TikTok’s Lube As Primer Trend Could Have Risks, Say Skincare Experts

  • Makeup artist and TikToker Lukas Kohutek first used lube as a primer in February 2019.
  • Videos with the hashtag #lubeprimer have totaled millions of views. 
  • Skin experts say the method may work well, but can also come with a risk of breakouts.

TikTok makeup artists are using personal lubricant as a primer, saying it helps their foundation go on smoothly. But some dermatologists think there could be adverse effects to this trend.

Makeup artist and TikToker Lukas Kohutek first used lube as a primer in February 2019 and hasn’t stopped. Back then, the technique didn’t get much attention. But it has exploded since, with the #lubeprimer hashtag netting 8.7 million views.

The first time one of Kohutek’s lube videos went viral was in July this year, receiving 1.5 million views. But the trend has resurfaced recently after a user going by Rady used it in a video demonstrating the “best makeup hacks” in September, racking up 6 million views. Since then, several other beauty creators have tried it out, including Sean Anthony who said it feels “glidy and smooth,” and “grippy, which is amazing for primer.”

Kohutek, who has 14,000 followers on his TikTok where he posts creative makeup looks, told Insider the method was actually recommended by his best friend’s mother as a skincare product “because it is supposedly great for healing up scars after breakouts.”

Silicone products have been clinically proven to be to help with scarring, according to Healthline. While often silicone-based, lubricant is not typically designed to stay on the skin for long periods of time, and there is no consensus on whether it’s effective for this purpose.

“After a few weeks using it that way, I said to myself, that this can be great as a primer,” Kohutek said. “I tried it and loved the way my make-up looked and then used it almost every time I put on my makeup.”

Kohutek said he has a combination of oily and dry skin, which lube helps with by hiding the dry patches. He said it “glides on beautifully” and his skin looks the best when he uses it. He doesn’t know if lube makes his makeup last any longer, though, because his skin tends to look oily by the end of the day whatever he uses.

He still uses lube as a primer most of the time, and it is a staple part of his routine in most of his TikTok videos.

This isn’t the first time seemingly random items have gone viral for their apparent use as cosmetic products. In 2018, people began posting online about using K-Y Jelly, a type of lube, in their hair to support curls and prevent frizz. Makeup influencers also used a Nivea shaving balm as primer for a while back in 2016. But experts say the lube-as-primer trend could have negative consequences. 

Dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav, the medical director and founder of Toronto-based clinic Skin Science Dermatology, told Insider she sees the appeal of using lubricant on the skin, because it would help makeup “glide on much more smoothly.” But she also sees it as “illogical” because lube is designed to stay wet to prevent friction.

“It’s not a trick I’d encourage people relying on, especially on a regular basis,” she said. “All lubricants are different, but many of them could contribute to skin concerns such as breakouts and irritation.”

This is because oil-based lubricant formulas may contain ingredients that clog pores and seal congestion in, leading to blemishes, she said, while cooling or heating formulas could cause “significant irritation.”

Lou Sommereux, an aesthetic nurse practitioner and clinic director at the Cosmex Clinic in Cambridge, UK, agreed, telling Insider that most lubes contain ingredients such as nonoxynol-9, propylene glycol, and fragrance which can cause these skin concerns. She told Insider that while hydration is key to keeping the skin nourished, lube is essentially just a thick oil that will overload it and stick to dead skin cells.

“Thick oily substances create an oxygen-free environment which allows acne-causing bacteria to develop and kills off the skin’s natural ‘friendly’ bacteria,” she said.

There’s also a risk of premature aging, she added, because when you artificially saturate the skin’s surface with oil, it may stop producing it. This, Sommereux said, can lead to the skin “becoming critically dry,” which can increase the risk of wrinkles.

Still, Kohutek said he hasn’t experienced any breakouts or anything out of the ordinary as a result of his technique. “My skin is still in ‘teenage times’ so I have breakouts all the time, no matter what I use on my face,” he said.

Read more stories from Insider’s Digital Culture desk.

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