Man with rugged jawline(l), Two men looking at camera(c), First man pointing to jaw(r)

@mericfiratt34/Tiktok @drpremtripathi/Tiktok

‘The majority of looksmaxxers are in their late teens’: Inside the bizarre trend that’s exploding in popularity among young men

‘Please don’t intentionally break the bones in your face.’

 

Abderrahemane Nejam

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Self-improvement is a journey almost everyone takes at least once in their lives. Driven by goals like finding love or accumulating wealth, people partake in many activities to become “better” versions of themselves.

A new trend has emerged online in which people take extreme and potentially dangerous measures to improve their physical appearance: Looksmaxxing.

Looksmaxxing is slang for maximizing your looks. Looksmaxxers use a variety of techniques to supposedly become more attractive—ranging from taping their mouths shut before bed to shape their jaw to smashing their face with a hammer in the hopes of reconstructing their facial structure. Some of the advice doled out in the community may be satirical, but it’s not always clear what’s serious and what isn’t.

Looksmaxxing has blown up online in recent months. Posts about the trend on TikTok have more than 2 billion views as of this writing; a subreddit dedicated to offering advice on looksmaxxing has 30,000 members. There are a variety of other websites and forums dedicated to the practice.

Unlike most beauty trends, the majority of looksmaxxers are young men or boys. While it’s ostensibly about attempting to augment one’s appearance to become more conventionally attractive, critics say the trend also invokes racist beauty standards and has roots in incel culture. It may serve as a pipeline to becoming part of the notoriously extremist incel community—or it may simply be a way to look and feel your best.

The practice runs the gamut from common techniques for looking good such as going to the gym (musclemaxxing), adopting a skincare routine (skinmaxxing), and eating well (dietmaxxing); to ineffective and even potentially harmful practices like pushing your tongue to the roof of the mouth to sharpen the jawline (mewing), vigorously rubbing the orbital area to improve the appearance of your eyes (eyemaxxing), or beating your face with a heavy object such as a hammer (bonesmaxxing or bone smashing).

Less invasive methods, such as mewing, are collectively referred to as softmaxxing. More extreme measures, such as plastic surgery or bone smashing, are called hardmaxxing.

Ubba, a veteran PSL (a term for someone partaking in looksmaxxing that stands for PUAhate, Sluthate, and Lookism, the three forums where looksmaxxing originated), told the Daily Dot that he got into the practice to improve his chances at finding romance.

“Before I got into looksmaxxing, I believed that women mainly wanted cool guys who were also well built, and being tall and handsome was just a bonus,” said Ubba, who gave a fake name to protect his privacy.

“I came to realize based on my own experiences and based on the experiences broadcasted by others online that it was not the case and that the most decisive factors were all in some way related to appearance and not personality.”

Among outsiders, the looksmaxxing trend has inspired both mockery and horror.

A TikTok poking fun of bone smashing shows before and after photos of a younger Tom Cruise (before) and model Hernan Drago (after).

Earlier this year Dr. Prem Tripathi, a plastic surgeon with 650,000 TikTok followers, posted a video cautioning people against bone smashing.

“I honestly never thought I’d have to come on here and say this, but please don’t intentionally break the bones in your face,” Dr. Tripathi said. “…Mewing, covering your mouth with tape, or breaking your bones is not gonna give you a jawline like this.”

The ugly side of beautification

Although the terminology and many looksmaxxing techniques are new, trying to improve perceived flaws in one’s appearance isn’t. Humans have been using various means to look better for thousands of years. Makeup, among the most popular ways to change your looks, dates back to 6000 B.C.E. The first rhinoplasty, or nose job, is believed to have been performed in India by the “father of surgery,” Sushruta, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

While some looksmaxxers focus on typical insecurities such as skin or muscle tone, the practice also seems to be creating new sources of self-doubt. The physical appearance they seek can also be very extreme and specific compared to common beauty standards.

For example, the trend has popularized attempts to alter the canthal tilt, or the slant of the outer corner of the eye in relation to the face. In a “positive” canthal tilt, the outer corner of the eyes are angled more towards the temples, which is reportedly seen as more alert and youthful, and hence attractive. This is also sometimes referred to among looksmaxxers as having “hunter eyes.”

There are TikTok filters that emulate this eye shape, in addition to others that clear your skin of acne, apply makeup, make you look younger or older, and augment your appearance in myriad, ever-changing ways.

““I plan a trip to Turkey for my hairline four years from now, jaw implants at that same time if my jaw isn’t already perfect by then, and potentially some fillers or such for my midface. Nothing crazy,” Ubba said.

Such filters have been criticized for giving people unrealistic beauty standards. They also resonate with people who are insecure about their looks and may be considering surgically altering their appearance.

Dr. Constance Chen, a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon, told the Daily Dot that “plastic surgery involving the eyes is extremely popular.”

“In 2020, there were over 325,000 blepharoplasties by plastic surgeons and likely at least that many by oculoplastic surgeons,” Dr. Chen said, referring to surgery to remove excess skin around the eyes. “Altering the skeletal structure of the face is less common but also popular, including cheek implants and chin implants.”

On the surface, looksmaxxing is essentially intended to become more attractive, which has been proven to correspond to being seen as more competent, intelligent, and even earning higher wages.

Chris told the Daily Dot that he started looksmaxxing three months ago. He said he’s already seeing a difference. “I feel like a different person,” said Chris, who asked to have his real name withheld due to stigma against looksmaxxing. “I noticed my face and body changing and that keeps me motivated to be even more handsome.”

But a deeper look reveals the darker side of looksmaxxing.

While it has become massively popular on TikTok, the male-dominated trend originally began in the incel community. (Incel is a short form of the term “involuntary celibate.”) According to Know Your Meme, incels adopted looksmaxxing to increase their “sexual market value.”

Members of the incel community coined the term, as well as related lingo, like mogging (dominating another person socially based on who’s more attractive), status-maxxing, and being Y-pilled, a twist on “redpilled” that refers to the Y chromosome and suggests one is more masculine.

Incels turned to looksmaxxing to figure out why they struggled to find partners and form romantic relationships. Incel forums like PUAhate, Sluthate, and Lookism are accredited with birthing looksmaxxing.

“The original forums were made by and for incels,” Ubba said. “Many of those incels actually got out of inceldom [as in had sex] thanks to looksmaxxing. But the mentality remains the same since looksmaxxing and black pill highlight the darkness within the female brain and within the acceptable social constructs of society.”

He added, “Incel ideologies [are the] notion that female attraction is 90% revolved around looks and the rest around status. Looksmaxxing simply exposes the truth of society and attraction that the rest of the world desperately wants to deny and forget—to pretend it’s not real. But most people [PSLs] love girls, at least good-looking ones or those who can actually behave.”

As Ubba alludes, looksmaxxing’s focus is essentially surficial, rather than a meaningful endeavor to improve oneself. This is common among many incels, who believe that money and handsomeness are greater determinants of romantic success than the content of one’s character.

Incel culture is notoriously rampant with racist, misogynistic, and self-pitying men who resent women for unjustly depriving them of the sex they believe they’re entitled to.

The way incels define attractiveness is further problematic because it incorporates phenotypes and phrenology. Phenotype refers to often immutable physical characteristics, like eye color or height. Phrenology is a debunked theory that holds that the size and shape of the skull determine a person’s character and mental abilities.

Both phenotypes and phrenology were used by Nazis to help identify Jewish people during the Holocaust.

The incels who created looksmaxxing used some of the same metrics as the Nazi regime. They reportedly gathered the anatomical and facial skeletal structure data of multiple men who were seen as exceptionally handsome. The men were mostly white supermodels. As a result, the goals of looksmaxxing skew heavily in favor of caucasian features.

These standards are highly detailed and strict. The exact shade and color of the iris, size and depth of the eye socket, tilt degree and sharpness of the jaw, and distance between widow’s peak and eyebrows, are some examples of how finite these standards were.

The rigidity of the standards have led many aspirant looksmaxxers to despair and blame their genetics or race because they couldn’t achieve the desired aesthetic. Some describe themselves in self-deprecating terms such as “ricecel” or “currycel,” which suggests their race or ethnicity makes them inherently unattractive and incapable of becoming so.

“Inceldom is not a binary, some incels somehow get girls,” an anonymous user wrote on an online forum. “It’s about stat maxing, like if you are short with belly fat, it’s already over for you.”

Another example of the potential for toxicity is the fact that part of the culture relies on criticizing supposed imperfections in one another’s appearances. From the earliest days of looksmaxxing, it became common for people to share their photos on incel forums and ask for ratings and how to improve, a practice that continues among looksmaxxers today. People respond by pointing out arguably subjective flaws the person should fix to conform to a strict standard largely modeled after white men.

Asking strangers on the internet to criticize your appearance may be off-putting to some, but many looksmaxxers consider it beneficial.

Chris shared his experience of receiving feedback about his looks on a Discord forum. “The critique they gave me was brutal, but I know now what I need to work on. I’m actually grateful.”

Ubba is confident that he knows what he needs to do to look his absolute best. He said he’s already taking hormones and may eventually have multiple surgeries.

“Higher testosterone, [human growth hormone], for example has been the biggest improvement for me since my bones have grown a lot this last year,” he said. “I plan a trip to Turkey for my hairline four years from now, jaw implants at that same time if my jaw isn’t already perfect by then, and potentially some fillers or such for my midface. Nothing crazy.”

He said he’d also like an eyebrow transplant. “I already have relatively good eyebrows, but I want them to be the perfect size.”

The combination of unrealistic beauty standards and the extreme measures often necessary to conform mean that many can’t afford to looksmax nearly to the degree desired—or they simply aren’t willing to break their facial bones with a hammer. Despair is quite common among this cohort. Many abandon hope and become “black pilled” by giving up entirely and wallowing in a depressive state, similar to doomer culture.

In fact, sources say that suicide is commonly discussed in looksmaxxing communities. Ubba said many people “ropemaxx,” a reference to suicide, due to hopelessness, botched cheap surgeries that caused permanent damage, or overdosing on steroids and other drugs.

Some members of the community have been known to selfishly guard the so-called secrets of looksmaxxing and lash out against anyone who criticizes or even reveals them.

TikToker Baxate Carter criticized looksmaxxing in a recent video. The post prompted a slew of comments disparaging him for having so-called “prey eyes,” the opposite of hunter eyes, and encouraging him to ropemaxx.

A plastic surgeon’s post warning people against smashing their face with a hammer to achieve a chiseled jawline because it’s dangerous and won’t work anyway prompted one person to comment, “So I should just ropemaxx?”

Last summer, influencer Dillon Latham was doxed and had other private information released by people who were reportedly enraged over him posting tips on looksmaxxing.

@noahglenncarter

Dillon Latham just had his life ruined over a video #dillonlatham #foryou

♬ Tell Me Why I’m Waiting – Timmies/Shiloh

Ubba said Dillon “got his life ruined” and had “people showing up to his house”—all for offering advice on how to become more attractive.

Latham, who has over 1 million TikTok followers, still posts content on how to looksmax.

Radicalized by the quest for beauty

In recent years, incel culture crept from the dark corners of the internet into the mainstream. The misogyny and white supremacy that runs rampant among incels has led platforms to crack down on their communities and forums, relegating a significant portion of the culture to the fringes of the web.

PUAhate, one of the forums where looksmaxxing originated, shut down in the wake of a 2014 mass shooting by one of the site’s users, who had posted his manifesto on the site. In that manifesto, he reportedly described PUAhate as “a forum full of men who are starved of sex, just like me” and said the content there “confirmed many of the theories I had about how wicked and degenerate women really are.”

With looksmaxxing, a facet of incel culture might be making a comeback and influencing a new horde of impressionable young males.

After remaining relatively flat for many years, Google Trends shows that searches for looksmaxxing have exploded in the last several months.

Online looksmaxxing groups on Discord and websites dedicated to the practice are more popular than ever. One site alone boasts that it has 18,000 members and 2,500 subscribers.

Chris told the Daily Dot that he migrated from TikTok to a Discord server in July for advice on changing his appearance.

“I knew about looksmaxxing before Tiktok did,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do but joining that Discord group was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I know I’m gonna make it.”

While the main subject discussed on these platforms is looksmaxxing, threads occasionally delve into other subjects, such as women, sex, and race.

A person on a public forum recently asked whether eye color improves your looks. Some argued that eye color is irrelevant and opined that eye shape and tilt matters more. Others took the opposite opinion. One said that having blue or green eyes is a “get out of incel” free card.

“Inceldom is not a binary, some incels somehow get girls,” wrote another user. “It’s about stat maxing, like if you are short with belly fat, it’s already over for you. Women on the other hand are liked no matter what.”

Members of such groups tend to be very young men or boys. The first page of a rating section of one forum the Daily Dot recently analyzed revealed that nearly half of the posts were by males who said they were 18 or younger.

Ubba said that it’s frowned upon for minors to participate but acknowledged that “the majority of looksmaxxers are in their late teens.”

“If you’re over say 20 or 21 and still rotting every day then most people would consider it to be over,” he said.

Such rhetoric echoes that of incel communities.

Looksmaxxing could be seen as the next evolution of the culture. Ubba and other looksmaxxers told the Daily Dot that many in the community aspire to become the dark triad, or a man who is both handsome and has a personality type that combines narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

Serial killer Richard Ramirez is seen by some as the king of the dark triad.

Not everyone is thrilled to see the trend gain traction, including some longtime looksmaxxers. One person who asked to remain anonymous said looksmaxxing becoming a trend “is dumb” and that they wish “it never reached the mainstream.” They said that the community is more “dangerous” than what it appears to be.

Most people struggle with physical insecurities at some point in their lives, particularly in their younger years. Today a growing number of young men and boys are winding up on forums dedicated to looksmaxxing, which can deepen their insecurities, lead them to incel communities, and potentially even to radicalization.

While some looksmaxxers may adopt toxic behaviors and beliefs, others simply see it as a form of motivation, possibly even a way of life.

“[Looksmaxxing gave me] instant improvements but very slow progress,” Ubba  told the Daily Dot. “Come back in three years when I’m a model. Just need to get my surgeries for that, but if I can get everyone to look at me and say wow then maybe I’ll stop.”

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