-old from Kentucky suffered high degree burns after attempting it, followed by numerous other cases of severe injury and hospitalization.
The Fire Challenge received backlash from health officials, disaster experts, and parents, as well as widespread media coverage from major news outlets across America. Despite that, it had become a viral sensation by 2015, with thousands of videos and social media posts featuring people attempting the dangerous stunt. Thankfully, the challenge was eventually banned by social media networks like TikTok and Facebook.
6. Condom Snorting
Snorting condoms as a sport may date back to at least 2007, when a video featuring the act was first uploaded to YouTube. However, the trend gained widespread attention only in 2018, after a video of a teenager doing it went viral on social media. Like it sounds, it involves people inhaling a condom through one nostril and, hopefully, pulling it out from the mouth. Like other incredibly-dangerous, possibly-life-threatening trends that have gone popular in the past, condom snorting quickly spread on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, with mostly teenagers attempting the challenge and sharing videos online.
As you’d expect, condom snorting in any way could be really dangerous and lead to serious health problems. The condom might get lodged in the nasal cavity or throat, leading to choking, suffocation, and respiratory problems. In addition, the latex material can cause irritation and allergic reactions, leading to infections and other complications.
5. Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge
Some time in 2015, people on social media decided that they’d try to recreate Kylie Jenner’s lips as accurately as they could, sparking off a trend we now know as the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge. Of course, as one can’t just change the kind of lips they have, it involved many resorting to methods like using a shot glass or other homemade suction devices to create a vacuum around their lips, resulting in swollen, plump-looking lips.
The challenge quickly went viral, as everyone shared their own versions of Kylie Jenner’s lips across Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. While it started out as a relatively-harmless trend, many doctors and other medical experts warned against attempting it, as it can potentially lead to bruising, broken blood vessels, and, in some cases, permanent scarring. In addition, the increased blood flow due to the vacuum could also cause persistent swelling and pain lasting for several days.
4. Salt And Ice Challenge
The Salt and Ice Challenge was another dangerous-yet-popular challenge that went viral, surfacing some time in 2017 on video-based networks like YouTube and TikTok. The idea was simple – put some salt on your skin and press an ice cube on the area. The overall goal was to endure the burning and freezing sensations for as long as possible and sharing the results with other people online, as the entire thing was usually filmed and posted on social media.
It soon became popular among teenagers and young adults online, as the videos quickly spread and went viral. Of course, the trend led to many real-life injuries, as putting salt and ice on your skin can cause the temperature of the skin to drop rapidly, leading to tissue damage and other medical complications like frostbite and third-degree burns. Despite numerous warnings from health professionals, however, the challenge remained popular on the Internet until it was banned by some social media networks.
3. Pimple Popping
Many dermatologists and other medical experts strongly advise against popping pimples in any way, as it tends to exacerbate a relatively-harmless and common medical problem. Still, pimple popping is a hugely-popular social media trend on websites like YouTube, as videos of the act still garner millions of views. For one example, a channel called Dr. Pimple Popper has gained more than 7.4 million subscribers since it started in 2010 (as well as spawning a reality series of the same name on TLC), making it one of the most popular topics on YouTube.
Scientifically speaking, we have no idea why the idea is so popular among some people, as videos of popping pimples are inherently disgusting to many others. According to studies, it could be related to the differences in everyone’s inbuilt disgust mechanism, which is why some people can easily watch violent and explicit horror movies while others can’t.
2. Hot Water Challenge
The Hot Water Challenge was a social media trend that mostly involved people pouring boiling water on themselves or other unsuspecting victims, though there were also a few notable variations, like sipping boiling hot water through a straw. The challenge first featured on news outlets in 2017, when it caused severe burns, hospitalization, and other harmful consequences for many of its participants. In one particularly tragic case, an 8-year-old girl in Florida died after drinking hot water through a straw, finally bringing popular attention to the dangerous trend.
Like many other trends on this list, the Hot Water challenge became increasingly popular among younger people. Videos across YouTube featured children and younger teens attempting the stunt, resulting in a visit to the hospital for many of them. The phenomenon eventually died down due to the amount of pushback by parents and medical experts, though not before causing second and third-degree burns for many of its victims.
1. Eyeball Tattoos
The idea of tattoos on eyeballs might make a few people uneasy, though in the tattoo and general body-modification community, it’s not as far-fetched as it might sound. Eyeball tattoos gained traction some time in 2017, when a few enthusiasts online started tattooing their eyeballs in various styles and sharing the techniques online. As one would expect, it involved injecting ink directly into the white of the eye, potentially causing permanent damage to the delicate tissues of the eye and other long-term medical issues.
Despite all that, the trend gained popularity in tattoo and other niche communities on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Since it became popular, the online phenomenon has been widely criticized by medical experts, who continue to warn of the potential dangers of the procedure. If done incorrectly, eye tattoos can cause severe and permanent damage to the eye, as well as other issues like infections.