When TikTok trends turn dangerous: Most controversial trends that went viral on TikTok

Nyquil chicken trend next to a lighter and the TikTok logoUnsplash: Bangsal Nam / Christian Allard

While the vast majority of TikTok trends are relatively harmless, there have been several more dangerous challenges that have gone viral on the app, prompting experts to warn against trying them. Here are some of the riskiest trends on TikTok – and why you should avoid them.

Short-form video platform TikTok is home to some of the internet’s most viral trends, and every day millions of users are scrolling through their For You Page to interact with videos participating in them.

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Most trends include people choreographing viral dances and trying out bizarre new filters, but as with any social media platform, sometimes certain trends can get a little out of hand, leading to terrifying consequences.

TikTok has taken action to prevent these trends spreading in some cases, and removes hashtags that can help them grow. That being said, here are some of the most dangerous TikTok trends.

Note: We strongly advise against attempting any of the below challenges.

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Fractal Wood Burning

Fractal wood burning is an art technique in which people use high voltage electricity to burn tree-like patterns into wood that has been soaked in a chemical solution.

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Videos featuring this technique on TikTok have garnered thousands of likes and views, however, in April 2022 the Marathon County Sheriff’s office warned people about the dangers of the art trend, after two people, aged 44 and 52, died in Wisconsin following an attempt at the technique.

Police explained: “Foul play has been ruled out and the deaths were found to be accidental in nature and are believed to be caused by electrocution from fractal wood burning.”

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They went on to add that, “the fractal burning process typically uses a high-voltage transformer, often repurposed from a microwave oven, to flow current across wood items that have been soaked with a chemical solution. This process is highly dangerous and should only be done by trained professionals.”

Angel of Death Challenge

In June 2022, Insider reported that at least two people had died in Indonesia as a result of participating in the ‘Angel of Death’ challenge.

The trend involved teenagers jumping in front of moving trucks, with the hopes that the driver would stop before hitting the individual participating, or swerve the vehicle.

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TikTok angel of death challengePixabay/TikTok
The Angel of Death challenge has proven to be deadly.

On the same day that an 18-year-old in Tangerang died as a result of attempting the challenge, local police reported that they detained as many as 14 minors who were suspected of trying to attempt similar dangerous acts.

Tanning Trends

Beauty and makeup is a focal point of thousands of videos across TikTok, and users have gone viral in the past for sharing their favorite tanning methods and techniques. However, skincare experts have warned users against trying a number of different TikTok tanning hacks.

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In June, a viral tanning technique showed users mixing water and moisturizer in a bottle, and spraying it on their skin throughout the day to supposedly help improve their tan.

TikToker trying sunbathing hackTikTok: mimosaaaxo
This tanning hack garnered millions of views on TikTok.

However, experts at JustMyLook explained: “We strongly advise against undertaking this hack. Not only is the process unsafe, but exposure to the sun in this way with no protection can severely increase the risk of sunburn which can lead to melanoma (skin cancer).

Back in January, doctors also warned people against using the viral tanning nasal spray. Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe said: “Red flag number one is that the way this medication is absorbed is that it actually gets absorbed through your mucus membranes in your nasal airway, and that’s basically like a straight shot right to your bloodstream. So that’s going to increase your risk for systemic side effects.”

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Blackout Challenge

There have been several recorded deaths of children including a 10-year-old girl in 2021 as a result of the viral Blackout Challenge, which encourages users to hold their breath or choke themselves to the point of losing consciousness.

The trend has been around for some time, before TikTok, but saw a noticeable resurgence in popularity on the app, much to the concern of parents.

The mother of the ten-year-old girl who died after attempting the challenge warned: “Make sure you check your kids’ phones. Just pay attention because you never know what you might find on their phones, or the things they’re trying that you think 10-year-olds wouldn’t try. They’re trying because they’re kids and they don’t know better.”

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In 2008, the CDC shared warning signs that a child may be participating in the “choking game” that included, “bloodshot eyes,” “marks on the neck,” and “severe headaches.”

NyQuil Chicken

TikTok has had plenty of recipes go viral on the app over the years, but this one wasn’t like any other. In a ‘recipe’ that appeared to first originate on Twitter, TikTok users were braising chicken in nighttime cold medicine NyQuil to make so-called ‘Sleepy Chicken.’

Although several of the videos appeared to actually be satirical, doctors still warned against trying the peculiar dish, with Richmond-based physician Aaron Hartmon telling MIC: “When you cook cough medicine like NyQuil, you boil off the water and alcohol in it, leaving the chicken saturated with a super concentrated amount of drugs in the meat.”

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Viral sleepy chicken or 'NyQuil Chicken' on TikTokTikTok: caffeinatedhero / igrobflo
Experts warned against trying this bizarre ‘Sleepy Chicken’ recipe.

He added that, “inhaled, these medicines also enter your bloodstream really quickly and are not going past your liver for detoxification. The effects can be quite bad depending on how much you inhale.”

Fire Mirror Challenge

Back in 2021, a 13-year-old girl ended up in the ICU with third-degree burns after she attempted perhaps one of the most dangerous challenges the app has seen.

The Fire Mirror challenge involved participants spraying shapes on their mirror with a flammable liquid and then setting fire to it.

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TikTok logo over some fireUnsplash: Max Kukurudziak
TikTok has been the source of several dangerous trends involving fire.

Firefighter Rob Garrison from Portland Fire and Rescue said: “This is maybe one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever seen anybody do in my life,” adding, “you could be standing next to a lake if you want and light yourself on fire, and by the time you hit the water, you’re probably going to have burns on your body.”

Attempts to search ‘Fire Mirror Challenge’ on TikTok now result only in a link to an info page labeled “learn how to recognize harmful challenges and hoaxes.”

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Orbeez Shooting

In March 2022, police warned against a viral challenge that saw people shooting Orbeez, tiny water-absorbent polymer beads, at random strangers with gel blaster guns.

The Dearborn Police Department arrested a teenager, who is facing assault charges, in connection with the trend, and issued a warning to those thinking of trying it for themselves.

Police issue warning over dangerous TikTok "Orbeez Challenge" trendTikTok / Pixabay
Orbeez are frequently seen in viral videos across social media.

Dearborn Police Chief Issa Shahin said: “Once again we find ourselves dealing with a dangerous trend on social media that has influenced our young people to make dangerous choices that can have lifetime consequences.

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“I encourage parents to talk to their kids about what they see on social media and to pay attention to the next inevitable dangerous trend that is sure to arise. The Dearborn Police Department will have a zero-tolerance approach to activities such as this that pose danger to the public.”

Milk Crate Challenge

In August 2021, TikTok began removing videos of people attempting the ‘Milk Crate Challenge’ after medical professionals warned against trying it.

The trend, which was also hugely popular on Twitter, involve stacking a mountain of milk crates, and attempting to ascend and descend the unstable structure without falling.

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Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Shawn Anthony told the Today Show that wounds that could occur as a result of people attempting the challenge included: “Broken wrists, shoulder dislocations, ACL and meniscus tears, as well as life-threatening conditions like spinal cord injuries.”

TikTok also condemned the challenge, and told Newsweek: “TikTok prohibits content that promotes or glorifies dangerous acts, and we remove videos and redirect searches to our Community Guidelines to discourage such content. We encourage everyone to exercise caution in their behavior whether online or off.”

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In light of the criticism toward harmful trends on the site, TikTok has taken steps to prevent dangerous content in their new guidelines which they revealed in February, targeting “dangerous acts and challenges,” “eating disorders,” and “hateful ideologies.”

The above challenges are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dangerous trends on TikTok, and it’s only a matter of time before the next worrying challenge makes an appearance on the app.

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